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Seven Streams closes Saturday

Ice storm prompts clearcut of forest around one of county’s most popular trails

The history of Seven Streams trail dates back to before bicycles had fat tires and full suspensions; back when the term granny gear was associated with crochet needles and dentures, not riding up steep hills with relative ease.

The meandering, forested, creekside singletrack was one of the first and most accessible trails in the Post Canyon area, which in turn has become the most popular trails area in the county. Over the years, as trails in the entire West Side forest evolved into the elaborate system it is today, Seven Streams remained the most used, and served as the key inlet to the entire network.

After this week much of the trail as people have known it will be history. In a way, it was history after Jan. 18; but the effects won’t fully be realized until Saturday, when the trail will be closed ahead of extensive logging operations set to begin Monday.

Hood River County Forestry hadn’t planned on harvesting the area this year, but one of the worst ice storms in county history struck the Post Canyon particularly hard in mid-January. Among the areas that saw the most damage, the steep hillsides surrounding the heart of Seven Streams were choked with downed or broken timber. A survey concluded that about 30 percent of the trees in the area were knocked down or damaged by the episode of snow, freezing rain and wind.

Signs will be posted Friday to notify the public of the closure, and on Monday work will begin on the 78.8-acre Clematis Timber Sale (named after a type of buttercup). The closure will start at the Seven Streams trailhead and kiosk about a mile up Post Canyon Road. A lower section of the trail, owned by Oregon State Parks, will not be affected by the sale, but access to that section is limited due to storm damage and private property issues. Other trail closures on the same date will include Spaghetti Factory, Mobius and Frankenstein.

The timber was purchased by Boise Cascade and contracted to BTO Forestry Solutions. It will consist of clear-cutting two units along Post Canyon Creek, cable yarding the timber to a landing area off of Post Canyon Road. and hauling it to a mill near La Grande.

Affected trails will be closed at least for the rest of the year and the public is encouraged to avoid Post Canyon Road if possible and access the northwest trails network via Riordan Hill, Binns Hill or Kingsley roads.

A buffer zone averaging 60 feet — called Riparian Management Area — will be left largely intact on each side of Post Canyon Creek. Although the Oregon Forest Practices Act requires only 50 feet, HRCF Manager Doug Thiesies drew in the extra buffer as a measure of safety.

“We knew this day would come and that people would be affected by it,” Thiesies said. “It’s a popular area and an important trail, but there are several reasons why the sale is being harvested when and how it is.”

Thiesies explained that the three main reasons to fast-track the operation are the sheer number of damaged or downed trees, the concern for bark beetles (which have already been observed) and an overall mission of the department to manage the forest as a sustainable working tree farm.

“We were fortunate to get an operator for the sale that could come in and get it logged this year,” Thiesies said. “They were basically the last one around.”

An unusual condition of the sale, which was approved by the county commission Monday evening, was that operations needed to be completed this year.

“Contracts usually allow for two years to get the work done; but for this one we wanted it finished this year so we can plan over winter and hopefully have trails reopened next season,” said Henry Buckalew, HRCF trails coordinator. “There will definitely be damage to the trails, but I imagine we will have a tremendous outpouring of support to get them back open in the spring.”

As a nod of its support for recreation in the forest, HRCF hired a crew in the spring to help clear large timber across Seven Streams so it could be open for at least for part of the summer.

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At close to two million board feet, the sale is expected to bring close to $536,000 in revenue for the county. HRCF revenues make up about 33 percent or one-third of Hood River County’s General Fund, which is used to pay for a wide variety of county personnel and services.

“The reason for a clearcut instead of salvage in this case is the nature of the terrain,” Thiesies said. “It is steep enough that cable logging is required. But that’s expensive, so to recover revenue that’s the only practical option.”

Thiesies explained that with so much downed timber in the area, bark beetles are a serious concern; not only for dead and downed trees but for surrounding stands that are currently healthy.

“We would lose more and more in successive years if we just leave that area as it is,” he said. “We can’t just walk away from it. To be sustainable, we have to manage the stand; in this case that means harvesting, recovering the value and starting it over for the next cycle.”

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Hood River Area Trail Stewards are organizing a last-chance ride for Thursday, starting at the bottom of Post Canyon Road. The group will meet at 5:30 p.m. and start 6 p.m. Bikers, hikers, runners, dog walkers, etc. are invited to join the gathering and the food and drink festivities afterwards at Dirty Fingers Bike Shop at the corner of 13th and State streets.

For updates and more info on riding in the area, visit www.hrats.org.

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