Punchbowl deal done; county will close Routson Park

Punchbowl Falls

Western Rivers Conservancy
Punchbowl Falls

One park down, one gained.

Hood River County on Monday sealed a purchase and sale agreement with Western Rivers Conservancy to acquire land at Punchbowl Falls, a popular waterfall near Dee, which will become a “passive use” park dedicated to pedestrian trails.

The same night, Hood River County Board of Commissioners closed the chapter on forested Routson Park, located south of Parkdale, which they feel isn’t worth the cost of maintaining anymore.

Punchbowl Park comes via a $470,000 grant from Oregon Parks and Recreation District, which helped the county buy the 103-acre property from Western Rivers, a Portland conservation non-profit, in order to establish a protected public park.


Mikel Diwan

The total price tag for purchase and development is $1.2 million — Western Rivers put up half of that, and the rest came from the state grant and funds from the county, Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District and local donations.

The new park will cut a continuous trail through the scenic falls area, winding around the west fork of the Hood River. In the past, the trails were a shaggy mixture of old logging roads and social trails that people had cleared on the riverside bluffs.

The first phase of new park development, including trails, signage, and small amenities, is expected to be finished by the end of the summer. County Administrator David Meriwether said the cost of park maintenance will be about $5,000 to $8,000 a year, not taking into account volunteer labor.

At Monday’s meeting, commissioners also decided to shut down Routson, a forested riverside park south of the more popular Tollbridge Park.

Routson Park consists of roughly 160 timbered acres about five miles south of Parkdale on Highway 35. The east half was formerly a campground along the Hood River’s East Fork.

Though several websites still promote the park as a “gateway to Mount Hood,” (OnlineHighwaysHome.com), the park has been closed on an operational level since 2011 due to concerns with the water supply and cost of upkeep. The county hasn’t reopened it to the public since then.

“Essentially, it is being ignored,” Public Works Director Mikel Diwan said in a report.

Diwan recommended permanently closing the park and removing the restroom and septic system, as well as other cleanup steps.

Commissioners agreed, making no outright objections. Commission Chair Ron Rivers said he had only visited the park once in his youth, and he preferred Tollbridge Park as a campsite.

The County also heard from proponents of a new park in west Hood River, West Side Park.

Hood River Valley Residents Committee and HRVPRD shared information they gleaned through surveys and a public meeting. The consensus: a park at that spot would be very popular, and mixed-use sports fields would meet the public’s vision.

Parks director Lori Stirn told the board numerous criteria need to be settled for the park to go through, such as traffic analysis and use of lighting in the National Scenic Area spot. The groups haven’t yet purchased the land where the park would go.

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