Tree Danger Closes Popular Oregon Park
The popular Oswald West State Park on Oregon's northern coast is closed, a victim of falling trees and threatened campers, and it isn't certain if it will open to camping again, according to the Seattle (Wash.) Post Intlelligencer.
Idaho camper Derrick Stiegemeier said he understood but was disappointed. "When is the last time anyone was killed by a falling tree?" he asked.
It was last month, when David Harris, 21, was found dead of head injuries on a trail a few miles away, probably from a fallen limb.
By then the park itself was closed to campers. In June a 100-foot-tall Sitka spruce, 11 feet thick, fell just steps from a campsite. The park was full but there were no injuries.
The inside of the tree, probably at least 300 years old, had rotted.
"If the universe has a luck-o-meter that ranges from 0 to 10, this was an 11," state parks spokesman Chris Havel said. "There is risk everywhere. That's part of being outdoors."
Since 2000, state forestry crews have checked 24 campgrounds to reduce the risk.
But Oswald West, named for the Oregon governor credited with helping to make Oregon beaches public property, sits in a thick old forest.
"You have the perfect storm of conditions at Os West," Havel said. "The trees are older, and people are right there among them."
The park draws more than 1 million visitors to its trails yearly. About 15,000 camp overnight.
Now the state must decide if the campground will reopen to campers or remain a day-use-only.
State arborist Andy Smogor will inspect every tree in the campground that could cause damage or injury if it fell.
He'll check for signs of upheaval, which could mean the tree has started to lean. He'll look for sap, a sign of rot within, and for conks, the fruit that grows from fungus inside the tree.
So far, Smogor has identified 40 to 50 trees that have some defect and he has hundreds more to go.
"We generally only remove weak trees that are both in peril of falling and will likely hit a person or property when they go," Havel says. "A dead or damaged standing tree still plays an important role in the forest – as a place for birds to nest, for example. This is also why we try to leave trees on the ground when they fall in a natural area."
When he's done he will recommend what the state should do.
It could remove certain trees, reconfigure campsites or end all camping.
Havel said the public will have input before a decision is made.