News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Grants to aid Shelburg trails, Stayton community center

Work on reopening the trails in the Shellburg Falls area of the Santiam State Forest has received a strong boost from a new grant.

The Pacific Power Foundation has awarded a $3,500 grant to Trailkeepers of Oregon for upcoming work on footbridges in the Shellburg Falls Recreation Area. 

One of the 30-foot bridges, said Steve Kruger, executive director of Trailkeepers, is located just above Shellburg Falls and the other on the nearby August Mountain Trail. 

The grant was part of $112,000 in new funding that the Pacific Power Foundation is providing to community enhancement and environmental groups in Oregon, Washington and California. 

The city of Stayton  received a $1,000 grant, which it will use toward an upgrade of the kitchen in the Stayton Community Center. 

A total of $13,000 in grant funding went to Willamette Valley groups, with the Luckiamute Watershed Council, the Sweet Home Library and Young Roots Oregon of Albany, also receiving funding.

The foundation grants will underwrite a diverse range of programs and projects, from affordable housing access, job training and rural economic development to ecosystem preservation, trail restoration and nature-based education. 

“These organizations lift up our communities and protect our natural surroundings for future generations,” said Adam Kohler, Pacific Power regional business manager in a news release. “It is an honor to support their inspiring work and help build communities where everyone can flourish.” 

The Trailkeepers of Oregon project will continue the work the Oregon Department of Forestry is doing in the Santiam State Forest to restore recreation areas that were damaged by the 2020 Labor Day fires. 

Overall, about 16,000 of the forest’s nearly 48,000 acres were affected by the wildfires. Some areas have reopened, but the Shellburg Falls area – easily the most popular spot in the Santiam State Forest for outdoor enthusiasts – remains closed. 

“It’s a special place and it was toasted,” Kruger of Trailkeepers of Oregon told The Canyon Weekly. “A lot of Shellburg was really burnt, but the new beauty revealed after the wildfire is worth the wait.”

The Pacific Power grant will help Trailkeepers and its cadre of volunteers get started on the bridge project, but more funding, either from grants or from donors, will be required to complete the task. 

Trailkeepers has been involved in post-fire recovery work in the Shellburg Falls area since the spring of 2021, Kruger said. 

“These are pretty exciting, big projects to be a part of,” Kruger said. “We’re actively pursuing other resources to support the work, but this is a great kick-start.”

No date was available for completion of the bridge projects and Kruger emphasized that the ODF will make the final call on when the region will reopen to the public. The grant funding will pay for approximately 10 days of trail work.

Since the fires, the ODF has been planning and budgeting for reconstruction and improvements to the Shellburg Falls area. Projects include replacement of the two bridges, rerouting portions of the trail to eliminate the use of wooden stairs and improvements to the trails themselves to reduce environmental impacts. 

The ODF has been successful in reopening other Santiam State Forest sites, including the Monument Peak Trail system, Santiam Horse Camp, Rock Creek Campground, and the Natural Arch and Rocky Top Trails.

The ODF depends almost exclusively on group volunteer assistance for post-fire recovery of recreation areas such as Shellburg Falls. 

Those who want to assist the Shellburg Falls project should contact the Trailkeepers of Oregon, the Salem Area Trail Alliance, or the Cascadia Trail Crew.

The city of Stayton, meanwhile, will use its Pacific Power grant for work on the existing 1979 era kitchen at the Community Center, said city manager Julia Hajduk. The key kitchen use, Hajduk said, is for the Northwest Senior Disabilities Services (NWSDS) program that provides meals to seniors three times a week.  

“While greatly appreciated,” Hajduk said, “the amount received was less than we had hoped and we are looking for other funding opportunities to help us upgrade the kitchen.’’

Desired upgrades, she said, include new cabinets and counters, a larger commercial style refrigerator and a commercial stove.

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