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

County parks get set to reopen

A pair of Marion County parks that have been closed since the 2020 wildfires are getting set to reopen at the end of this month.

North Fork, Bear Creek, Salmon Falls in the Elkhorn/North Fork Road area and Minto and Niagara along Highway 22 have been shuttered since the Labor Day blazes because of safety issues stemming from hazard trees and dangerous conditions that existed in the parks.

Packsaddle, an important link in the North Santiam River paddling system, already is open, as is North Santiam Park, which did not receive as much damage as other facilities because it was at the western end of the fires’ reach. North Santiam’s operations have been transferred from the Oregon State Parks system to county control and the name was changed from its earlier North Santiam State Recreation Area title.

North Santiam Park, which offers river access, hiking and other day-use opportunities, will be adding camping as of May 1.

Here is the schedule for other parks:

• North Fork and Bear Creek will open for day use on May 15.

• Minto is set to reopen in the fall of 2024.

• Salmon Falls is unlikely to open for day use until the summer or fall of 2025.

• Bear Creek is projected to add camping in the summer of 2026.

• North Santiam will expand its campground, perhaps as early as fall of 2026 or as late as summer 2027.

• No date for reopening has been projected at Niagara because recovery efforts still are underway there. 

“We are in phase 1 of the rebuild and restoration process, which includes ongoing habitat restoration, replanting and invasive weed control efforts,” said Yancee Gordon, communications coordinator for Marion County Public Works in an email exchange with The Canyon Weekly.

“Phase II projects are currently in the design stage,” Gordon said. “Once design is complete, we will need to allocate grant funding for the construction. As such, completion timelines are not set at this time.”

Marion County underwent a lengthy parks restoration planning process that was developed by Public Works officials with guidance and oversight from the county’s volunteer Parks Commission. The Board of Commissioners approved the ambitious plan in 2023, with the potential cost over a 10-year span perhaps as much as $24 million. The more money the county can collect means the more pieces of the plan it can implement.  

The county plans to start paying for the restoration and upgrades with $1.2 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds for road and other infrastructure work.

The county also hopes to use grants, revenues from camping and day-use activities, $560,000 in one-time funds from salvage timber sales as well as the state’s annual allocation of $300,000-plus in annual RV fee allocation from the state to pay for the work.

The county also is working with volunteers on some of the habitat restoration, replanting and invasive weed control efforts. Trailkeepers of Oregon, Oregon Parks Forever and SOLVE are hosting volunteer days on Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5.  Lunch and tools are provided. Work goes on rain or shine so dress accordingly. Registration is required and NO parking is available at the job sites.

May 4: Shifts from, 8:30 a.m. to noon and 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at North Fork. Shuttle from the ODF compound at North Fork Road turnoff from Highway 22. Sign up at https://comsync.lijit.com/1/d/r?aqet=clk&v0=5884f768e775c4871d537f029d4c9077&ru=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.eventbrite.com%2Fe%2Fhelp-reopen-marion-county-parks-willamette-valley-tickets-861138026017%3Futm-campaign%3Dsocial%26utm-content%3Dattendeeshare%26utm-medium%3Ddiscovery%26utm-term%3Dlisting%26utm-source%3Dcp%26aff%3Debdsshcopyurl.

May 5: Shifts from, 8:30 a.m. to noon and 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Minto. Shuttle from the Gates park and ride at Central and Horeb. Sign up at https://comsync.lijit.com/1/d/r?aqet=clk&v0=291904fde13b5c7c2138b09b9b219170&ru=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.eventbrite.com%2Fe%2Fhelp-reopen-marion-county-parks-willamette-valley-tickets-874047929887%3Futm-campaign%3Dsocial%26utm-content%3Dattendeeshare%26utm-medium%3Ddiscovery%26utm-term%3Dlisting%26utm-source%3Dcp%26aff%3Debdsshcopyurl.

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