EUGENE, Ore. -- After rejecting a land management plan by a nudist group, the Lane County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously voted to endorse the bid of a local conservation group to buy a controversial parcel of county-owned floodplains.
All five commissioners voted to support Friends of Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah in an application to seek state funding to acquire 63 acres of county property, known as Turtle Flats, at Franklin Boulevard and Seavey Loop Road.
“And what it would do would be to restore this area for habitat to mitigate the impacts of the hydroelectric dams and the flood control dams on the Willamette River,” said West Lane Commissioner Jay Bozievich on Thursday at the site off Seavey Loop Road.
For decades, nude sunbathers have used this property, located at the confluence of the Willamette River’s coast and middle forks, as a land bridge to access state-owned Glass Bar Island Park.
Before the board of commissioners voted on Tuesday, a spokesman for a Glass Bar Island group, Jared Phillips, urged the county board to let them continue to have foot and bike access across the county land so they can get to the state-owned island.
Bozievich said the county commission gave the sunbathing advocates an opportunity to present their own management plan for Turtle Flats.
He said Phillips gave the commissioners a petition he said was signed by more than 1,700 residents—requesting that Turtle Flats remain a land bridge to Glass Bar Island Park and that foot access to the island be allowed without trespassing.
Phillips said Glass Bar Island users have been working as a conservation group to improve the land for many years.
“Access to Glass Bar Island Park has always been designated water access only by the State of Oregon,” said Bozievich.
He added that until recently, Glass Bar Island Park’s river-access-only status has not been easy to enforce.
"It's been difficult to keep no trespassing signs posted," said Bozievich.
New ‘No Trespassing’ signs have been posted along the more popular entrances to the site, managed by Lane County Waste Management Division.
Bozievich said it is important that the county and its partners do their part to enforce the state rule of river-access only while Friends of Buford Park & Mt. Pisgah seek state funding in an effort to move forward with the restoration project plans of Turtle Flats.
Friends of Buford Park executive director Chris Orsinger said the nonprofit is writing a $335,000 grant proposal to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to acquire the property.
Bozievich said approximately $30,000 would go towards recovering administrative cost to Lane County, and the remaining $305,000 would go towards the sale of the property and restoration of the site.
“If the grant is approved, and friends of Buford Park gets the grant, they will purchase the property from us, and it will go into the ownership of the Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah,” said Bozievich.
“Our goal is to have all this area one day open and safe to enjoy for people of all ages,” said Orsinger at Turtle Flats on Thursday.
Orsinger said he has outlined five goals for the restoration project, which have been approved by Lane County Waste Management and other agency representatives.
The goals include reshaping the floodplain for “channel complexity”, restoring native habitats for all wildlife, eliminating non-native species and providing opportunities for passive recreational use for the people.
“There are even discussions of, in the long term, of whether there can be extension of the bike path through these areas,” said Orsinger, “but these are long term discussions. It’s going to take time to work through all these issues.”
Orsinger said the property’s transfer from county ownership to Friends of Buford Park is dependent on the funding process, but could happen as early as the summer of 2014.
Orsinger said Friends of Buford Park will “collaborate with our Rivers to Ridges partners” to achieve the successful restoration of Turtle Flats, a project that he said could take as long as ten years to complete.
Orsinger said outside volunteers will also be needed if and when the project gets underway. Interested volunteers should email Friend of Buford Park at firstname.lastname@example.org.