The U.S. Forest Service has approved a collection of new rules aimed at reducing conflict, overcrowding and degradation in the Opal Creek Scenic Area and around Detroit Lake.
The agency said it received an overwhelmingly positive response to proposals designed to reduce pressure at areas that occasionally devolve into “booze-infested party zones” during summer.
The new rules include alcohol and campfire bans in certain areas, along with increased restrictions on where people can camp. The rules go into effect May 26 and fines for breaking them range from $50 to $250 per citation.
A public comment period in early April helped the agency shape its decision.
“The overarching theme from the comments was that the public was supportive of the Forest Service trying to do something to solve these issues,” said Josh Weathers, developed recreation manager for Willamette National Forest. “Even if they didn’t agree with everything we were proposing, the response was positive regarding us doing something.”
The rules will be enforced by Forest Service rangers and the Marion County Sheriff’s office.
Here’s a breakdown of new rules.
Booze-free Three Pools
It will now be illegal to drink alcoholic beverages at Three Pools Recreation Site northeast of Mehema.
The popular swimming hole has seen a major spike in visitors during the past five years, and problems there are often caused by alcohol, officials said.
“Alcohol seems to be a contributing factor to a lot of the problems at the site — litter, vandalism, fights and damage to the resource,” Weathers said in an earlier interview.
Fines for breaking an alcohol prohibition is $200, plus a $35 processing fee.
Alcohol is also banned at nearby Salmon Falls and North Fork county parks.
The second rule at Three Pools limits entry to those who can find a parking space. That means once the 94 spots at Three Pools are filled, no one else is allowed in.
No campfires, limited parking on Opal Creek Trail
One of the most iconic hikes in Oregon begins at the Opal Creek Gate Trailhead and runs three miles to Jawbone Flats.
It will now be illegal to have a campfire in the many small backcounty campsites along the trail and road that follows the Little North Santiam River.
Fines for illegal campfires start at $250.
Another new rule limits the number of cars allowed to park near the Opal Creek Gate Trailhead. Cars can only park a quarter mile down the road from the trailhead. Previously, cars often parked a mile down the road.
The idea is to reduce the number of people allowed in on the busiest weekends, officials said.
Breitenbush River camping
There are numerous dispersed, or unofficial, campsites along the Breitenbush River off Road 46 northeast of Detroit.
The new rules outlaw dispersed camping for five miles up Road 46 (from Detroit), and for 500 feet from the roadway. It will now be illegal to camp at roughly 30 dispersed sites that were previously frequented.
Weathers said rangers often find trash, degradation and even human feces at these campsites. Camping where prohibited carries a fine of $100.
Elk Lake camping
The small mountain lake north of Detroit is home to a small campground. However, in recent years unofficial campsites have popped up along Elk Lake’s shorelines.
It will now be illegal to camp at those unofficial campsites. The only place to camp at Elk Lake will now be in the official campground.
The unofficial sites did resource damage and blocked traffic, Weathers said.
Other limits on dispersed camping
The new rules limit dispersed camping along French Creek Road 2223, northwest of Detroit, and Blowout Creek Road 10, on the south side of Detroit Lake.
Dispersed camping will now be prohibited for the first two miles up French Creek Road and eight miles on Blowout Creek Road.
Zach Urness has been an outdoors writer, photographer and videographer in Oregon for eight years. He is the author of the book “Hiking Southern Oregon” and can be reached at zurness@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.
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