Winchester Bay, OR - land plan presented

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Winchester Bay, OR - land plan presented

Post by Crowdog » Mon Jun 14, 2004 10:33 pm

Douglas County presents land plan

By Howard Yune, Staff Writer

REEDSPORT - With approvals in hand for two land acquisitions in Winchester Bay, and county commissioners three weeks away from voting their final approval, Douglas County planning officials on Wednesday outlined their plan to bring the lands around Winchester Bay under firm county control - a plan meant to provide both better policing and more room for recreational activity in the coastal town by the Oregon Dunes.

Twenty people gathered at the Douglas County Courthouse Annex for a presentation led by Keith Cubic, the county planning director, who described the master plan for placing the county in control of more than 738 acres currently divided among federal, state and local agencies.

While illustrating the plan's changes in land ownership - including an expansion of the village's urban zone and land takeovers from the state and federal governments - Cubic took a final opportunity to absorb local residents' views of the master plan before the Board of Commissioners decides whether to approve it at a June 30 meeting in Roseburg.

The afternoon meeting, one of two held in Reedsport on Wednesday, marked the end of more than two years of public-comment sessions and conferences among western Douglas County's landowning agencies, which also include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard. The agencies crafted a plan to give the county a unified police command over the Winchester Bay area to better regulate the increasingly popular all-terrain-vehicle activities on the dunes and control drinking, littering and unsafe driving in the area.

To create room for a new ATV access route to the dunes and a campground catering to off-roaders, Douglas County arranged to take over 68.5 acres north of the Umpqua Lighthouse from the BLM and 107 acres south of the lighthouse from the state parks department. The U.S. Senate ratified the first handover in February, while the state Parks and Recreation Commission approved the second one two months later.

With its newly acquired properties, the county plans to build two campgrounds and a gravel-paved staging area for off-road vehicles en route to the dunes, replacing access points that force ATVs to share Discovery Point Lane with passenger cars.

Most audience members at the hourlong meeting treated the county's plans cordially, their concerns mainly about keeping free and easy access to the Oregon Dunes for non-off-road riders: Would county parks staff close drive-through spaces near the Coast Guard station that allow would-be fishers to view the Umpqua River bar before deciding to cast their lines? Would those seeking only to stroll or picnic in the area be charged to park there?

"I'm concerned that we not do away with a feature of the parking lot that helps recreational fishing: drive-through spaces with a view of the bar," said Janice Green of Reedsport. Jeff Powers, the county parks director, assured her the county would preserve the spaces - and specifically because residents had demanded it at earlier forums.

A Winchester Bay resident asked the county not to overlook strollers, picnickers and tourists who go to Winchester Bay for activities other than off-road riding - and to maintain some free access.

"I hope you consider the people who come when things are quiet to have access to the beach," said Charles Booher. "If you could maintain the beach as it is, it would make a world of difference to the public." In response, Powers pointed to the county's lease of 25 acres from the Army Corps for a free day-use area off limits to vehicles and camping.

The master plan also includes a 20.6-acre addition to Winchester Bay's urban unincorporated area, the equivalent of an incorporated city's urban growth area. Three-fourths of the new territory abuts Lake Marie at the south of town and includes water and sewer pipes, operated by the Winchester Bay Sanitary District, that run well away from the village's downtown to the north.

The sewer connections eventually will be used to upgrade the county's planned campgrounds, said Cubic, the planning director, who added the facilities will open with dry vault toilets but one will later be equipped with plumbing. Adding to the urban unincorporated area will allow the water and sewer services to be added more easily, he said.

"The area is already committed to urban light development," Cubic said. "This allows additional growth, such as more yurts in the county campground."

Greg Hoover, the owner of a Winchester Bay resort catering to off-roaders, urged the county to ensure both parts of its plan - adding new ATV access routes and blocking the old ones - take place at about the same time, in order to avoid starving tourist businesses of their customers.

"Is it going to correlate with the building of the county park?" Hoover asked Powers. The parks director did not give a date but agreed about the need for ample notice about access changes, saying many visitors reserve their campsites up to a year in advance.

"We'll do our darndest to give months of notice," he told Hoover. "I agree it's not wise to pull the rug out from under you." To other audience members he added: "Most of you are aware there's a larger plan to provide replacement camping facilities, but it'll take time." ... news02.txt

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