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Effort aims to control Forest Park erosion

JACKSONVILLE — A cooperative volunteer effort between groups that use and debate how best to manage the city's watershed has provided erosion control for 2,600 feet of gullies along Jackson Creek in the area.

"It was a pretty bare hillside. It is decomposed granite," said Tony Hess, a member of the city's Parks, Recreation and Visitor Services Committee, who spearheaded the project. "There had been some fuel reduction (forest thinning) done on it ... that allowed increased erosion on the hill from the heavy rains."

Residents, city public works crews, Motorcycle Riders Association members and Bureau of Land Management personnel all pitched in for the effort in what is called Forest Park. Seventeen volunteers put in a total of 218 hours.

"This is the start of an ongoing project to rehabilitate several of these areas in Forest Park," said Hess. "The sediment in Jackson Creek and its tributaries is a very heavy load. It's a matter of water quality. Anything you do to slow the water down drops the sediment out," said Hess.

Jacksonville and other governments in the Bear Creek drainage have been put on notice by Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality to improve water quality, said Hess.

The treated area had been identified as getting worse with no way to dissipate sediments in rainwater before it reached the creek. Gullies in the area were up to 20 feet wide and 2 to 3 feet deep.

Grass seed was planted with a mulch cover put on top. Bar ditches were constructed across a road and four dams were built with a mix of riprap rock, straw bales or trees in late October and early November. The work was 70 feet or more uphill from Jackson Creek.

With the threat of rain Nov. 9, MRA and BLM personnel "rode to the rescue," to finish the job, said Hess.

MRA's Steve McIntyre used a quad vehicle to transport 100-pound hay bales up the hillsides. Five BLM workers ensured the project got finished.

Hay bales cannot be used for mulch if they get wet, said Ted Hass, soil scientist for the BLM's Ashland Resource Area, who was a consultant for the project and offered materials and labor. BLM donated the grass seed and hay bales, which were surplus from when plans to drain Little Hyatt Lake fell through.

"We thought it's an important part of rehabilitating that watershed," said Hass. "We thought it would be good stewardship and being a good neighbor."

Three city public works department employees worked four days to move 10 yards of riprap to the site, construct water bars with a mini excavator, move hay bales and erect signs that explain the project.

"It's a big thing with us to do the erosion control because it helps with the new rules for storm drainage," said Jeff Alvis, Jacksonville's public works director.

"This is the first real rehabilitation effort in that area to that extent," said Hass.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland.

A dirtbike rider drives on Jackson Creek Road next to an erosion restoration area near Jacksonville on Saturday.