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Helicopter to help workers in watershed

A helicopter is scheduled Tuesday to begin flying logs to landing sites in the Ashland Creek Watershed and will continue weekday work for about a month, said Chris Chambers, forest resource specialist for the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project. "We just want the community to be aware before it starts "… you will hear it," Chambers said.

He said the helicopter will fly from no earlier than 7 a.m. till dark.

Crews plan to begin staging equipment in the area today, and most of the northwest portion of the watershed will be closed to the public as the helicopter works to remove trees cut over the past three weeks for AFR's ongoing commercial thinning project in the area.

Granite Street will be closed above its intersection with Glenview Drive on weekdays during the project, starting Monday. Forest Service Road 2060 from its intersection with Granite Street to above the Horn Gap Area and the No Candies Trail will also be closed.

Hitt Road Trail, which takes off from Strawberry Lane, will be closed south from where it passes the city's covered water reservoir.

"We just can't sacrifice public safety to let people up there running around under a helicopter," Chambers said. "There is nothing to be gained from going in there to get a closer look."

Trucks will haul the logs down Granite Street in Ashland adjacent to Lithia Park, turn onto East Main Street, make a left at Second Street, and take Lithia Way out of town, Chambers said.

He said about 20 to 25 loads will be hauled on weekdays during the project.

"It'll be a steady flow of trucks, but I think it will be tolerable," he said.

Columbia Helicopters was awarded the contract to harvest roughly 1.8 million board feet of merchantable logs in the project area.

Columbia agreed to harvest the timber for about $1.2 million, and AFR will be responsible for hauling the about 500 loads of logs to Murphy Veneer in White City, Chambers said.

The amount AFR loses on the helicopter project will be made up by $6.5 million in federal stimulus money the resiliency project has received, he said.

The city of Ashland, the U.S. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy and the Lomakatsi Restoration Project have been working together on the 10-year AFR project to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires in 7,600 acres of the watershed and allow it to restore itself back to a natural state.

For more information, visit www.ashlandwatershed.org.

Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Sam Wheeler 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.