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Four Southern Oregon trails named as historic places

Four trails in the Oregon Caves National Monument that date back to the Great Depression are now on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Lake Mountain Trail, Big Tree Trail, Cliff Nature Trail and No Name Trail, covering nearly seven miles inside the monument, were placed on the list Jan. 12.

The trails are of historic significance because they retain many of the rustic design principles from the days when they were built or reconstructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, explained Chrissy Curran, associate deputy state historic preservation officer for the Oregon Parks & Recreation Department.

The CCC worked at the monument from 1934 to 1941, toiling on jobs ranging from the trails to the historic chateau.

While the structures in the monument were included in the historic district placed on the national list in 1992, the trails were not, Curran noted.

"When the monument was originally listed, the landscape components were not considered," she said. "But the scholarship has grown to think about trails and canals and other manmade landscape features."

As a result, at the behest of the National Park Service, the historic district was expanded to include the trails, she said.

Oregon's State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation recommended the historic boundary be expanded early last summer.

"They (NPS) wanted to make sure all of the important historic aspects of the monument were captured," she said.

The listing will provide added protection to the old trail system but isn't expected to have a major impact because the paths have always been well cared for, she said.

"They've been treating these trails as valuable cultural resources all along," she said. "Of course, landscapes are dynamic things. Landslides happen, vegetation changes. But you want to preserve the original corridors and views, as well as the design's intent."

Steve Mark, NPS historian for both the Oregon Caves and Crater Lake National Park, agreed.

"The main difference is that, if there are any projects that will affect the trails, the project will be reviewed under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 to make sure the project will not harm the characteristics for which the trails were listed," he said. "The trails still reflect characteristics of CCC construction. We want to protect that."

The Oregon Caves are located about 20 miles east of Cave Junction in the Illinois Valley. The monument covers about 480 acres in the Siskiyou Mountains.

There are more than 120 historic districts in Oregon that are on the national historic register. The National Register of Historic Places is maintained by the National Park Service.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.