Review & Comment on the Draft Plan!


A family, extreme sports enthusiasts, an artist, international travelers, in-laws visiting Portland from out-of-state, local fruit farmers, kayakers, a sporting goods store owner, native fisherman, a tourist taking a drive….

Everyone is inspired in their own way during a typical day in the Gorge. The following plan proposals aim to support the recreational needs and values of the people we meet in state parks, while celebrating the great diversity of people who characterize the gorge, today and for generations to come. These proposals strive to find a balance between recreation access, natural resource health, scenic beauty management, and fiscal responsibility.

If you’ve been following this planning process for Oregon State Parks in the Columbia River Gorge you know how exciting it is to arrive at the draft plan document stage. We could not have gotten here without your help! Many members of the public, partner agencies, stake holder groups, and state park staff have contributed to the development of this plan.

However, we are not done yet. The gorge is a complex place and we need your help to review this detailed draft plan. The plan is divided into four sections which you can see below. Leave your comments here on the blog, send us an email at, or tell us what you think at our upcoming public meetings on October 22nd and 23rd.

THE COMMENT PERIOD HAD BEEN EXTENDED: Comments will now be accepted on the plan through Monday, December 1, 2014, extended from the original date of November 21.  (Edited 11/18/2014) This reflects a 30-day comment period from the date of the first public meeting.

I. Existing Conditions

GMUP_1Read this section to understand the status of state parks in the Columbia River Gorge at the time this plan was written. This section explores the existing uses, facilities, natural and cultural resources, history, and geographical context of the parks within the management unit. Parks are described from a variety of perspectives, with an emphasis on visitor experience.

II. Analysis

GMUP_5Read this section to understand the discussion and collective thought behind the proposals shown later in this plan. This section describes the public process for gathering input about the plan, the opportunities and constraints that were identified, and an analysis of the major themes that arose during the existing conditions studies.

III. Plan Proposals

GMUP_7Read this section to understand the long term vision for how OPRD will serve visitors to its parks in the Gorge as well as the management strategies that will be used to maintain these parks going forward.

IV. Plan Implementation

GMUP_9Read this section to learn about the steps for implementing the proposals in this plan, including the priorities and phasing identified for improvements to parks, the estimated costs, and the permitting processes required to make this plan happen over the next 20 years, and find out what you can do to help.

Posted on October 7, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I appreciate the amount of work long range planning for the Gorge Parks system involves.

    I would like to express my support for the goals you have outlined in 3.8G and 3.8H, regarding recreational boating. The site at Rooster Rock is a gem in the crown of public boating sites, to be sure. Many of the Columbia River Yachting Association member clubs use the facility frequently and enjoy the access to that section of the Columbia River. The inability to utilize the dock would be a tremendous loss to the boating community.

    Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of the value of this site.


    Jen Tonneson

    • Thank you for your comments, Jen. Rooster Rock is an extremely valuable resource to the boating community and your comments were echoed at the last series of public meetings in October. Park management has prioritized working with the Oregon State Marine Board to improve the current dock, or find a suitable replacement if necessary. However, as described in prior comments (see a greater understanding of hydrology in the channel is needed for long-term planning around boating in the channel. OPRD is hopeful we can keep working to find a lasting solution that benefits recreationalists and natural resource quality, while making use of public funds in a responsible manner.

  2. Gorge Oregon State Parks Plan
    I am submitting comments on issues raised in the 2015 Draft Northwest Area Contingency Plan (NWACP) and the relevance of those issues on the Gorge Oregon State Parks Plan. The safety of cargos moved on Union Pacific and BNSF railroads thru the gorge is a growing concern to many in Oregon and Washington and to the multitude of tourists visiting the Gorge.
    The NW Area Contingency Plan was created to organize the efforts of the National Response Team (NRT), which is responsible for national and regional planning and preparedness activities before a response action and for support to the FOSC and State On-Scene Coordinator (SOSC) when activated during a response, and 13 Regional Response Teams (RRTs). RRT membership consists of designated representatives from key federal response and support agencies together with affected states.
    In the Northwest Area (defined as the coastal and inland zones of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington), these groups have joined together to investigate all planning and preparedness activities and jointly published the Draft Northwest Area Contingency Plan (NWACP). One section, the 2014 Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study, October 2014, contains specific information about response to oil or coal spills into or onto the shoreline of the Columbia River.

    Railroads and shipping both have significant impact on the Gorge Parks Plan. I’m focusing on railroads as the Union Pacific Railroad runs the length of the Gorge sometimes bisecting state parks. In Oregon, OPRD (Oregon Parks and Rec) and USFS (Forest Service) recreation sites are interspersed along a linear travel corridor and the two agencies share responsibility for coordinating and managing the interaction between the railroads and the public. Union Pacific RR is a constant in the Gorge and the impacts of any incident, spill or fire will directly affect the parks and the public. The effects of a spill into the fast water and complicated currents of the Columbia are addressed in the report, concluding that containing many types of spills will be nearly impossible due to sinking coal and oil, lack of equipment, and lengthy response times. It is deemed better to engage the public in finding areas to contain the spills that are the least environmentally sensitive areas, in other words – environmental sacrifice areas.

    Federal and state agencies are charged to receive and approve plans from railroads and to then regulate the railroads. Have the OPRD and the USFS been partners in the response plans?

    Currently the track owner is responsible for the Emergency Response phase of the incident. Cleanup or other monitoring work may be transferred to the transporter. Currently there are no requirements for the amount of response resources a track owner must have in order to respond to an incident on their lines. In general, resources for combating a fire from a train incident will come from local fire departments. Rail owners all contract with at least one spill response contractor whose equipment they would rely on in an incident resulting in a spill. It is at the discretion of the rail owner as to how many cleanup Northwest Area Contingency Plan organizations they contract with. One carrier, BNSF, has additional resources including foam trailers staged in Montana, Washington, and Oregon. BNSF maintains contracts with private industrial firefighting companies. Union Pacific ‘reaches out’ to fire departments on an annual basis to offer training or information and also relies on a network of private response contractors, mostly in Portland, Seattle, Spokane and Pasco. The other carriers do not have additional company owned resources or contracts for firefighting.

    ‘In February 2014, Governor Kitzhaber called for a statewide review of rail safety in Oregon. The Governor’s action was prompted by an increase in the transport of crude oil along major rail lines in the state, including the Columbia River Gorge. In July 2014, the Preliminary Statewide Rail Safety Review was released.
    One of the findings is: State agencies need to better collaborate on ideas and best practices that can be implemented to enhance rail safety. State agencies must regularly review emergency plans prepared by railroads handling hazardous materials, including crude oil. Railroads need to provide the state of Oregon and emergency responders detailed information on the cache of equipment they have available to respond to a rail incident.‘

    Have the USFS and ODRD been involved in the collaboration as it affects the Gorge Plan? Are the Forest Service and/or ODRD personal responsible to act in the role of firefighters and first responders, are they prepared? Is equipment available for the Parks?

    ‘Federal laws preempt state authority to regulate railroad companies’ oil spill planning. But federal law doesn’t require the railroads to plan for worst-case accidents. Railroads don’t have to share information with state officials to make sure Oregon is ready for an oil spill. Railroads have instead promised to volunteer information, then failed to do it. Hunt, the company spokesman, said in an accident, it could call on help from the Army Corps of Engineers, which stores boom equipment at its dams and reservoirs throughout the state.
    But the Army Corps said it wouldn’t be much help. It couldn’t respond to an oil train accident unless it had been declared a federal emergency under the authority of Oregon’s governor. That would not happen quickly after a derailment.’

    The safety of visitors to the parks needs to be assured. In the Gorge Plan I didn’t see reference to evacuation plans or response plans to an incident on the rails or on the Columbia. ODRD and the USFS need notices of transfers of products from RR and pipelines in order to know how to respond to materials involved in the incident. Access, which has been traditionally very limited, to the railroad lines will become more crucial in an incident.
    Also the question of financial responsibility begs a response. The track owner isn’t required to demonstrate the ability to pay for cleanup and response to incidents – this includes the RRs. . Cleanup or other monitoring work may be transferred to the transporter. A system of bonds set aside to pay for response and cleanup is a reasonable expectation.

    I am asking for inclusion by the OPRD and USFS in a response plan for the increased risks of incidents caused by increased transportation of volatile and polluting substances thru the area covered by the Gorge Park Plan. The safety of the public and protection of natural resources hinge on a comprehensive and well-publicized plan which would require public hearings on the response plans.


    • State parks will be included in a broad range of emergency response plans in different ways through our upcoming work with the Oregon Office of Emergency Management. We’re not yet sure how this applies to the Gorge specifically, or to different kinds of cargo, but we will address visitor and staff safety, and resource protection. Specific emergency response plans are not something that are typically addressed in OPRD state park master plans, however the agency prioritizes providing safe places for our visitors to enjoy through park management practices.

      All Oregon State Parks maintain an Emergency Procedures Manual, which cover park-specific procedures for everything from fire and medical emergencies, to water and sewer failure, flooding, bomb threats, hazardous materials spills and more. Evacuations are covered in detail. These procedures are reviewed annually as a part of monthly safety meetings.

      At a management unit level in the Gorge, an OPRD representative meets monthly with The Northeast Multnomah County Community Association (NEMCCA) in Corbett. This group holds monthly community-minded safety and information meetings including local residents, community groups, the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT), as well as representatives from the US Forest Service, Oregon Department of Transportation, State Police, and members of the Multnomah County Health Department, Sheriff’s Office, Road Department, District Attorney, and Emergency Management. OPRD is continually working with our partners in the Gorge on current local safety issues.

  3. Seems comprehensive, but honestly, it’s an incredibly huge document to read and consider. And a bit intimidating to have to post any comments online.

    • It is a rather complex document. You are welcome to come to our public meetings where we will summarize the plan and listen to public comment, or you can also email us with your comments as well, at

      Additionally, Chapters 7 and 8 outline the planning proposals so you might start with that section. Chapter 8 is a park by park breakdown of proposed improvements to individual state parks, with a brief introduction discussing how recreation activities are facilitated across the Gorge in state parks.

  4. I searched for “equine” and “horse” through the document and had zero results. Horseback riders are important and valid users of the parks systems. Where are the plans to accommodate equestrian use?

    Thanks for your attention!

    Terry B/Salem

    • Terry,

      Thank you for your comment regarding equestrian recreation in the Gorge. OPRD recognizes how important state parks are to equestrians and early in the planning process we looked at how we could better connect Oregon State Parks to equestrian trails in the Gorge.

      OPRD manages several smaller parks in the Gorge that are mostly disconnected by Interstate 84, Highway 30, or the Union Pacific Railroad. These roadside parks can generally be characterized as ‘gateways’ to USFS trails, among other land managers, throughout the Gorge.

      Given this relationship to other recreation land management properties, our plan strategically assessed existing recreation throughout the Gorge in Chapter 4. This assessment identified that the USFS already provides several opportunities for equestrian trail riding and camping in the Gorge ( directly adjacent to established equestrian trails. Considering the equestrian facilities available in the Gorge, potential plans for equestrian use on non-OPRD properties, and the constrained site limitations of OPRD park properties, Equestrian enhancements within OPRD property are not a significant part of this plan’s proposals.

      We agree with you that the plan should reflect this regional evaluation more effectively. We will capture your comments in the final plan that equestrian recreation is desired in the Gorge and will recommend that the activity be part of recreation planning during future Gorge-wide recreation planning efforts that include multiple land-managing agencies.

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