Good news from the Chetco Bar Fire

Good news from the Chetco Bar Fire

12 APRIL 2018 | BROOKINGS, ORE. — A crew dedicated to recovering trails damaged by the 2017 Chetco Bar Fire just returned from their first eight day work trip on the Tincup Trail 1117. Support for the Siskiyou Mountain Club comes in large from a grant agreement with the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Crew rides home in the SMC van after a long, cold, windy hitch in the Gold Beach Ranger District

“I’m going to be training them for almost two months,” says Field Director Aaron Babcock.

Field Coordinator Aaron Babcock

Field Ranger for the Gold Beach District, Steve DiCicco, was there to train the crew and help out on the trail. DiCicco is a longtime resident of Gold Beach and he knows the lay of the land better than just about anyone we’ve worked with.

Steep slopes

Weather set the crew back, as marine storms threatened to blow snags and large branches in the path of crew members. So they spent a couple of days helping out on the Rogue River National Recreation Trail before heading back to the Chetco Bar project.

Crew member Jamie Schmidt of Grants Pass swamps some logs

The crew is responsible for reducing sediment load from burned over trails into nearby streams, and addressing resource damage with an emphasis on public safety.

Boulder Creek

Jamie Schmidt of Grants Pass was hired onto the crew earlier this spring. “It’s hard work,” he admits. “But it went well and I learned a lot.” Schmidt says he’s heading out to go snowboarding on Mt. Hood for his days off.

Pioneer species sprout.

Also on the Chetco Bar Crew is Eliasa Collins. “I’m taking a break from school. I want to save money and avoid going into debt,” she says. Collins is happy to be back in the Kalmiopsis, where she earned her badges in 2016 as a Wilderness Conservation Corps intern.

The third crew member is Briana Lyons of Selma, an avid kayaker with a fierce passion for wild places. The crew works eight days on, six off, and once Babcock is done training them they’ll be autonomous with support from DiCicco and his team.

One of the biggest challenges to their first hitch? “Just getting to work,” says Babcock. “We had to pass Mislatnah Creek…That was interesting.” Babcock’s crew was busy fortifying tread impacted by the Chetco Bar Fire, where loss of vegetation can lead to bad erosion.

The crew has over 80 miles of trails that were in the burn to work on before October 31, when the agreement closes out. They receive a living wage and are eligible for health benefits after 60 days.

Crew cleans up Tincup Trail 1117

Our goal is to keep the crew on after that, and make them available for more projects with our partners in the Rogue-Siskiyou, Klamath, and Six Rivers National Forests.

“Working in the Kalmiopsis is like circling back for us,” says executive director Gabe Howe. “This vast, most remote and far western arm of the Rogue-Siskiyou is our birthplace.”

The Club started in 2010 as a small group of volunteers determined to recover a trail route from underneath heaps of downed trees and brush left by the 2002 Biscuit Fire that burned in many of the same areas as the Chetco Bar Fire.

And in case you’re wondering, the morels are coming up

“Now we’re working with our partners to save those same trails from the Chetco Bar Fire,” Howe recognizes. “We know post fire trail restoration. We know the patterns so we can develop strategy, and the tactics so we can get the work done,” he says. “Fire restoration is our business.”

The Club now maintains over 240 miles of trails on a three year rotation throughout the rugged wildlands of Southwest Oregon and Northwest California, including over 60 miles of trails in the Kalmiopsis.