By Associated Press • 

Gilchrist State Forest expands, recreation options unclear


BEND — The Oregon Department of Forestry says the newest state forest will be a working one producing timber but there will also be recreation opportunities.

Gilchrist State Forest Manager John Pellissier said the exact recreation opportunities have yet to be worked out.

“I don't know (what) our niche is going to be yet,” he told The Bulletin. "It is not a park. It is not a conservation area. It is a working forest."

The state last month bought 20,477 acres from The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit that helps agencies protect properties from development. That added to the 5,360 acres that the state bought from the same group last year and to 43,000 acres it bought in 2010 from Fidelity National Timber Resources.

The Gilchrist State Forest is the state's first new state forest in more than 70 years and cost more than $10 million, paid for with bond money and federal funds. An additional 3,000 acres remain to be purchased from The Conservation Fund.

Randy Drake of the Deschutes County 4 Wheelers said the state forest could be a good place for off-highway vehicles. He said the lower elevation compared with other OHV areas around central Oregon could increase its use.

“This is one place that would be open to use year-round,” he said.

Abbey Driscoll, a spokeswoman for the Department of Forestry, said the agency is waiting for groups to approach it with recreation ideas.

However, the Central Oregon Trails Alliance, a Bend-based nonprofit that builds and maintains mountain bike trails, and the Klamath Trails Alliance, a similar group in Klamath Falls, are concentrating on trails closer to their cities.

The area contained in the new state forest has been heavily logged. Pellissier said in 30 years it could be a steady producer of timber, perhaps 15 million board feet per year.

Driscoll said recreation will be a part of the forest even with the timber harvest.

“It will take some strategic planning,” she said, “but it can be done.”


Information from: The Bulletin,

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