Nudists fear loss of beach access in Lane County

EUGENE — To the dismay of nudists and others, Lane County plans to sell 63-acre parcel on the Willamette River that the groups use to get to a bathing beach.

The nonprofit Friends of Buford Park & Mount Pisgah is seeking nearly $500,000 in grants to buy and secure the land, including putting up fences.

The land is at the confluence where the coast and middle forks create the Willamette and contains eight shallow, water-filled former gravel pits.

The county doesn't have the wherewithal to keep out trespassers, prevent damage or restore it, the Eugene Register-Guard  reported.

Plans call for clearing invasive species, building ditches and installing culverts to connect ponds to the river, and opening up backwater habitat for threatened fish. A county report calls for low-intensity recreational uses eventually.

Some residents trespass on the land to get to the state-owned Glass Bar Island park on the confluence waterfront, wading part of the way. The island is a popular nudist sunbathing and swimming spot, and the only legal access is by boat.

Users of Glass Bar Island have protested the planned sale, fearing access by land will be cut off.

Steve Morgan called it a bad idea that will exclude people from going swimming and fishing. He also said the plan was a surprise.

“Now they just throw this at us. It's like a slap in the face,” he said.

Chris Orsinger, executive director of the nonprofit, declined to say exactly how it would manage access if it takes ownership. But he said his group's long-term goal is to allow use that does not impact fish and wildlife at the site.

“We would like this area for county residents of all ages to enjoy,” he added.

Money for the purchase and restoration could come from electricity ratepayers, a result of a 2010 deal in which the Bonneville Power Administration allocated $144 million to buy and restore riparian areas in the Willamette Valley to make up for damage to wildlife habitat caused by the construction and operation of 13 dams and reservoirs.

Lane County plans to use most of the purchase money to create an endowment for restoration work, spokeswoman Anne Marie Levis said.


Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

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