Linn County and the U.S. Forest Service have reached a one-year trial agreement in which county Parks Department workers will do cleanup and maintenance work along the heavily used Quartzville Corridor.
The one-year trial period will allow the county and the Forest Service to test whether it makes sense to work out a longer-term deal.
Unless something unexpected raises its head over the next 12 months, our guess is that this is an agreement that both the county and the Forest Service will want to continue.
As it stands, Linn County Parks Department workers already spend time in the area maintaining the county's campgrounds. This would be a natural extension of those efforts. And for several years, the Parks Department has managed several Forest Service campgrounds along the South Santiam River near Cascadia. So there's already a strong framework of cooperation in place between the county and the Forest Service. It makes sense to explore other opportunities to expand this partnership.
The trial agreement makes sense for the county in financial terms as well: Brian Carroll, the director of the Linn County Parks Department, said the Forest Service will cover the county's expenses to provide the extra service. In fact, Carroll said, the funding from the Forest Service will allow the Parks Department to offset some of its overhead costs and seasonal expenses.
Our hunch is that the county Parks Department will be able to do a better job with the Quartzville Corridor sites than the Forest Service, an agency that is stretched awfully thin right now.
That's certainly the way Carroll sees it: "Overall, I believe this agreement could be a benefit for the residents and visitors of Linn County by providing more customer service and safer, cleaner recreation sites in the Quartzville Corridor," he told the Linn County commissioners in a memo on the proposal.
The deal with the Forest Service is another excellent example of how the Parks Department has grown and developed over the last two decades under Carroll's guidance.
Carroll and his crew have built the department's budget from about $235,000 in 1997 to about $2 million this fiscal year. These days, Linn County operates 35 facilities that run from Harrisburg on the Willamette River to Clear Lake Resort high in the Cascades. And, aside from collecting a share of RV licensing fees and boat registration fees, the department operates without local taxes. (Carroll has said the Linn County Board of Commissioners made that expectation for the department clear from the start of his tenure.)
The department's willingness to explore partnerships with other government agencies and other entities has been an important part of that success over the years.
In fact, the one-year test with the Forest Service could help pave the way for other partnerships: Carroll told the commissioners that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has contacted the Parks Department. It turns out that the federal agency is interested in pursuing a deal for 2019 in which the county would operate and maintain the BLM's Quartzville recreational facilities. In some ways, this year's pact with the Forest Service could help identify any potential snags that could emerge during the negotiations between the county and the BLM.
And it makes good sense to have one governmental entity — in this case, Linn County — overseeing many of the recreational facilities in the Quartzville Corridor, especially considering the popularity of the area and some of the changes it's undergone in the past few years, such as the elimination of roadside camping.
Smart management of the area is one of the keys in ensuring that the corridor retains the qualities that attract thousands of visitors each year, from inside the Linn County and elsewhere. The Linn County Parks Department is in an ideal position to help provide that smart management. (mm)