January 18, 2017

Yesterday locals gathered in two lively sessions at the Expo Center in Redmond to give Smith Rock Master Plan input to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. 

The plan for the park was last updated in 1991. The robust growth (150% since the last plan) in diverse user groups and number of visitors has triggered the need for a new plan. One that provides a detailed look to “fully address future recreational use and resource management for the future health and success of Smith Rock State Park,” per the Smith Rock Park Plan website. 

OPRD Staff explaining the Smith Rock Master Plan process

OPRD Staff explaining the Smith Rock Master Plan process

There will be a total of three public meetings. Meeting I’s focus was to explain how the planning process will ultimately guide the vision and management of the park. It also provided an opportunity for local residents and park stakeholders talk about what the value about Smith Rock.

Meeting II happens this summer, where the assessments of park resources are presented and the community and the park staff identify goals and strategies together. Planning concepts and alternatives will be presented for public comment. 

Finally, at Meeting III the draft master plan with development concepts and park management strategies is presented for public review. 

“Public Meeting 1” as it is dubbed,  was a public comment and park values session, done in two meetings. The first one in the early afternoon was for the Advisory Committee—a diverse group of interest groups and agencies that have a direct interest in the park. For a list of these stakeholders and how they were selected, see the Q&A section of the Plan site. The public was also allowed to attend the Advisory meeting. 

The evening session was for the public. The same material was presented at each meeting, starting with a historical perspective of the park, followed by a sharing of data from the survey conducted in the park last spring that we turned into a quiz from the resulting data.  The OPRD plan site has the original survey report.

Various federal resources were cited as models to help measure the impacts on resources on Smith Rock State Park. A question from the Advisory Committee session audience as to whether an environmental psychologist was part of the assessment team. The OPRD acknowledged the possible need for a consultant in this area.

Much discussion was around proper indicators to address the planning process. Measurement of raptor activity, numbers of parking spaces (and overflow), as well as full drain fields at peak usage were some of the indicators cited. Aerial data, remote sensing and trail monitors will also be used in the assessment process.

This led to further input on the need to look at ways to disperse the use throughout the park, including circulating people in different ways, educating about trail and hike time options, and limiting certain types of events. Professional filming is now being limited to summer and winter only, for example.

Recent Travel Oregon "7 Wonders" campaign

Recent Travel Oregon "7 Wonders" campaign

The impact of tourism promotion was brought up in relation to the survey data that even the OPRD surveyor said was “off the charts”—83% of all park users felt some degree of crowding, vs 62% at other parks.

While the recent Travel Oregon “7 Wonders” campaign has been anecdotally related to the boost in traffic, a 13.5% Deschutes Country population increase is cited as part of the increase in visitors. 

Possible solutions to accommodate everyone from the 5-minute visitor to camping options to shuttle services to alleviate parking woes ensued from the attendees.

OPRD Smith Rock Master Plan Survey is available online until February 17, 2017

OPRD Smith Rock Master Plan Survey is available online until February 17, 2017

Finally, another survey of 6 questions was conducted as part of the open sessions for both groups and is available for the public to complete online until February 17, 2017.

Aiming to reveal to OPRD what each values about Smith Rock State Park,  neighbors shared their frustrations about the impact of the park’s growth, others chimed in on the pros and cons of limiting access, but all agreed on the need for more park management staff funding.

A complete transcript of the meeting responses as well as the OPRD presentation will be posted here on the Smith Rock Master Plan website later this week. An interactive map where the public can leave virtual “post-its” will also be available.  

Didn’t make the meeting? Go to the OPRD Smith Rock Park Plan website, fill out the survey by February 17, and come to the next session this summer.  

We’ll let you know when.