Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cherish the Chetco — a success!

By all accounts, “Cherish the Chetco,” a 2-day river event held on Sept. 21-22, 2012 was a great success. It was co-sponsored by Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest and South Coast Watersheds, and many public agencies, community groups, and volunteers pitched in to help out.

On Friday evening, the library was packed. Noted author and river expert Tim Palmer spoke and showed slides about the history of the National Wild & Scenic Rivers program, which protects the Chetco and three other Curry County rivers (Elk, Rogue, Illinois), and he explained the special significance of the Chetco.

Then Slade Sapora—biologist, geologist, adventurer, and Brookings native—gave a presentation about his extremely rugged trans-Kalmiopsis Wilderness trip last summer, starting from headwaters near Chetco Lake down the river (with several portages) to the ocean at Harbor. For the special event the walls of the library meeting room were adorned with Chetco River paintings contributed by local artists and also with photographs of Chetco birds, wildlife, and scenery.

On Saturday, the Azalea Middle School Birding Club led a bird walk on the River View Trail at Loeb State Park. After that, six volunteer crews, including several student groups, worked on river stewardship projects, such as picking up trash, pulling ivy, and surveying for fish.

At the afternoon "River Fair" up at Redwood Bar, children were drawn to the Forest Service's 40-foot inflated "salmon tent" to learn about these fish. The “Try a Boat” station was a big highlight where kids and adults took canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and drift boats for a spin on the Chetco. There were also opportunities to learn to fish, to snorkel, to learn about birds and the macroinvertebrate life of the river and to paint the scene.

Volunteer groups that helped included the Chetco River Watershed Council, Trout Unlimited, Oregon South Coast Fishermen, South Coast Watershed Council, Trash Dogs, Kalmiopsis Audubon Society, and the Brookings Plein-air Painters. Oregon Fish and Wildlife and Oregon Department of Forestry hosted tables with displays about invasive species and Sudden Oak Death, which is a problem in the watershed. All told, public agencies, community organizations and volunteers offered more than a dozen different displays and activities. An estimated one hundred and twenty volunteers participated to make the day a success.

According to Tim Palmer, Congress envisioned the Wild & Scenic Rivers system as a way to balance policies that had long made dams and development the highest priorities, yet fewer than ¼ of 1 percent of America’s river miles have been protected. “We’re fortunate that the Chetco is one of these,” he said in his presentation. “The scarcity of safeguarded rivers means that it’s important to take good care of the ones we have.”

According to South Coast Watersheds and the Forest Service, a key approach of the “Cherish the Chetco” event was to bring together as many different people from the community as possible to share their skills, expertise, and enthusiasm for this National Wild & Scenic River with others.