A local nonprofit organization recently restored a newly acquired tract of land with hundreds of trees of mixed species in a two-planting effort.
The Lower Nehalem Community Trust (LNCT) aims to protect the watershed and make the Oregon Coast Trail a more natural forest coming down Neahkahnie Mountain. Long-time Trust member Doug Firstbrook was instrumental in acquiring the land located at the headwaters of Neahkahnie Creek, immediately adjacent to the headwaters of Alder Creek, called Headwaters by the LNCT. Both creeks flow out to Nehalem Bay.
“This planting really represents the beginning of our on-the-ground work in this new acquisition,” Firstbrook said. “We are fortunate that of the 111 acres, we only have 30 acres that were pretty actively logged; what we’re really interested in there is a forest as opposed to a timber farm … the property is conserved in perpetuity – it won’t fall under the axe again.”
The LNCT has been working for more than 15 years to restore and protect habitat in the Nehalem Valley. Headwaters is just one of the properties totaling about 250 acres that the group holds in conservation. LNCT holds title to and stewards land on behalf of all species in partnership with an enlightened and engaged community.
“It is a lovely piece of land with southern sun exposure, some mature trees, a couple of streams and a bit of a view,” LNCT member John Morris said. “Someday a trail will connect from the top of Neahkahnie Mountain, through the land and onward as part of the Oregon Coast Trail.”
Firstbrook said a trail has been planned to provide public access through the property. The trail would run from the terminus of the Neahkahnie Hiking Trail through the state park and into Headwaters, creating a mile of wooded pathway to travel rather than walking the narrow shoulder of the highway.
To date, stewardship crews have planted 300 trees of the estimated 1,500 needed to restore the forest under Oregon law after the logging at Headwaters. In cooperation with the City of Manzanita and Trail Keepers of Oregon, LNCT has granted access for a continuation of the Pacific Crest trail through the Headwaters property and trail work will begin this summer.
LNCT received the title to the 111-acre forest parcel through a developer’s donation in late September of 2018. Due to 30 acres being logged in summer of 2017, volunteers replanted Sitka Spruce, Cedar Western Hemlock from locally sourced plants provided by the Northwest Oregon Restoration Partnership of which LNCT is a member.
Under sunny skies in late January, smiling volunteers worked on Neahkahnie Mountain’s south slope. Led by the LNCT’s stewardship coordinator Shane Sjogren and LNCT board member Carl Vandervoort, 17 volunteers from the lower Nehalem community gathered to begin reforesting the Headwaters property.
Navigating sometimes challenging terrain this hearty group of volunteers planted 200 trees, adding to the 100 trees planted the previous week. Planting the 300 trees was a first impact on the restoration work necessary to create a community forest.
“The sunny afternoon came with completion and the comradely satisfaction of knowing that the trees they planted will be allowed to live till the end of their natural life,” Firstbrook said. “That trees have a mission beyond providing [timber] fiber for industry is largely undervalued in society, which has seemingly moved to a commodification of all things.”
The day’s activities were completed with some lengthy conversations and some very tasty snacks from Deb DeWit’s kitchen, Bread and Ocean and Wanda’s Restaurant.
History of Headwaters
Connected to Oswald West State Park along the property’s northern border and running nearly a mile south to the clear cut just east across Highway 101 from Nehalem Road, The Headwaters was acquired by the LNCT on Sept. 19, 2018.
It drains directly into the west fork of Neahkahnie Creek and holds multiple seasonal creeks that find their way into Neahkahnie Lake and Creek near the entry to Manzanita, where the Oregon Department of Transportation recently completed a 20 year project – a culvert designed to meet fish passage guidelines and improve the watershed.
Additional work in the drainage includes that completed by the Lower Nehalem Watershed Council, in partnership with the Rinehart family, on a large comprehensive marsh restoration project above Neahkahnie Lake.
The acquisition was made possible by donations from Seventeen Enterprises LLC and Pacific Land Conservation LLC, both of California. The donors also reportedly included sufficient funds to cover the costs of reforestation of the approximately 30 acres that was logged in summer of 2017 and a generous contribution toward some of the future stewardships costs. Also, very large older Sitka Spruce remained untouched within those 30 acres.
This all started with the dedicated advocacy of Firstbrook who, upon hearing that purchasers of 181 acres of land along Highway 101 were planning on logging some of it, felt compelled to seek out the participants and lobby on behalf of the ecosystem downstream. The restoration work and LNCTs holdings on Neahkahnie and Alder Creeks have benefitted from substantial public and private investments and countless hours of volunteer work.
The LNCT accepted a conservation easement at the close of 2017 with the implicit promise of donation as soon as legal partition of the forestland from the adjacent residentially zoned land could be completed.
Recent grants for LNCT
Lower Nehalem Community Trust recently received grant awards from two local funders. Tillamook County Cultural Coalition awarded $1,520 for signs that will feature plant information in the Nehalem Teaching Trail at Alder Creek Center.
“We are grateful for the financial support that TCCC has given us over the course of the Teaching Trail project. This most recent grant will allow self-guided visitors to learn the plant names, characteristics, traditional uses by First Peoples, and other pertinent information,” Firstbrook said.
Nehalem Bay Garden Club has also provided financial support several times over the years. The most recent gift of $500 will be used toward the much-needed repairs of the irrigation system in the Community Garden.
Karen Matthews, community garden coordinator said, “These funds will help to ensure the repairs can be done well in advance of the growing season. We are so fortunate to have the Garden Club support us, once again.”
Both the Nehalem Teaching Trail and the Community Garden provide educational experiences to the community. Additionally, the garden provides food security to North County Food Bank and Senior Center participants.
The Lower Nehalem Community Trust is a member supported, nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation and restoration of natural lands, protecting the scenic vistas, sparkling rivers and bays, and dense forests that define the northern coast of Oregon. The goal is a thriving ecosystem that includes clean water, healthy forests, habitat for diverse species of wildlife, and a strong connection between people and place.
Those of you who would like to participate in future plantings or restoration activities on other LNCT properties can contact Sjogren at 503- 368-3203 or [email protected]. Find more information and updates about The Headwaters at www.nehalemtrust.org/headwaters.