Benton County, Oregon

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Fitton Green Open Space – Natural Area Management Plan

Benton County Management Plan for Fitton Green - Chapter 4

Benton County Natural Areas & Parks – Fitton Green Natural Area Management Plan

CHAPTER FOUR: Inventory and Assessment

Table of Contents

The Fitton Green site has a diverse natural environment created by exposure, topography, varied forest types and plant communities, good quality wildlife habitat, and a variety of ecological conditions created by natural and human disturbances. This chapter describes these site characteristics, examines land use planning and circulation considerations, and analyzes opportunities and constraints as a basis for determining the preferred role and public uses of the site. This information is then used to estimate future use and develop public access goals and options.

A. Existing Natural Resources

Although a comprehensive resource inventory has not been undertaken for this site, substantial information was obtained from the Stewardship Management Plan, special studies conducted by Oregon State University, natural resource experts, staff knowledge of the site, and the consultant's analysis (see Appendix B: Resource Information Profile).

Site Description

Fitton Green is part of the Marys River watershed and the hills and ridges of the coast range (see Map 2: Site Features). The higher elevations (1200+ft) offer spectacular panoramic views of Marys Peak and the Marys River Valley, Cardwell Hills Valley, the Willamette Valley, and the Cascade Mountains. The site is linear in shape, extending in a north-south direction. A BPA power line defines the northern boundary, located midway up a south-facing hillslope, and terminates at a prominent ridgetop with a south-facing slope north of Philomath. The property narrows to approximately 180 ft in width near the south ridgetop that is largely privately owned and where a prominent residence is situated.

A first order stream flows northeast to southwest at the foot of the north hillslope just below Cardwell Hill Road. A number of other minor streams flow across the site typically from east to west, and several flow southward from the south ridgetop.

Former hauling roads have been abandoned, stabilized, and restored with native grasses. The north-south access road has been retained and designated for trail and maintenance access within the site. Access to the site is currently provided by Panorama Drive (county right-of-way) from the east, which extends into the heart of the site, intersecting with the trail near the western boundary. Cardwell Hill Road (county right-of-way) also provides non-vehicular public access from the east (Corvallis) and west (Wren and Kings Valley).

Vegetation Types

Logging – with varying degrees of intensity – has disturbed most of the site. Because of this activity and due to the lay of the land with variable exposure (predominantly south, north, and west-facing slopes), eleven vegetation types and conditions have been mapped for the property (see Appendix C: Vegetation Types). Past harvest methods included clearcutting, patch cutting, heavy thinning, and some stands were high-graded, yet there is also a stand of undisturbed hardwoods and unthinned conifer. In some areas, only merchantable softwoods were removed, while in others large oak and maple trees were also cut.

Three major vegetation types are characteristic of the Fitton Green site. Oregon white oak and grassland occurs on the south facing slopes at the northern end of the property and along the open ridgetop at the southern end. A mixed Douglas-fir and hardwood forest is present over much of the rest of the site. A riparian forest of oak and maple exists along the fish-bearing stream parallel to Cardwell Hill Road. The following descriptions summarize Ferguson's 1995 mapping and analysis of vegetation types, except where indicated.

Oak and Grassland

On the south-facing slope north of Cardwell Hill Road, oak and maple stands have established with patches of grassland and Douglas-fir depending on the exposure, soils, and moisture. Because Douglas-fir was beginning to overtop some of the pre turn-of-the-century oak in this area, and the most recent harvest selectively removed the conifer, the residual viable stand of hardwoods has a new lease on life.

The open and exposed ridgetop on the south end of the property supports a drought resistant community of grasses and shrubs with occasional clumps of Oregon white oak. The plant community is changing slowly as invasive species of rose, hawthorn, and thistle are becoming established in some of the grass areas. This process may eventually reduce the open grassland quality of the area. Due to moisture conditions, there is little likelihood of conifer encroachment in this area.

Although a formal vegetation analysis has not been done for the south hillslope, based on recent surveys of comparable sites, Fitton Green ranks among the top 20-30 high quality remnant upland prairie sites in the Willamette Valley, and among the top 5-6 sites in Benton County (Wilson, 2000). Of particular significance is the presence of native forbs, and in good quantity (Brainerd, 2000). In the Pacific Northwest, native grasslands are perhaps the most endangered habitat in western Oregon and Washington -- less than one percent of pre-settlement grasses now remain with significant effects on wildlife (Wilson, 1991). One of the survivors is the endangered Fender's blue butterfly that occurs in association with "threatened" Kincaid's lupine. Both the butterflies and lupines are found only in native grasslands in western Oregon (Wilson, 1991). The Fitton Green site has exceptional potential for establishing Kincaid's lupine in appropriate habitats on the site, as well as other projects to help offset loss of biological diversity in the Willamette Valley.

Additionally, the remnant oak savanna habitat provides an opportunity to showcase the fact that indigenous people burned portions of the Willamette Valley to allow for more efficient hunting, travel, and food gathering prior to the 1850s. In 1994, nine acres of the south ridgetop meadow burned from an escaped fire. Ecologically, the burn is significant because it emulates the historical process of fire disturbance, which served to promote open grassland and oak stands by eliminating competing shrubs and trees.

Mixed Douglas-fir and Hardwood Forest

Variable mixed forest stands exist throughout the site depending on the type of previous logging methods and site conditions. In some areas, many viable hardwoods remain alongside Douglas-fir and grand fir that were left because they were too defective or small. The defective conifers will become wildlife snags. Brackenfern, grass, snowberry, and cascara have established in some of the openings created by tree removals. Forest regeneration (Douglas-fir and grand fir) is occurring in many of the disturbed areas.

In wetter areas, large, healthy white oak trees exist because they tolerate more moist conditions. In the southern part of the property below the ridgetop, deeper soils support a variable stand of oak, maple, and Douglas-fir. Some of the oaks are 150-250 years old, and Douglas-fir are up to 90 years old. Without some relief from the competing conifers, the older, less vigorous oaks can be expected to become overtopped and die. In heavily disturbed openings, especially where maple and oak trees have been removed, conditions are ideal for non-native vegetation including, blackberry, thistle, and Scot's broom.

Riparian Forest

The two most significant riparian forests include the seven acre area along the fish bearing stream at the toe of the northernmost hill, and within a wet bowl and drainage area north of the dry south ridgetop. Big leaf maple, oak, and ash stands exist in these areas with a thick understory of hazel and snowberry. These areas not only provide a distinctive landscape character, but also are important riparian wildlife habitats.

Ground Cover

In a study of ground cover on the southern portion of the property, the most common ground vegetation was grasses (54% average cover). Shrubs had the second highest average cover (40%). Himalayan blackberry had an average of 16%, and ferns had the lowest percentage of 13% (Oregon State University, 1996-98). The concern here is that some of the native ground cover has been replaced by non-native plant species and without intervention will likely continue. No assessment of herb understory communities has been done elsewhere on the site.

Wildlife Habitat

The property provides diverse and good quality habitat for a variety of wildlife species including blacktailed deer, squirrel, coyote, bobcat, fox, valley quail, ruffled grouse, and ring necked pheasant. (Ferguson, 1995; Oregon State University, 1996-98). A bird inventory identified a variety of birds including birds of prey, fowl, and perching birds. No wading birds or sea birds were present due to the absence of standing water. Migratory birds were not inventoried (Oregon State University, 1996-98).

According to Ferguson (1995), the site has a number of features favorable to wildlife including dense softwood, mixed stands of conifers and hardwoods, open stands of Oregon white oak with grass, and young shrub growth within a varied mix of forest types. He notes, however, that there are few large snags or rotting logs on the site. Therefore, preserving large hardwoods and cull softwoods will provide important perching and nesting habitats, and as they decay and eventually fall, they will provide dens and large course organics for soil regeneration.

The BPA power line, which extends across the northern edge of the property, is likely used as a wildlife corridor.

Habitat Connectivity

The site appears to have relatively good connectivity to the regional ecosystem and natural processes outside its boundaries, with little fragmentation noted.

Habitat Recovery

The site is in varying stages of recovery, responding to past disturbances including logging activity prior to county ownership. Areas requiring future management attention include bank erosion and drainage problems along the trail/maintenance access road. An unstable landslide extends across the access road from Panorama Drive inside the site's boundary, and will likely require remedial work should the road be designated as a possible future fire escape route for the neighborhood.

B. Planning Context

Due to its size and resource significance, Fitton Green is an integral part of the fabric of the county. Therefore, land use decisions both within and external to the open space site are major considerations of this plan. Outlined here are the major planning factors that were considered in preparing this management plan.

Jurisdictional Boundaries

The property is under the planning jurisdiction of Benton County. The site is located one half mile from the Philomath Urban Growth Boundary, and almost two miles from the Corvallis Urban Growth Boundary.

Other jurisdictions of relevance to the site include the Chinook Road District (see Map 3: Neighborhoods), which maintains Panorama Drive and other area roads that provide public access to the site from Corvallis, the Oregon Department of Forestry (Western Division) responsible for fire protection, and both the Philomath and Corvallis Rural Fire Districts. Law enforcement is provided by the Benton County Sheriff's Department and the Oregon State Police.

Land Use Designation and Zoning

The Benton County Zoning Map designates the entire Fitton Green site as Forest Conservation (FC). Because the primary use of the site will be open space and outdoor recreation in addition to forest conservation, it appears appropriate to change the zoning designation to Open Space, conditioned on approval of this management plan.

Adjacent Properties

Land use surrounding the site is largely forest and rural residential (see Map 3: Neighborhoods). A commercial forest is adjacent to the site to the north and east (Willamette Industries). Two rural residential neighborhoods exist in the vicinity - Chaparral Heights to the east, and Pheasant Meadows to the southeast.

Adjacent to the Fitton Green site, most of the properties are zoned Forest Conservation (FC). The exception is four adjacent properties to the east of the site above Panorama Drive, which are zoned Rural Residential (RR5) with a minimum 5-acre parcel size. The Chaparral Heights Subdivision is zoned Rural Residential-RR5 and the Pheasant Meadows subdivision is zoned Rural Residential-RR2 with a minimum 2-acre parcel.

Adjacent Ownerships

Thirteen legal lots are adjacent to Fitton Green, with large ownerships surrounding most of the site to the north and west. To the east, one large, adjacent ownership (Richards) exists between the site and Bald Hill, a park managed by the City of Corvallis. Three small ownerships are adjacent to the site to the east, north of Panorama Drive.

C. Area Circulation

Public access to Fitton Green and throughout the vicinity is limited, and the existing roads are unpaved. Cardwell Hill Road is a 60-ft public right of way, which is unimproved, gated for most of its distance and therefore only accessible to equestrians, bicyclists, and hikers. Panorama Drive currently provides the only vehicle access to the site, and although it is public right of way, the Chinook Road District maintains it.

Two adopted plans have identified fire and emergency access as a major concern near the Fitton Green site. The West Corvallis-North Philomath Plan (1996) includes Implementing Policy C-I-5: "Work with existing property owners to establish a new fire road and access to the County Open Space Park (Fitton Green)." And in 1999, the Philomath Transportation System Plan was amended to include the following:

". . . the Philomath Transportation Plan supports the goal of connecting its community to the public resource lands and trails to the north, particularly County owned Open Space lands. The access road will also fulfill a goal of the Chinook Road district by providing a secondary emergency access for the Philomath Rural Fire District and an escape route for their residents. Connection to this resource will provide more travel options to the residents of Philomath, Corvallis, and Benton County. Livability will be enhanced through this direct link to this recreation open space resource for the residents of Philomath."

If the County maintains the trail through the Fitton Green site so that it serves a dual function as an emergency escape road, it is apparent that fire road concerns could be addressed for the neighborhood and for fire protection agencies.

D. Opportunities and Constraints Analysis

Analysis was made of the attributes, opportunities, and constraints of the site to determine its potentialities and limitations, including off-site factors (see Map 4: Site Analysis).

Attributes and Opportunities

Attributes and opportunities of the site are determined by evaluating the qualities, characteristics, and resource values of the site.

Resource Significance

Fitton Green is an exceptional public resource because of its biodiversity, scenic values, rich history, education and research potential, varied ecological conditions and disturbances, and forest ecosystem restoration goals. The site's oak savannas and grasslands are remnant landscapes steeped in valley history since pre Euro-American settlement. Panoramic views of the coast range, valleys and mountains are unexcelled.

Community Interest and Support

Local surveys indicate residents have a high interest in and support for open space preservation, use and management. A 1991 survey found hiking and walking to be the most frequent recreation activity for Benton County residents. (Benton County Comprehensive Plan, 1995). A 1998 survey of Corvallis residents found high support for natural areas and open space, with nature and hiking trails among the top three needed recreation facilities (Corvallis Park and Recreation Facilities Plan, 1999).

Open Space Connectivity

An outstanding network of natural open space areas could be created throughout the West Corvallis and North Philomath region, connected by a system of trails. Fitton Green could be a significant part of this interconnected open space system. The Benton County Draft Trails Plan proposes a trail connection that would extend from Bald Hill to the east through the Fitton Green site, connecting with Caldwell Hill Road on the property. The Greenbelt Land Trust prepared an Open Space Plan in 1998, which supports the county's Draft Trails Plan and also proposes protection of the ridge east of the site (Richards property).

Excellent potential exists for providing future trail connections between the Fitton Green site and the Marys River, Marys Peak, McDonald Forest, and Bald Hill.

Management

Benton County is committed to progressive forest ecosystem management for this open space site. A conservation easement has been granted for a portion of the site to the Greenbelt Land Trust to assure protection of the land in perpetuity (see Appendix D: Conservation Easement). The county plans to grant an easement for the remaining parcels. The site is a candidate for Green certification, a program designed to certify forest landowners who practice ecologically based management. Three potable water wells exist on the site, and electric power is available.

Proximity

The site is within close proximity of the communities of Philomath, Wren, and Corvallis. The existing on-site trail provides good access throughout the property. Several options exist for providing access to Philomath from the south, with two landowners willing to explore alternatives. The site could assist in providing fire and emergency access to the adjacent neighborhoods.

Adjacent Land Use

Adjacent land use is compatible with open space management, and the ownerships are generally large in size and few in number. This will assist in minimizing potential impacts of public use and provide a good opportunity to form partnerships to meet mutual land management goals.

Education and Research

Environmental education and research potential is high because of the variety of resource values and history of the site. The county's commitment to forest restoration and sustainable forest management also provides excellent opportunities to function as a demonstration and research area.

Legacy

Acquisition history of Fitton Green is a legacy. Through the generosity of Charles and Elsie Ross and their subsequent seed money to create the Greenbelt Land Trust, to date approximately 1,000 acres of open space have been acquired in Benton County, including Fitton Green.

Constraints and Limitations

While Fitton Green has some limitations and constraints, major constraints are considered to be off-site.

Access and Parking Constraints

Vehicle access to the site is limited to Panorama Drive, an unpaved public right-of-way, which connects with a road system extending through the rural residential neighborhood between the site and Oak Creek Drive. This potential access route has generated concerns from some residents for increased traffic, maintenance impact on the Chinook Road District, and safety. The site is not directly accessible to the communities of Wren and Philomath. There are no county-maintained roads currently accessing the site. The site's topography is a limiting factor in the siting of adequately sized parking/staging areas. Two adjacent property owners have access rights through the site (Williamson and Stevens).

Edge and Boundary Conditions

The site has a linear shape that narrows near the south-central part, which creates a special need to manage and control public use to avoid conflicts with adjacent properties. Several homes are within relatively close proximity of the site on the eastern site boundary. Rural residential zoning exists to the east and southeast of the site, which may create potential for conflicts with public access and use (although lot size is relatively large with 5 and 2-acre minimums). While parts of the site boundary are flagged, some parts are not legible due to deterioration of fences and line evidence.

Invasive Vegetation

Himalayan blackberry, thistle, and Scot's broom represent some of the non-native vegetation that has invaded areas opened and disturbed by previous harvesting activities.

Site Hazards

A recent escaped fire demonstrates the potential and concern for fire hazard associated with future public use of the site. An unstable landslide extends across the Panorama Drive access road inside the site's boundary, but access is not blocked.

Limitations for Public Use

Because the site is in recovery and due to its resource characteristics, public use should be limited to low impact, resource-based use. In the future, it may be necessary to determine the preferred carrying capacity of the site in terms of balancing resource protection and human use.

E. Preferred Role and Uses

Site Purpose

An essential task of a resource management plan is to determine the preferred role and purpose of the site. With this information, a framework is provided for all major planning decisions. These decisions include determining the preferred use of the site, estimating the number of visitors that can be expected to use the site, identifying support facilities that will be required, and assessing management requirements. The following assessment was made to evaluate the preferred role and use of Fitton Green.

Acquisition Intent

To understand the original intent of the acquisition, it is important to consider the vision of Charles and Elsie Ross who were original donors of a portion of the land, and the missions of both the Greenbelt Land Trust and the Benton County Parks Department. At a Park Board meeting November 18, 1999, the Ross's outlined their vision for the site:

"Corvallis and Philomath are blessed with a most interesting and varied physical setting. Every dictate of reason and desire tells us to retain permanently some of the green fields and wooded hills where we can see them daily and reach them easily. Walking the footpaths and wooded trails of the greenbelt would become our most popular recreation, and a passionate interest for many.

". . . Charles and I wish for Corvallis and Philomath an ample, permanent greenbelt that grows, a greenbelt that does more than assure 'livability' . . . but makes life here exciting and its future optimistic; a greenbelt that injects vibrancy into city life, provides stability for investment and immunizes against downtown decay. Success, we think, hinges a lot on actions of this generation. The time is now for townspeople to accord the greenbelt purpose a special place in their charitable giving. We need to remind ourselves that 'In the beauty of the land lies the dream of the future.' We are challenged to keep that dream alive, and it may be Now or Never."

(Ross, 1999).

As described in Chapter 1, the acquisition of Fitton Green was an extraordinary accomplishment spearheaded by the Ross's. Equally significant, however, was the fact that Fitton Green fulfilled the Ross's vision by launching the Greenbelt Land Trust as a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and acquiring future open space areas in the county. The mission of the Greenbelt Land Trust is to "Enhance the livability by protecting open space around Corvallis and Philomath."

In addition to the overarching mission of the Benton County Parks Department, this vision statement is found in the Benton County Park System Comprehensive Plan

"Three of the most recent acquisitions -- Fort Hoskins Historic Site, Jackson-Frazier Wetland Preserve, and Open Space Park property (Fitton Green), are significant historic and natural sites. The addition of these sites broaden the responsibilities of the system beyond providing land and facilities for public use in leisure and recreation, into new areas that (1) preserve and restore historical subjects and cultural resources, and (2) protect, conserve, and preserve scientifically and ecologically valuable lands."

Thus, the vision of Benton County continues the legacy of the Ross's, working in concert with the Greenbelt Land Trust and others. Clearly, the acquisition intent of Fitton Green is grounded in a vision for a new and different kind of public land area - a special open space site that focuses on the heritage and biological values of the landscape, as well as the experiences, satisfactions, and benefits to the user. In this sense, Fitton Green is unique in the history of Benton County park planning and management.

Resource Values

As described in the opportunities analysis above, Fitton Green has exceptional landscape and biological diversity, with high potential for demonstrating progressive ecosystem management. Panoramic views from the property are extraordinary. Remnant native landscapes exist on the site in the form of oak savanna and upland prairie reported to be among the highest quality habitats in the Willamette Valley. Outstanding potential exists for Fitton Green to serve as a demonstration recovery site, because of its past cultural disturbance. Opportunities for education, research, and volunteerism on this site are exceptional.

Although not on the County register of Historic Resources because it has not been adequately identified, Cardwell Hill Road is a significant historic resource as a supply route between the Willamette River and Fort Hoskins during 1856-1865. As discussed above, Fitton Green has a rich acquisition history and a cultural past having special significance.

Fitton Green is within close proximity of the communities of Wren and Corvallis, and is an important ridgetop landmark even closer to Philomath. A network of open spaces exists in the region including Bald Hill, McDonald Forest, and Mary s Peak.

Public Partnering

Local surveys indicate there is widespread and increasing support for natural areas and open space preservation. The site has high potential for developing a partnership with adjacent property owners to manage the site to meet mutual objectives. Other potential opportunities include volunteer activities such as invasive vegetation removal and control.

Relationship to Other Benton County Sites

Fitton Green is unique to the Benton County park and open space system because of its large size, contrasting upland and lowland qualities, and education potential as a forest restoration site. Fort Hoskins and the Jackson-Frazier Wetland have significant natural values, but are different in habitat type, size, and scale.

Conclusion

It is concluded that Fitton Green has a unique role and purpose within the Benton County park and open space system. Management emphasis should be placed on managing the site as a prototype of natural resource management and forest recovery.

Preferred Use of the Site

Based on the above analysis for determining a preferred role and purpose of the site, the most suitable and preferred uses of Fitton Green are outlined in Figure 2. Emphasis should be on providing opportunities for resource-based outdoor recreation focused on environmental education and nature enjoyment. Infrastructure improvements should be minimal for the site.

FIGURE 2. Preferred Uses of Fitton Green

  • Day Use Activities Only - No Overnight Use
  • Passive, Low Impact, and Simple Recreation Activities; Resource and Nature Based
  • Emphasis on History, Education, and Research
  • A Demonstration Project as a Model Forest Ecosystem Management and Restoration Project

Site Planning and Development

Minimal improvements would be required to support the preferred uses for Fitton Green as outlined above. The existing main trail along the former north-south hauling road provides excellent opportunities to experience the variety of landscape settings and panorama views. Because of the ongoing forest recovery and resource restoration program, side trails are not recommended at this time. In the future, they will be considered to assist in directing public use in the most suitable areas.

Only basic improvements would be required to support visitor use of Fitton Green, including interpretive facilities such as signage and trailside exhibits, drinking water, and if use is justified, sanitary facilities. To keep the interior habitat intact, staging areas for parking and visitor orientation should be located on the periphery of the site, with no vehicle access beyond these nodal areas. A major benefit from this low-impact, simple-use focus is the ability to make continued forest ecosystem management a high priority for staffing and budgeting purposes. For the discussion on providing public access to Fitton Green, see the "Staging Areas" section under "F. Future Public Use and Access" below, including planning concepts and requirements.

F. Future Public Use and Access

The previous section of the management plan outlined the preferred role and public use of the Fitton Green open space site. This section uses that information as a basis for determining the projected magnitude of use for the site. Using those numbers, indicators of the degree of increased traffic on area roads can be determined. This chapter also provides a framework and specific objectives for providing public access to and infrastructure for the site.

Projected Visitor Use

Several factors must be considered in developing an estimate of anticipated use of the Fitton Green site. These include the following.

  • Type of recreation use
  • Resource character, significance and attraction
  • Degree of public improvements and amenities
  • Distance and location of the site
  • Availability of other sites and opportunities
  • Management (rules, regulations, enforcement, etc.)
  • Visitor data from similar resource sites
  • Type of Recreation Use

The preferred use for this site is limited, low impact, and passive recreation activities that are nature-based. These will include hiking, scenic viewing, nature enjoyment and appreciation, nature study, and some equestrian use. Equestrian use will not be encouraged on this site because of the topographic constraints to accommodate parking facilities. Emphasis will be placed on education and research at the site.

Site Significance and Attraction

Although the preferred use of the site is limited, Fitton Green is a unique resource with opportunity for high quality recreation experiences. With increased local knowledge of the site, it can be expected that local residents will value this site over time. On the other hand, given the character, topography, and size of the site, it is believed that there will be a fair degree of segmentation of users. They will seek solitude and nature experiences, and will prefer few visitor amenities.

Distance and location of the Site

The site is considered to be somewhat remote in distance and location from nearby population centers -- unlike McDonald Forest or Chip Ross Park on the northern edge of Corvallis, and unlike nearby Bald Hill which is accessed by paved arterial roads and trails from both Philomath and Corvallis. The exception is the Philomath community, with the site visible from the downtown.

Degree of Public Improvements and Amenities

There are no planned hard surfaced trails for the Fitton Green site, which will make the site function more as a natural open space area with a focus on nature recreation. No picnic facilities or other visitor support amenities are proposed except for very basics such as drinking water and possibly portable restrooms.

Availability of Other Sites and Open Space Opportunities

Bald Hill, Chip Ross Park, and McDonald Forest sites provide similar recreation and open space experiences. They also are part of a close network of sites with interconnecting trails and varying experiences that offer more opportunities than Fitton Green, in many respects. These competing resources are more easily accessible to the Corvallis community, and it would be expected that these sites would continue to receive the bulk of the local demand for passive outdoor recreation experiences.

Site Management

Benton County is committed to providing the management emphasis and support to guide and control the preferred use and user etiquette for Fitton Green. Emphasis on education, orientation, and public appreciation, it is believed, will deter those who seek more active, consumptive recreation experiences. Again, this will likely further segment and narrow the visitor use base for this site.

Visitor data from similar resource sites

Of the public open space areas in the region, Chip Ross Park (adjacent to McDonald Forest) is considered to be the site that is most similar in resource attributes and public use. There are no built facilities, trails are unpaved, and a small staging area is located at the entrance to the park. Unlike Fitton Green, however, Chip Ross Park is not only very accessible to nearby Corvallis residents, but is also accessed by bicycle and foot from the Timberhill neighborhood and McDonald Forest. Although no traffic counts or visitor records are available for the park, Corvallis park staff estimate an average of approximately 20-25 visitors use the park per day (Whinnery, April 6).

Bald Hill, located a few miles to the east of Fitton Green, is a hillside park but is not considered to be similar to Fitton Green in terms of public use or attributes. Bald Hill has a paved trail and picnicking facilities, and the lower trail is used extensively for exercising. Bald Hill is also accessed by two major roads with convenient access to Oregon State University students and Corvallis residents, and is connected by a multi-use trail to the Benton County fairgrounds and Corvallis. No visitation records or traffic counts are available for this site, and it receives substantially more use than Chip Ross Park (Whinnery, April 6).

In reviewing the public use of these sites with City of Corvallis park staff, both in terms of visitor patterns and magnitude of use, informed estimates can be made for projected visitation to the Fitton Green site. It is emphasized that these are only informed estimates because of the lack of comparison data.

Summary and Conclusions

Visitor use is estimated for the first five years of public use of the Fitton Green site, when the site is recognized as formally open to the public. Based on the above analysis, it is concluded that the use of Fitton Green will average between 15 to 20 visitors per day with weekends receiving the predominant use. It is believed that the average vehicle trips per day to the site would be no more than 20 trips (see discussion below on how these trips might be distributed with multiple access routes and staging areas). This increase in traffic to the neighborhoods would be the equivalent of trips generated by slightly more than two residential homes on an average day. It should be recognized that this plan proposes multiple staging areas, which will distribute these vehicle trips over several area roadways.

It is also anticipated that due to the limited vehicle access proposed for the site, and given its resource characteristics, the average length of stay per visitor will be fairly long. Consequently, traffic should be distributed throughout the day, as well as assist in self-policing and visitor management. Corvallis park staff believe these visitor estimates are reasonable, based on their observations of and experience with public open space use in the Corvallis area (Whinnery, April 6).

Lack of comparative data suggests that every effort should be made to develop planning strategies for minimizing traffic impacts on area roads, to avoid concentrating access at any one location, and to monitor future use to Fitton Green and make adjustments as needed.

Access Goals and Options

As described in the constraints analysis, access is limited to the Fitton Green site. For this reason, planning goals provide direction for Benton County to prepare an access plan as outlined here in Figure 3.

FIGURE 3. Planning Goals and Criteria for Public Access to Fitton Green

  • Strategically locate staging areas to serve Corvallis, Wren & Philomath
  • Disperse traffic impacts with a minimum of 3 staging areas and 4 planned in total
  • Collaborate with landowners, neighborhood residents, and the Chinook Road District to minimize traffic impacts, and participate in road maintenance and improvements as required
  • Encourage equestrian parking at alternative off-site locations
  • Assure public understanding of the purpose and expected uses of the site
  • Assist in providing an alternate fire access for the neighborhood

In addition to these goals, several criteria provide additional guidance for selecting a preferred access plan for the site.

  • Feasibility - existing routes should meet technical and safety requirements; new routes must be cost feasible; staging areas will meet technical requirements (grades, etc.).
  • User friendly - access routes should be legible; users can access the site at logical points of entry.
  • Management suitability - assure access points address requirements for visitor supervision, control, safety, and security.
  • Neighborhood impacts - assure neighboring residents that efforts will be taken to minimize impacts from traffic, noise, and potential trespass.

Access Options

Three access options are identified that involve existing public rights of way and are considered to meet the goals and planning criteria above, but also require appropriate consideration of potential issues (see Map 5: Public Access Options).

  1. Cardwell Hill Road West - To provide access to the Wren community, a staging area is proposed at the gated west end of the road. Approximate distance required to hike to the Fitton Green site would be one mile.
    Issues to Address: Location of a staging area to meet technical requirements; distance from the site; minimizing potential impacts to adjacent landowner.
  2. Cardwell Hill Road East - To provide access to the Corvallis community, a staging area is proposed at the gated east end of the road. Approximate distance required to hike to the Fitton Green site would be one mile.
    Issues to Address: Location of a staging area to meet technical requirements; traffic impacts to residents; potential impacts to adjacent property owners near the staging area.
  3. Panorama Drive - To provide the most direct vehicular access to the site from Corvallis; the road terminates at the site's east boundary.
    Issues to Address: Concerns of residents including increased traffic; also concern for grades, existing roadway width, and maintenance impact on non-maintained county roads.

Because no existing public right of way currently exists to access the site from the south (Philomath), four options have been identified (see Map 5: Public Access Options).

  1. Wooded Knolls 1 - This route extends Wooded Knolls Road in the most direct alignment to the site. An existing easement exists at the present termination of the road.
    Issues to Address: Concerns of adjacent homeowners; relocation of utilities in right of way; current condition of Wooded Knolls Rd.
  2. Wooded Knolls 2 - This route extends Wooded Knolls Road but circumvents existing residences.
    Issues to Address: Cost considerations --it is not the most direct route; current condition of Wooded Knolls Rd.; landowner participation including trail easement.
  3. Worth Way 1 - This route splits from Wooded Knolls Road and extends Worth Way directly to the site, with an alignment on the east boundary of the Worth property. This option has the second least cost.
    Issues to Address: Current condition of Wooded Knolls Rd.; landowner participation.
  4. Worth Way 2 - This route also extends Worth Way to the site, but in a circuitous alignment through the adjacent Sequoia property northward to the site.
    Issues to Address: Steep grades and cost environmental impacts; current condition of Wooded Knolls Rd.; landowner participation.

Staging Area Concept

The staging area concept provides an opportunity to go beyond simply providing a parking facility for access to the site. As conceived in this plan, the staging area would provide an opportunity to welcome and greet the visitor, and to provide information on the values and educational opportunities of the site. These functions would "set the tone" for management expectations including preferred public use, limitations of the site, and rules and regulations, through attractive displays, exhibits, and an interpretive structure (see Figure 4: Staging Area Concepts).

Based on the projected visitation to the site, the staging area will accommodate up to ten vehicles, to include parking for persons with different abilities. Support services such as drinking water may be provided as needed. No picnic tables or facilities will be provided. Because of unique values of the site, staging areas will be located on the perimeter of the site, and designed to minimize overflow parking. Boundaries will also be clearly marked and visible to the public prior to providing formal public access.

Trail Connections

Because of the large land ownerships between Fitton Green and Bald Hill, every effort should be made to secure a trail easement to connect the two sites, working cooperatively with the Greenbelt Land Trust. These easements should be pursued as opportunities arise and working with private landowners, the Greenbelt Land Trust, and other interested parties.

Emergency and Fire Access

According to Oregon Department of Forestry staff participating in this planning effort, rural residential development creates high fire risk in forested areas. Working with fire prevention officials, a secondary fire and emergency access could be provided to the neighborhood through dual use of the main trail through Fitton Green. The access route would include Cardwell Hill Rd East, Panorama Dr., and Wooded Knolls Dr. connecting the site with one of the four southern access options identified in this plan.

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