OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

2013/2014: Firehouse Road Reconstruction Project

Road reconstruction with a small environmental footprint

   The first of the new management projects on the Cameron Tract involved Oregon State University College Forest engineering staff coordinating activity involving the reconstruction of the Firehouse Trail as a functioning forest road. This road was originally built several decades ago by Starker Forests, but would require significant reconstruction improvements to facilitate the pole sale harvest and movement of large logging equipment. Forest road building is one of the most controversial and environmentally impactful aspects of timber management. Sediment associated with water runoff from such roads has been linked to poor water quality and fish habitat degradation.

      The goals of this stage of the project included reconstructing this forest road in a cost-effective manner, and with a small environmental footprint. Many small woodland owners may have similar goals when building or reconstructing a forest road to access their land. For this reason, our forest engineers used this opportunity to provide forestland owners with a demonstration to meet their potential needs and objectives while also meeting the standards set by the state of Oregon.

      Minimally invasive tactics for reconstructing the Firehouse Road were applied. The road was never completely graveled, but kept mostly a native surface. This restricted haul efforts to dry weather only, but this was a feasible task as it was a small enough logging operation to be conducted during the dry summer months. The road also had to be adapted for the longer than usual logs that would be extracted from the pole sale. A sharp turn, perpendicular to a riparian area on the road had to be widened. At this corner, an aging 12-inch culvert was removed and a new 48-inch culvert was installed. Not only will this provide adequate passage for fish, but it is also designed to withstand a 50-year flood event. This corner was also fortified with extra erosion control features reinforcing the bank and further protecting water quality. Figure 1 shows how a typical culvert functions and protects the integrity of a stream bank while allowing the existence of a functioning forest road.

    Costs to improve this road totaled approximately $12,000. While this is an initially large investment for a small woodland owner, such a cost could easily be offset by revenue generated by a timber harvest. A road is often a necessary endeavor to forest management operations and moving equipment into marginal areas. Investing in efforts to reduce impacts to the land during this process can have benefits to a small woodland owner’s property by improving water quality, fish habitat, and reducing erosion.  This summer, when weather is dryer, the road will be seeded with native grasses and a partly graveled to encourage travel on only one portion of the road bench.  This will encourage use of this road as more of a trail. The bench itself will not be rehabilitated, allowing it to continue to be available as a forest road for future management projects.

     Resources for Small Woodland Owners 

     There are a variety of sources available to small woodland owners who are interested in building or reconstructing a road on their property. The Oregon Department of Forestry website details this process extensively and provides a downloadable roads manual guide.  Additionally, the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) website also contains information about forest road specifics. Local groups such as OSWA and Oregon State University extension offices are organizations that can provide access to a variety of sources, road designers, engineers and construction companies. The task of planning road construction for a small forest owner may be a daunting one, but can be made easier by planning the project early and consulting with multiple sources.