“We can’t control the damage that happened. What’s done is done. But moving forward, we have a lot of control over the outcome.”– Bridget Tinsley, OPRD Operations Support Manager
New life is taking root in fire-damaged Collier Memorial State Park, a 579-acre park in Klamath County.
A group of volunteers and park staff planted hundreds of trees this fall, thanks to a collaborative effort among Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), STIHL Inc., the statewide Debris Management Task Force, the Klamath Tribes and other partners.
Collier was heavily damaged by the 242 Fire that broke out Sept. 7, 2020 and burned more than 14,000 acres in Klamath County. The blaze left a massive cleanup operation to be managed by state and local partners.
“The scale of the work was beyond something OPRD had ever taken on,” said OPRD Operations Support Manager Bridget Tinsley. “We knew early on we couldn’t restore the park by ourselves, and we needed partners to see it through.”
OPRD worked closely with the Klamath Tribes — who have lived in the area for time immemorial — to select plants with ecological and cultural value, including Douglas fir, western larch, quaking aspen, red osier dogwood, Great Basin wild rye, golden currant, chokecherry and elderberry.
“A lot of the plants selected are first foods, meaning they are species that were growing here historically and are used by Indigenous people who lived here,” Tinsley said. “We really appreciate the Tribes’ willingness to share their knowledge and teach us about the landscape.”
Another 60,000 ponderosa pine seedlings are scheduled to be planted in spring 2023.
Cleanup also involved working with the Debris Management Task Force to clear dead and dying trees along the park roads and around the campground this summer and fall. The task force coordinated the operation with regular video and on-site meetings with the Klamath Tribes. Tribal monitors ensured the operations protected cultural resources and minimized impacts to the landscape.
OPRD welcomes visitors back to a park that looks very different, with fewer trees, new river views and areas sectioned off for restoration. The campground remains closed until summer 2022 at the earliest. The blackened base of many of the remaining trees will serve as a reminder of the wildfire for years to come. Restoration work will continue for several years, and the forest itself will evolve as it recovers from fire.
“This is a new era for Collier Memorial, and it brings interpretation opportunities to educate visitors about wildfire: what is it, what does it look like, what will we see in the future?” Tinsley said. “We can’t control the damage that happened. What’s done is done. But moving forward, we have a lot of control over the outcome.”