Umatilla Forest due for upgrade

The Umatilla National Forest will receive $4.7 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for recreation facilities improvements and trail maintenance as part of a nationwide effort, the Agriculture Department announced this week.

"People need work right now and the Umatilla National Forest has fallen behind for years in maintaining trails, recreation facilities and historic buildings due to lack of federal funds. These economic recovery dollars will finally address the backlog of needed projects in the Umatilla National Forest and create local jobs in the process," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement.

The Umatilla National Forest is set to receive $1.7 million for recreation facility improvements and $3 million for trail maintenance.

Kevin Martin, forest supervisor, said the work will include replacing older restroom facilities, picnic tables and fire rings at many recreational campgrounds; maintaining the safety of old water systems at recreation sites; and refurbishing historic Civilian Conservation Corps-era bunkhouses and ranger stations that are part of the Forest Service's large regional rental program.

"We are reinvesting in our historic guard stations, helping to preserve our heritage and provide a unique experience for forest visitors," Martin said in a statement.

The Forest Service trails system provides access to a wide diversity of users including hikers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, and all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts.

"Trails will be maintained to the standard of their intended use, providing access to users and protecting the environment," said Martin.

Trail maintenance includes protecting soils and reducing erosion, along with clearing vegetation, controlling invasive species, and removing downed trees. Repairs and upgrades to trail bridges and trail head parking areas will improve access and safety for trail users.

Project work is expected to begin later this summer and will continue through 2010.