On Monday I decided to take advantage of our late fall nice weather streak and headed up to the old Silvicultural research station SE of the Hillockburn trail. I was really looking to find the east end of that abandoned trail that goes across the South Fork, but the day ended up to be a lot more about the research station.
I did some searching, but didn't find any info on it. It looks like it was quite an installation, with lots of research going on. It also looks like the building burned - was it intentional or an accident/vandalism?
Anyone have any info on it? It is just an interesting piece of history...
Rob, I guess you would have to ask the silviculturist at the FS in Estacada or Sandy. How many silviculturists do you know? They are of a small group of professionals who work for the FS, BLM, state forestry or prominent private forest landowners. I know of one retired silviculturist in the area. I don't know if he worked in the immediate area or not, but I could ask for his help.
I can talk this up with my FS contacts. Be forwarned that finding some forgotten retired former FS worker may be what is needed. History has not been the Forest Service's strongest point and often when the old timers leave everything is forgotten.Some history has been kept but its spotty.
Rob, you can help by adding any more clues or information you may have gathered on your visit. "It looks like it was quite an installation, with lots of research going on. It also looks like the building burned – was it intentional or an accident/vandalism?"
How big was the building? How big is the site? Do you have a GPS reading to narrow down the search? Can you say anything about the apparent research you saw? Would you be willing to show some folks around to see?
Sure, firstly, the approximate GPS coordinates are: 45.152756,-122.224315
Here are some photos of the place - First, a photo of what looked like might have been the "main" building, maybe 20'x40' or so:
Next, one of the many tags that were on tree rows:
Next, what looked like it used to be some sort of fenced off area:
Lastly, here is an aerial image of the place:
And here is a link to an aerial photo you can pan/zoom, etc. You can see other things in the area - there is a fair amount of cut firewood that has been sitting for quite some time, and what makes me think the fire might have been unintentional is that there appears to have been filing cabinets and office chairs in that building that burned up. I would think that if they were closing the facility, they would remove the office furniture and any data from the filing cabinets before burning it down.
The last time I was through there, 3-4 years ago, all buildings were there. It's the usual slash and burn techniques the FS uses to remove buildings no longer needed and to wipe them off the books and the maintenance costs to keep them usable. It's the same way they burnt down all the old lookouts and guard stations throughout the forest. We now have one active lookout in our district, Sisi Butte, and one abandoned, the Bull of the Woods lookout and the cabin on Hawk Mtn. All of the rest, some 30+ buildings, were burnt down through the years. It's the same reasoning they use to abandon less travelled trails and remove the cost of maintaining them. I was told when I first volunteered to do trail maintenance that they wouldn't open up any old trails without removing equal amount of a current trail mileage from the books, for it would increase the budget for trail maintenance in the district. Even though we were finding all these old abandoned trails out there, the FS didn't want to open them. I'm sure others out there will concur.
From that aerial view, you can definitely see 2-3 "footprints" where something was. I know there was an outhouse there (it is now turned on its side with the roof removed) and then what looked like the main building, and another footprint that looked like it might have been a garage or something in addition to that fenced off area. Hard to know exactly what each thing was.
It is interesting that they buildings were there that recently, and interesting that if they did torch it, they left office furniture and potentially years of data in the building? That would be sad.
I'm just wondering what they were studying. Some of the tree tags said "clone" on them - don't know if they were experimenting with cloning trees or what.
Here's a Google Earth view I just pulled up - there is also a sizable gravel area nearby to the SW. This could have been a seed orchard or a test plot for the trees. I've run across an abandoned seed orchard before.
I tried Google Earth, and it does have aerials in B&W from 1994 and 2000, and in color in 2005, 2011 and 2013. Structures are present until the 2013 view. The 8/1/2011 one shows the 'garage' in rough looking shape but not burnt. It may have been heavily vandalized or partially torn down, the detail makes it hard to tell what the conditions really are. So the burning had to be after that date.
I'll see what more information I can dig up.
I should have thought about those historical images. It doesn't look like the area I outlined as the "main building" was really a building at all. Maybe that is where they burned everything? Those old aerials look like there was 2 major buildings - one where that fencing was, and one where I said it looked like it might have been a garage. Also, between the 2000 and 2005 images there was some cutting done In the 1994 image, it shows pretty much a completely filled area - then in 2000, a few trees were cut and in 2005, more were cut.
Too bad I didn't see it when it was still in use.....
I was told the story once but only recall the gist of it which had to do with loss of funding and there was also a point in time when the seed zones that were seemingly so important became discredited science. I don't know if any of you recall how many zones were once established. I remember hunting all over to try to get the right seedlings.
Also, obviously, why finance reforestation research after the end of large scale timber harvesting.
The buildings seemed to me to be of the same era as the compound in Estacada across the river, now sold off.
Not all old the records are particularly interesting or useful. Much of it was just paperwork.
Cloning firs is a well- and long-known topic going back hundreds of years, so its not likely they were studying the act of cloning itself. How well different clones perform would need to be studied so that is a possibility. It is also possible that clones of "superior" trees (however that may be defined) were grown to try to combine various "superior" qualities in the seed, leading either to seed with those combined qualities or yet more "superior" clones. This sort of approach was mostly dropped once it was realized that a strain doing better than most in one location might not even survive in a much different location, even if the tree is native to both locations.
The old zone concept is fine for broad-stroke comparisons between areas, but it falls way short if you need to do a detailed ecological analysis of an area. Current practice is to describe ecologically similar areas by the plants that grow there. It turns out that the plants are consistently good at telling you something of the nature of the soils they grow on. If the undergrowth is mostly beargrass, the soil is poor, if there are huckleberries as well, the soil is a little better, and if you start seeing a variety of herbaceous plants thrown in the mix the soil may be pretty good.
Heres the reply I have -- there may be more to the story but this is more than we had before.
I stumbled across this reference to the seed orchard on a forest service website. It doesn't add anything helpful to the story other than to show that the website is a bit out of date.
The seed orchard is located off Forest Road 4500.220 spur approximately 21 miles south east of Estacada. The orchard is fenced and has 2 pole barns. One of the pole barns serves as an office area as well as storage.
It's one item in a list of FS facilities in the MHNF. http://www.fs.fed.us/eng/toolb.....mp_rev.htm
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