As usual on a sunny summer morning, the parking lot at Lewisburg Saddle on Friday was filled to overflowing, with cars strung out along the shoulder on both sides of Sulphur Springs Road just north of Corvallis.
The saddle is one of the more popular entry points to the McDonald-Dunn Research Forest, an 11,000-acre complex of wooded ridges and valleys owned by the Oregon State University College of Forestry and managed for education and research âÂ and, increasingly, for recreation, with an estimated 145,000 or more visits per year.
Cindy Lederer and Jon Sears of Corvallis come here about three times a week, and on Friday they hiked the Vineyard Mountain Trail, a 1.8-mile route that starts from the saddle and winds through shady groves of 100-foot Douglas firs, fields of bracken ferns and stands of gnarly oak and big-toothed maple to emerge at the summit of 1,453-foot Vineyard Mountain, with sweeping views across the Willamette Valley to the east.
âI just love it,â Lederer raved. âThis is one of my favorites.â
The path, one of the newest on the McDonald-Dunn Forest, is part of an ambitious program of recreational improvements thatâs been underway for about two years now âÂ but before it can go any further, OSU will need approval from Benton County. In the process of applying for grants to fund the new amenities, College of Forestry officials discovered they would need a conditional use permit to comply with county zoning rules. A hearing on the permit application is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday before the Benton County Planning Commission (see box for details).
All nine of the collegeâs research forests across the state are dedicated first to education and research, from training the next generation of silviculturists to studying the effects of climate change. Logging operations are routine…