Restoring the river.
Local nudists have an understandable attachment to Glass Bar Island Park at the confluence of the Willamette River's coast and middle forks.
After all, it's not easy to find a place where you can lounge about, take in the sun, go for a dip, enjoy nature, be open-minded and do all the other things that nudists like to do when they gather at nudist spots without, as one bare-skin aficionado put it last week, "the judgmental stares" of others.
That's why sunbathers opposed the Lane County Board of Commissioners' decision last week to back the bid of a conservation group to acquire a parcel of land that the sunbathers use to gain access to Glass Bar Island Park. Without access by land, the only way to get to the park is by boat, a mode of transit apparently not preferred by many of the unclothed.
County officials already had begun enforcing no-trespassing laws on the county land, citing criminal behavior such as drug dealing, prostitution, underage drinking and even suspicious deaths on the property. Nude sunbathing advocates insist that the county has exaggerated those reports and that they're willing to work with authorities to improve security.
The concerns and frustrations of the sunbathing set are easy to grasp, even though a spokesman for the group went overboard last week by demanding immediate access to the county land and warning that, "Should the board choose to knowingly act against the will of its constituents, it will be defining itself as an enemy to these people." That prompted a well-deserved rebuke from board Chairman Sid Leiken and an apology from another member of the pro-access group.
The controversy over access has threatened to obscure the important reasons why the Friends of Buford Park & Mount Pisgah organization wants to buy the 63-acre county parcel in question, located south of Glenwood at Franklin Boulevard and Seavey Loop Road near Interstate 5.
The nonprofit organization has applied for grants of $365,000 to buy the land, and more than $100,000 to do maintenance work on it. Since the chronically cash-strapped county doesn't have the money or expertise to maintain and restore the land, it makes sense to sell it to an organization such as Friends of Buford Park, which has a sterling track record of conservation success in nearby Buford Park and played a key role in the Nature Conservancy's 2010 acquisition of an adjacent 1,270 acres that eventually will put under public ownership land stretching for six miles along the Middle Fork of the Willamette River.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has tentatively proposed spending more than $45 million in public and private money on floodplain restoration work in the area. It's unclear when the Corps will issue a formal proposal - and even more unclear when Congress will approve the necessary funding. Eventually, it will happen, and the county board's endorsement of the sale of its property to Friends of Buford Park represents a small piece of that much larger conservation and restoration puzzle.
It's a piece the county is right to put on the board, even if some sunbathers would rather maintain the naked status quo.