French Prairie Rest Area massive post storm cleanup
Imagine that you own 110 acres of wooded grounds. Now imagine what happens to those trees and the undergrowth after a big storm hits. It’s a mess, right? And it requires a lot of effort and people-power to clean it up. (Make sure to visit the photo gallery below the story to see what it takes to make the site safe for travelers.)
The French Prairie Rest Area on I-5 was hit hard by stormy fall weather this last weekend. Pelted by rain, zapped by thunder and lightening, and whipped by wind, the rest area’s trees and grounds suffered. Several trees were downed and every walkway coated in muddy oily fir needles and broken branches.
“If you take a look at the trees over there,” said French Prairie Rest Area Supervisor John Horton, “You can see what the problem is. All those young thin trees are unable to get beyond the canopy, so they’re dying off. Once their health has been compromised, they become a hazard rather than something nice for the public to walk through.”
Horton and his crew are bustling to clean every square foot of the rest area on both the north and southbound sides. The broken branches and muddy needles must be raked by hand from the parking lots before a mechanical sweeper can come through to clean the sludge. Otherwise the sweeper could potentially cause more of a safety hazard by pitching branches and debris through windshields or injuring visitors.
Horton has been on duty since the weekend and although the front parking areas are almost ready for heavy equipment to be moved into place, the middle and back parking areas of both north and southbound still require attention. All hands are on deck to assist with the cleanup, and janitorial and landscape crews are helping to remove bagged debris from the area as fast as the bags are filled.
Downed trees on the southbound side still need to be cut and removed. Most likely the wood will be donated to a local not-for-profit once it has been tamed by the rest area team. One tree barely missed destroying a picnic table. The picnic tables are somewhat of an Oregon rest area icon. They were originally constructed from concrete composite in the 1960s.
“We’ve already lost one of our picnic tables this year,” said Horton. “I kind of hope we don’t lose anymore and I’m really glad no one was sitting at it when this happened!”
See what OTE is doing to clean up the big mess. Simply click on the first image to enter the gallery slideshow.