LA GRANDE — The maximum length of camping stays at the Mount Emily Recreation Area may soon be trimmed significantly.

The Union County Board of Commissioners at its Wednesday, Oct. 6, meeting approved the first reading of a MERA camping ordinance that would cut the amount of time people can camp at MERA from 14 to five nights in a 30-night period.

Union County Parks Manager Sean Chambers told the board of commissioners this move is needed because people staying at a campsite for 14 days or longer often accumulate large amounts of trash. Chambers said the rubbish spreads throughout the campsite and is hard to manage.

He also said this makes adjacent camping areas uninviting for those coming to just stay for a few nights.

Chambers noted that the majority of people camping at MERA stay for far less than two weeks.

The proposed ordinance also would require people to keep their campsites clean. This would give MERA and law enforcement officials, Chambers said, a new tool for getting people to keep their campsites tidy.

“It would require them to maintain a clean and orderly campsite,” Chambers said.

A second reading of the proposed ordinance will be conducted at a future meeting of the board of commissioners. The commissioners may then vote on whether to adopt the ordinance.

In another Mount Emily Recreation Area matter, the board of commissioners voted to approve a permit system allowing people to pick up firewood where a 6-mile firebreak was recently created along MERA’s Mainline Trail. It runs north-south starting from the recreation site’s parking lot off of Fox Hill Road.

A large amount of salvageable slash is now there because of recent work done to create a firebreak. The wood is stacked so that it is easy to pick up.

Union County Commissioner Donna Beverage is a strong supporter of making the firewood, which might otherwise have been disposed of via slash burning, available to the public.

“I think it is a good idea,” she said. “Instead of burning it we are making the firewood available to the public to help heat their homes.”

Firewood can be picked up only along the 201 Mainline Road where a 400-foot corridor was created and extensive tree thinning was conducted. People are allowed to take felled, dead and down trees, treetops and ends resulting from logging operations. No cutting of live or dead trees is allowed.

Slash that remains after Nov. 30 will be burned early this winter according to information provided by Union County.

Permits cost $10 and each allows the buyer to collect up to five cords of wood. The permits are now available and will be good through Nov. 30. Permits can be purchased at the Union County Public Works office, 10513 N. McAlister Road, which is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Everyone purchasing a permit will be provided information on how to reach the 201 Mainline Road in MERA.

Airport security cameras

In another action item the Union County Board of Commissioners voted to award a contract of $27,679.51 to Alpine Alarm of La Grande to install new security cameras at the La Grande/Union County Airport. Union County Public Works Director Doug Wright told the commissioners the new cameras are needed because the existing cameras do not provide images clear enough to see who is at the airport’s fuel farm. Wright noted that recently someone stole 25 gallons of unleaded fuel from the tanks.

The public works director also said the new system will provide better security coverage of the airport’s parking lot. Wright said that there are times when parking lot security is a concern because some people have been abandoning vehicles there.

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Dick Mason is a reporter with The Observer primarily covering the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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