Cathedral Hills Park is a 560 acre woodland minutes from downtown Grants Pass. It’s to Grants Pass, what Central Park is to New City and a delight any time of year. Best of all, enjoying its numerous amenities won’t cost you a dime. It belongs to all of us. The hitch is, it’s Bureau of Land Management O&C land, caught up in the push to log our public forests. It’s also threatened by road development. Cathedral Hills needs friends willing to speak up for it like never before.
Friends of Cathedral Hills Park
One notable friend is Senator Wyden. He wants to permanently protect this Oregon treasure as the Cathedral Hills Natural and Recreation Area. However, Greg Walden’s O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act would essentially privatize parts of Cathedral Hills by turning them over to a trust to be managed for maximum timber production under the Oregon Forest Practices Act. And Representative Walden is vowing to pass his O&C legislation in 2015.
Help permanently protect Cathedral Hills Park
Under BLM’s current management plan Cathedral Hills Park appears to have no protection. Under some legislation about to be considered by Congress, parts of it could be logged and sprayed with herbicides and citizens are fighting a proposal to put a road through the Espey Road end of Cathedral Hills. So Friends of Cathedral Hills has started a petition to permanently protect Cathedral Hills Park.“
Why Cathedral Hills is one of most popular trail systems in the region
Cathedral Hills is a treasure. Go for a walk or mountain bike ride. Equestrians are welcome. Dogs (on leash) especially love taking their owners for walks at Cathedral Hills. It’s a great outdoor classroom for kids too. There’s a trail for every level of fitness.
Learn more about Cathedral Hills and get a a map at BLM’s webpage. To make getting there easy, BLM has developed three entrances to Cathedral Hills—Walker Road, Espey Road and SkyCrest. Espey Road has rest rooms and places for horse trailers to park. Read Zach Urness, “Cathedral Hills far better than treadmills” and become a Friend of Cathedral Hills Park.
In the spring, a show of woodland wildflowers draws nature lovers but the rains of fall brings out great color and a wide array of mushrooms. The rich diversity of fungus, moss and lichen is fascinating.
The threats facing Cathedral Hills
Cathedral Hills is under threat from several directions. Under Congressman Greg Walden’s O&C Trust, Conservation and Jobs Act, two parts of Cathedral Hills would be managed as private industrial timber land. The legislation, as part of H.R. 1526, has passed the House of Representatives twice. With the Republicans now in control of Congress, Representative Walden has vowed to pass the O&C Trust Act.
More than a hundred friends of Cathedral Hills Park recently packed the Grants Pass City Council Chambers to oppose a road that would wreck havoc with the Espy Road end of the park and surrounding homes. They were victorious but the victory could be temporary.
Senator Wyden wants to protect Cathedral Hills
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), who manages Cathedral Hills says it’s the highest used trail system in the region—with the exception of the National Monuments. Senator Wyden has proposed permeant protection for Cathedral Hills as a Natural and Recreation Area in his O&C Land Grant Act of 2014. However, the bill failed to make it through Congress in 2014. Stay tuned for what will happen in 2015 and let the Senator know you care about Cathedral Hills.
From no-man’s land to treasured land
Cathedral Hills was once a forgotten piece of BLM land—gullied with motorcycles hill climbs, covered with impenetrable brush thickets and used to store explosives. Trails have replaced gullies, BLM’s recent fuel reduction project is a model for the wildland urban interface and all that’s left of the powder houses where the explosives were stored are foundations which are going to ground.
Over the years Cathedral Hills has become a beloved part of the Rogue Valley, contributing to the physical and psychological health of area citizens. It’s gone from where no one went to where everyone goes. It’s irreplaceable.
Champion trees and paying it forward
This oak, pine, madrone woodland and remanent valley floor forest, is also home to two Oregon Champion Trees—recently discovered by Paul Brown, friends of Cathedral Hills volunteer and observant hiker. Like many things in Cathedral Hills, the champion trees and not what you’d expect. One is a gnarly old knobcone pine and the other a twisted white leaf manzanita. Like Cathedral Hills Park, they’re icons for why our public lands are so important and will only grow more important with time. Our public lands are part of the public trust, to be cared for, cherished and passed on to future generations.
What you can do
Please thank Senator Wyden for championing the Cathedral Hills Natural and Recreation Area. Click here to go to Senator Wyden’s contact page. Let him know how you use and enjoy Cathedral Hills and other Western Oregon BLM lands like the Illinois Valley Salmon and Botanical Area and the Rogue National Recreation Area.
Then write to Representative Walden. Click here to go to Representative Walden’s contact page. Let him know how important Cathedral Hills and other Western Oregon BLM lands are to you and how you use them, And don’t forget to sign Friends of Cathedral Hills petition to permanently protect the Park.