North Coast Land Conservancy explores new avenues


By Sue Cody


Katie VoelkeThe North Coast Land Conservancy (NCTC) is exploring how it might welcome more people to the area properties it has preserved.


Executive Director Katie Voelke gave a presentation at the Feb. 8 Community Health Advocacy and Resource Team (CHART) meeting in Warrenton.


The NCLC was created more than 30 years ago to preserve ecological and cultural values through cooperation with private land owners and the community. Like the National Parks, these lands are being preserved with the intention of achieving healthy water, air and wildlife, Voelke says.


Sometimes the properties have been locked up, thinking people might destroy habitat or hurt endangered species, Voelke says. Now, NCLC is exploring new ideas of how to support activities that don’t harm the environment, but allow people access.


As a human health concern, Voelke says, it is important for people to engage in outdoor activities.


Voelke says she has two young children and a passion to get children outside. With the advance of technology, kids are spending more time indoors. She is interested in figuring out reasonable and easy ways to get children outdoors. She cites studies that show brains of children develop better if they are involved with the outdoors, where there is a diversity of stimuli.


“It’s a human health concern. Kids don’t have to be environmentalists,” she says.


Steven Blakesley, leader of the CHART meeting, guided members to contribute ideas how different organizations might cooperate with NCLC to create ideas that could guide people to use the properties appropriately. Some ideas were to have planting parties, with the North Coast Food Web supplying snacks or to have an outing where the county health department collects data. 




The NCLC owns and manages land from Astoria to Siletz Bay in Lincoln City.


Land trusts were begun about 100 years ago to fill a need to preserve natural areas, Voelke says.


One property, Circle Creek, south of Seaside was acquired for its natural value, she says. It was historically a flood plain, but had been used for pastureland.


“It’s a fabulous property ecologically,” Voelke says. “It is at the confluence of all the water in the watershed.”


U.S. Highway 101 traditionally flooded in that area near Circle Creek Campground when there was a great deal of rain and tides were high.


In 2003, NCLC worked with Oregon Department of Transportation and several cities to restore the property to a flood plain by removing a levy and placing uprooted trees in the stream banks. There have been no road closures since the restoration work was completed, Voelke says. Now NCLC would like to create forest habitat there.


By working on that project, Voelke says, “We were conserving intangible values along with tangible values, such as allowing people to get to the hospital, to the grocery store or out to vote.”


“There are correlations to mental health,” Voelke says. “There is empathy, thoughtfulness, connectivity to other people and systems in day-to-day life outside.


“We can’t save the world, but we can bring pieces together to make a difference.”


Moving ahead


Currently NCLC is working to acquire 340 acres from Circle Creek up to Tillamook Head. Trails from there connect to Ecola State Park in Cannon Beach. Voelke says NCLC would like to connect those lands. She stressed, “This is in our community. Right here in our viewshed as we drive by on Highway 101. We can see this property.”


NCLC offers opportunities for people to connect to the land through hands-on stewardship projects, Listening to the Land lectures and guided hikes.