County sells Turtle Flats to Friends of Buford Park

County sells Turtle Flats to Friends of Buford Park »Play Video
Welcome to Turtle Flats

EUGENE, Ore. - Conspicuously absent from a field trip to Turtle Flats on Thursday: turtles.

That is part of the drive behind Lane County's sale of the 63-acre property to the Friends of Buford Park and Mount Pisgah.

Endangered pond turtles are just one of the species in trouble which could benefit from habitat restoration on the property near the confluence of the Middle and Coast Forks of the Willamette River.

"We hope to open up this to the main stem of the river so salmon and turtles and other aquatic creatures can more easily move in here," explained Chris Orsinger with Friends of Buford Park and Mount Pisgah.

The Lane County Commission this week agreed to sell the land to the Friends group. Funding for the $354,000 purchase is being provided by Bonneville Power Administration through its Willamette Wildlife Mitigation Program.

The name "Turtle Flats" gained currency in the public consciousness last year along with Glassbar Island when the county closed the land to public entrance.

Glassbar Island is a boat-in state park popular with nudists, many of whom parked cars and walked across Turtle Flats to gain access to Glassbar Island.

The Friends plan to keep the land closed to the public - for now.

Orsinger said the group will partner with the Nature Conservancy and Oregon State Parks on a slew of restoration projects over the next 10 years.

The property is contiguous on its eastern and northeastern boundary with The Nature Conservancy’s 1271-acre “Willamette Confluence Project,” where a similar floodplain restoration project is planned for 2015.

Orsinger said they plan to raise $1 million over the next 5 years to pay for projects.

The work will reconnect the ponds and restore habitat for turtles, salmon, river otters and other species.

The flats are in a former gravel mining area. All the gravel has been removed.

Lane County bought the property in the 1960s as a possible dump. That plan was abandoned when the county acquired and developed the Short Mountain Landfill.

The property had remained under the management of the county Waste Management Division, which considered it a financial burden to protect the property from vandalism, homeless camping and illicit activity.