Skinner Butte gets cleaned up as wildfire season continues in Oregon

(SBG photo)

EUGENE, Ore. -- As the devastating wildfire season continues in Oregon, the City of Eugene is taking steps to prevent catastrophe here, including cleaning up one of the most popular spots in town.

Officials say Skinner Butte is full of all this thick vegetation and crews are trying to clean it up as it creates a wildfire risk in the middle of the city.

"All this is just a wall of growth,” said fuels management specialist Jessica Gallimore. “Just a wall of trees from the floor up, so if a fire stars here it's going to run all the way up into the trees and it would take everything out."

One of the main reasons for the cleanup project is reducing wildfire risk.

"We don't want to see anything catastrophic happen," said City of Eugene’s Parks & Open Space’s Shelly Miller, because the park is heavily traveled.

"There's always people here visiting and recreating, so it's a well-loved spot," added Gallimore.

A fire there would spread quick.

"It would be very hard to fight a fire in this terrain," said Gallimore, who added the park is right in the middle of town. “Literally hundreds of homes would be at risk if we had a fire right here."

There have been some problems in the past.

"We have had fires up here at Skinner Butte,” said Miller, “we now have no smoking in parks and no fireworks and things like that, but things happen, accidents happen."

The hope now is that even if something happens, it won't get very far.

"We've made a gap so there's no space for that fire to come up," said Miller.

The place will look different from what Eugenians are used to.

"It's going to look a little disturbed for probably a year or two," Miller added. But then as the plants grow back, crews will keep the vegetation under control.

It’s just the initial dent in shaping a safer Skinner Butte.

The project will take about three to four weeks to complete. Meanwhile, most of the trails will be closed.

The work is on the south, west and east sides of the Butte.

In addition to reducing wildfire risk, crews are getting rid of invasive species and making room for native ones.

They're also making way for a new public trail in the next couple years.

While some trails and roads are closed, visitors can still access the summit through Third Avenue.

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