Commissioners OK new mud flats site

The Linn County Board of Commissioners approved a two-year mass-gathering permit for the Foster Mud Flat Races’ successor, the Santiam Mountain Mud Festival.

The Mud Festival will be held on March 3 at 41176 Skyline Rd. on property owned by Raymond Johnson. The site is located approximately 1,000 feet north of the intersection of Skyline and Berlin roads.

The event follows the cancellation of the Foster Mud Flat Races, with nearly a 30-year history. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cited environmental concerns and ended the event last summer.

Since that time and prior to the cancellation, the South Santiam Four-Wheeler’s Association has been working on finding a new site.

The event is expected to draw some 3,000 persons this year.

Linn County Environmental Health, the Linn County Sheriff’s Office and the Linn County Road Department all gave their blessing to the event after working with organizers to address their concerns. Among the conditions for the event are signs warning of congestion and no parking in the area. Additionally, the event will be required to make sure vehicles are hosed off before leaving the event, and the group will take precautions to prevent disturbed sediment from draining into county drainage.

Drivers will be allowed onto the site as early as 7 a.m., but racing is not to be allowed until 9 a.m.

The event has drawn concern from neighbors on Skyline Road and Hiltz Drive.

Ann Brenda, who purchased her home on Hiltz Drive in 1995, objected to the event over concerns about erosion, access and noise pollution.

“It is a puzzle to me why anyone would promote a mud drag event,” compacting soil and creating runoff problems, Brenda said. “Let it be in a more isolated location, not in our back yard.”

“This will be a source of disturbance in the neighborhood,” John Martin, a Hiltz Drive resident, said. He anticipates persons arriving early, illegally camping and partying. If persons are caught drinking and kicked out of the event, he is concerned that they will wander through his neighborhood. “There’s potential for unsavory people, not necessarily connected to the event, wandering around.”

Martin said he lived about 500 feet from the event site. He was also concerned about the effect of the event on his animals and on water.

“How much more are we going to have to take,” Gilbert Davis of Skyline Road asked the commissioners. The area already has three quarries, and he had his property depreciated after protesting the assessed value last year as a result.

“I would like to say as a community, with the business opportunities involved, we would just like to say that we do support this event in Sweet Home as a community event,” Lauradelle Johnson, manager at Home Town Drug and a Four-Wheeler’s member said.

Brian Walker of the Northwest Four-Wheel Drive Association, representing more than 600 families, said the event is one of four, out of a total of 43 off-road sites in Oregon, that cater to full-size vehicles. Most sites are on public land.

“With the opportunity to use private land, we’re stepping into a new era,” Walker said. The group is making the step to operate safely outside of tax-supported areas.

————————-> Call county for name Call county for name <----------------------- May said he was probably the closest neighbor to the event and he supports it. When he purchased his property, the three rock quarries already were there. Commissioners Cliff Wooten and Roger Nyquist both were concerned about allowing the event to take place near residences and especially about approving the event for two years, the first time the Four-Wheelers have made that request. "It appears they've met the criteria as required," Wooten said, though he understands the neighbors' concerns. "Looking at a neighbor's point of view, as a neighbor, I would want it either. I don't like it. I don't know that we have a choice." "I am certainly reluctant to give a two-year approval of this event, based on the concerns," Nyquist said. He also was uncomfortable about one year, but believed the criteria had been met. Criteria cover sanitary facilities, fire protection, public safety and emergency services. Four-Wheelers attorney Phil Gilbert said that if the criteria are met, according to the ordinance, the county "shall" approve the permit. Linn County's counsel concurred. "For years we recreated on public lands," Commissioner John Lindsey said. "That's changing. We're being left with very little opportunity to recreate any more." Lindsey moved to approve the application for two years. Wooten objected to the two-year part of the motion. Nyquist also was concerned about approving for two years. Lindsey said the organization has a good history and operated as asked in the past, "going beyond," including paying a scientist to study the environmental concerns at Foster Lake. The group had gone out of its way to help neighbors in the Foster Lake area while the event was there. Nyquist and Lindsey voted in favor of the application. Wooten voted against it. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the KOA Kampground, with 2,000 to be sold there and 500 through the Jamboree phone lines. Tickets are $16.