The Mill Ponds have a long and sordid history. Thankfully they were salvaged as part of a purchase (the Neawanna Coastal Wetlands Project) which included over 400 acres of land within the estuary, by the North Coast Land Conservancy (NCLC) beginning in 1989. Restoration of critical habitat elements at the site was conducted a few years later, and the site was eventually transferred to the City of Seaside’s ownership in 1999. The purchase and restoration was called “a cornerstone for the Seaside community education and tourism efforts” in a letter to US Fish and Wildlife Service detailing the completion of the acquisition and restoration.
Following the change in ownership, a task force of citizens representing various community organizations was formed in hopes of creating the “Neawanna Natural History Park” whose mission it was to “establish and maintain an accessible natural history park that provides public engagement through education, research/citizen science and passive recreation – balanced with maintaining ecological functions and restoration of native habitat.” Over time, this group has morphed and changed into a Parks Advisory Committee sub-committee eventually called the “Necanicum Estuary Natural History Park” (NENHP). In 2009 the City retained Jones & Jones to complete a NENHP “Vision Plan” that helped lead the way to completing the NENHP “Implementation Plan” in April 2013. This plan summarized all possible opportunities within the city for the park. In jest, the park concept was looked at more like a city within a park than a park within a city. The implementation plan strived to find a way to string the many “pearls” of parks or park-like lands onto one beautiful necklace – “a network of connections among people and their place”.
While the “North Gateway Park” was the original objective in the process, it was quickly determined that Gateway needed a greater estuary context and led to the park concept. In 2012 it was determined that a better place to start was at the Mill Ponds. Unfortunately, with no identified and solid leadership for this group (save for an ever-revolving door of seasonal interns the City provided), the group continues to form and reform as organizations experience turn-over and new life is temporarily breathed into the project. The most recent progression of this group presented Seaside City Council with a publicly vetted 4-phased implementation “plan”. Seaside City Council approved the plans, but the group lacks the funds and organizational capacity to implement any of the phases.
Enter the Necanicum Watershed Council: The NWC made the decision to “adopt” the Mill Ponds in 2010 and has been holding annual work parties to remove loads of transient-left garbage and invasive species. They have also been a consistently involved participant in the various planning processes and make the most sense out of all the partners to spearhead implementation. The Seaside Parks Advisory Committee agreed, and gave the Watershed Council approval to seek grants to implement phase 1 of the project: design and build a “reasonably accessible” path around the freshwater pond (including necessary raised boardwalks for seasonally swampy areas), install at least 3 bird “blinds” or observation spaces, and improve the off-road parking on Alder Mill Avenue.
The watershed council is currently seeking funding for NWC coordination/project management, and to hire personnel experienced in trail building and budgeting to implement this first phase of the project. The NWC and City of Seaside are inspired by a project in a nearby community (the Kilchis Point Reserve) and have already leaned on them considerable for suggestions. The team is hopeful they can design and budget the Mill Ponds trail project so that they can then raise the additional funds, material donations, and recruit volunteer capacity to see the trail and other Phase 1 components completed. Creating the trail design, and thus determining the budget, for project is the limiting factor to this trails success. Once this project is completed, other “pearls on the necklace of the City of Seaside” will string easily.
View a map of the trail here.
The City of Seaside is working hard to become more accessible. There is a new wheelchair accessible kayak launch on Neawanna Creek just north of this site.
The City also provides some of the only wheelchair beach access in the county. This project is dedicated to a watershed council member who walks around the pond by himself often, but dreams of sharing the beauty with his wheelchair-bound wife.
Additional project support documents and resources can be found below:
Circle Creek is a key wild Coho salmon tributary of the Lower Necanicum River located on the south side of Seaside, Oregon in the northern coast range. Road construction parallel to and/or over various reaches of the stream since the early 1900’s has caused stream/floodplain modifications that hinder natural stream functions.
Coho Creek is a tributary of the Neawanna Creek in the Lower Necanicum River watershed. The project site is a fish passage barrier culvert under a 20 foot tall road fill on Spruce Loop Road leading to Seaside Heights Elementary School. The barrier culvert is upstream from beaver pond rearing habitat and blocks access to potential coho salmon, cutthroat trout, and possibly winter steelhead, spawning habitat.
Circle Creek, and its larger tributaries, are key wild Coho salmon tributaries of the Lower Necanicum River, located on the south side of Seaside, in the northern coast range. This project will consist of work done on two of these tributaries, Square Creek and an unnamed tributary, both on The Campbell Group property.
The riparian vegetation in the Lower Necanicum River Watershed has been severely altered in the past 100 years. The negative effects of timber harvest, livestock usage, road construction and urbanization on the native plant communities have impacted the entire watershed. This project addresses several riparian sites within the watershed with supportive landowners who want to plant native trees and shrubs and control the spread of invasive, noxious weeds.
The Neitzel Farm Restoration project is located on the Necanicum River just off Highway 26. The farm is the last remaining intact farm in the Necanicum watershed that has not been subject to subdivision or partition. The landowners were committed to a comprehensive habitat restoration effort to restore the historic braided side channel/alcove complex with associated emergent scrub shrub riparian wetlands, and the conifer dominated floodplain riparian forest that were present on the farm prior to conversion to agriculture in the early 1900’s.
In the fall of 2008, the Necanicum Watershed Council and ODFW were introduced to a private landowner who has an interest in salmon and stream restoration, and also owns most of lower Joe Creek (which drains into Bergsvik Cr.).
Faller’s Choice project was an extension of a 2007 project in the Upper Necanicum.
The Dichter Tributary became a candidate for restoration through two convergent sources. ODFW district staff had identified the tributary as a potential project area based on apparent fish passage issues. Additionally, The Campbell Group’s road engineering and maintenance staff, upon taking ownership of the watershed in 2009, identified the culvert as a replacement need while also recognizing the fish habitat value of the stream. Because of the instream/riparian restoration potential, the action surfaces as a priority for both, and it was brought to the watershed council’s attention.
This project is on the South Fork of the Necanicum River at a channel-spanning diversion dam located approximately 1.2 miles upstream from the confluence with the mainstem Necanicum. The project also has a fish screening component at a secondary municipal diversion at River mile 5 on the mainstem of the Necanicum at Peterson Point. The diversion dam supplies municipal water to the City of Seaside and presents several conservation problems.
Located just southeast of the town of Seaside, Oregon, the project site is the result of extensive filling of flood plain of the Necanicum River, and the entire relocation of the river channel from overburden to develop a hard rock quarry in the mid-1950s. In addition, the focus restoration area was mined for alluvial basalt cobble then diked to create a lake as an amenity to the “Forest Lake campground and RV park” in the late 60’s.