By Dylan J. Darling

The Bulletin

Following up on spraying for invasive weeds last fall, the Deschutes National Forest plans to install fencing in an old gravel pit near Phil’s Trailhead.

The smooth wire fence would flank the sides of Forest Road 4604 as it runs for more than a half-mile through the Cascade pit, said Marlo Fisher , a botanist for the Bend-Fort Rock District of the forest. Installation is set for this summer. She said the goal of the fencing is to remind people to stay on the road whether they are in a car or truck or on a motorcycle or bicycle. Driving or riding in the pit may spread weeds.

“We want to try to get the message out that it is not OK to off-road in that pit,” Fisher said.

Last fall’s spraying targeted medusahead rye and spotted knapweed on about 11 acres, said Mike Crumrine, invasive plant manager for the Oregon Department of Agriculture in Prineville. Crumrine did the spraying for the weeds at Cascade pit.

“Medusahead is fairly rare in Deschutes County, and we want to keep it that way,” he said.

In Central Oregon, medusahead, which is originally from the Mediterranean, is mainly found on rangeland in Jefferson and Crook counties, Crumrine said. It’s a problem because it is poor feed for animals, and it can increase the frequency of wildfire. He said it is encroaching into forests.

So far the treatment appears to have been effective in the Cascade pit, Fisher said Wednesday.

“I was just back there two weeks ago and I did not see much coming back in,” she said.

Cascade pit was probably mined for gravel , according to the U.S. Forest Service, but it hasn’t been used since the 1960s. In the decades since, it became a “play area,” where people drove off-road.

Changes to Forest Service off-road rules in recent years have restricted travel through the pit to the road, said Jean Nelson-Dean, Deschutes spokeswoman. The fence would help keep forest traffic on the road.

While off-roading is prohibited in the pit, the forest reports that it continues to occur.

Along with the fencing, the forest plans to put in informational signs and to use an excavator to break up soil in the pit. The soil work is aimed at promoting the return of native plants.

Anyone with questions or concerns about the forest’s plan for Cascade pit should call Fisher, the botanist, at 541-383-4743 by May 30.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812,