When a state park needs a hole for a fence post, a gravesite for a whale or a path for a trail, we don’t just start digging (2010)
First, we call a state park archaeologist
Why the precautions?
Sensitive archaeological sites contain artifacts such as stones, animal bones and other things left from the past. Most things were everyday items, like cooking utensils and weapons.
“These artifacts tell us about a past way of life,” says OPRD archaeologist Nancy Nelson. “One scoop of a shovel can destroy that story forever.”
Nelson says that most archaeological areas found in state parks, including burial sites, protect the history of Native American tribes.
“They were the first human inhabitants of this region, so the history of their culture is much of what we’re protecting,” she says. “That’s part of our mission—to protect cultural and historic sites. Naturally, we’re going to be very careful that a park project doesn’t cause damage.”
Sometimes, an archaeologist goes to the site directly to monitor the projects. For trails, like the project under way at Cove Palisades State Park, an archaeologist helps survey the route before any trailblazing begins.
Nelson, Recreation Trails Coordinator Rocky Houston and District Manager Chris Parkins recently hiked a future six-mile trail route from the park’s Crooked River Campground to PGE’s Overlook Park. Using a map of the park’s known archaeological sites loaded into a handheld GPS, the trio made on-the-ground comparisons and steered the route away from known Native American sites.
Trail building should begin this summer. The trail should be open to hikers sometime in 2011.
Learn more about OPRD’s archaeological services at Heritage Programs.