Work has begun on a project to repair part of the irrigation system on the eastern portion of Sorosis Park. The repairs cover the ground between the picnic shelter and Columbia Gorge Community College, as well as the rose garden.

Jordan Chelsea Landscaping of The Dalles, one of two local bidders, won the bid for the project, which has a spending cap of $60,000.

The work started in mid-August and will be done by mid-October, said Scott Baker, executive director of the Northern Wasco County Park and Recreation District.

Baker said $60,000 “isn’t going to do all of the area that needs to be done. It’s a portion of it.” He said earlier it would cost $300,000 to do the full scope of work needed.

The district will have to pursue grants to continue the work. “We got the areas that are most in need done now, and we’re going to have to take on the rest as funds allow,” he said.

Part of the needed work will be determined by how many trees continue to be attacked by the pine bark beetle, an infestation that has already killed dozens of trees at the park.

Last February 55 trees were cut, and 17 were cut the year before. Some of the work to harvest the trees, done when the ground was wet and soft, damaged irrigation pipe.

At the end of September and into October, the trees will begin to show signs of damage, with the tops of infected trees dying.

“I feel the best course of action now is to gather as many resources as we can, and reach out to partners for help,” Baker said of the district’s response to the beetle infestation. “Be aggressive and try to save as many trees as we can.”

The most pessimistic advice was from a forester who suggested cutting all the park’s pine trees down and selling them while they were still worth money. That option is “definitely not on the table,” Baker said. “It would have to get a lot worse” before the district would consider that, he said.

The least pessimistic advice was to do nothing in the belief that the bug attacks are cyclical and nature would take care of it, Baker said.

The district is taking a middle option, which includes cutting down and burning infected trees. He’s hoping the district will only have to cut maybe six to 12 trees this time.

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