Collard Road sink hole expands after recent rains

County fails to see emergency as road access threatened by degradation

Jan. 19, 2019 — There is a really dangerous curve ahead, if you live on Collard Lake Road.

Residents of the area, located north of Florence off Mercer Lake Road, have worried for years about the safety of a stretch of Collard Lake Road that has deteriorated to the point where it is clearly a significant safety hazard. The road lies outside of city limits and Lane County has responsibility for maintenance of the road.

A number of people who live or travel on the road have contacted city and county officials, on numerous occasions, pointing out the need for some sort of repair of the large, and still growing, hole in the asphalt surface and substructure of a portion of the road that twists and turns through forest and underbrush for miles.

The condition of Collard Lake Road has been and continues to be a matter of major concern to those using the road.

Resident Alex Orobey directly contacted County Commissioner Jay Bozievich regarding what he perceives as a serious danger to his family and neighbors.

 “As a resident of Lane County, I am writing to bring attention to a serious concern to over 100 residents of Lane County. Our roads Collard Lake Road and Collard Lake Way are in serious degradation to the point now, it has become a safety issue,” Orobey wrote in his email. “In the last few days, Collard Lake Road suffered a physical washout next to a steep slope. With the rainy season upon us soon, the road will be impassable and may possibly fail, resulting in serious injury or loss of life. I understand a few years ago in another rain storm the other road washed out and someone was killed.”

Residents Skip and Camille Thomsen live in the neighborhood and have noticed a marked increase in the size of the damaged section of road since the weather has become progressively inclement.

“My wife and I walk by the spot several times a week on our walks, so we noted the big tree leaning at about a 45-degree angle and the cracks in the asphalt resulting from the enormous leverage the tree was exerting on the hillside. Over the last two weeks or so, we watched the cracks growing. About a week ago, the tree fell down into the ravine, tearing the entire root ball out of the hillside — taking a few feet of pavement with it — and leaving a huge hole,” Skip said.

 While Orobey and the Thomsens believe the situation demands quick action, that has not been the response of county officials, who surprisingly were warned of the failing road more than a decade ago, according to a former member of the County Roads Commission, George Goldstein.

“Eleven years ago, I was appointed to the County Roads Committee. One of the first things I was assigned to do by the County Commissioner was to ascertain the condition of Collard Lake Road,” Goldstein said. “What I found was that the road had numerous dangerous problems and may have not met standards of construction. I verified this with a person who has professional engineers’ licenses in three states and works for a state roads agency.”

Goldstein shared his concerns with county officials and the response he received was disappointing.

“I was informed by the county that jurisdiction for the road was partially the county’s, with no clear objective of what they would do, which was basically nothing … I would like to remind you that this took place over 11 years ago and unfortunately for the residents, they were told at the time they would have to finance the road repairs themselves,” Goldstein said.

That repair, which would have been a costly one, was not undertaken at the time as residents were reluctant to take on a problem that they felt was not their responsibility.

The question of what to do when roads that are categorized as local access roads (LARs) need maintenance, is one that remains, even as recently re-elected Lane County Commissioner Jay Bozievich responded to resident concerns by adding an emergency item to the agenda of a Jan. 8 commissioners meeting.

The Thomsens watched the meeting, which left them unsatisfied by Lane County’s response.

“They allotted about the last two minutes of the meeting to the subject. Mr. Bozievich did submit this as an emergency, but at the end of the clip, Administrator Steve Mokrohisky made it clear that it was not an emergency at all,” Skip said. “Our ‘emergency’ was addressed as the road being damaged but still usable, that it would be ‘extremely expensive to repair,’ he mentioned more than once. He also said that the only people using it are from ‘the handful of residents’ at the end of a dead-end road. Somehow, that doesn’t feel to have been presented as much of an emergency.”

He also pointed out that the number of residents mentioned as being impacted is inaccurate.

“Contrary to Mokrohisky’s comment about a ‘half a dozen residents at the end of a dead-end street,’ there are at least 25 homes affected by this road hazard. The homes range from a few cabins to a majority of mid-to-large size homes, most of which are right on Collard Lake,” Skip said. 

He added that another 50 homes could be impacted in the area, as Collard Lake Road is the access to the larger Mercer Lake Road, which connects to Highway 101.

“Some of those homes are very upscale, with world-class views all the way to the ocean, and all of these homeowners have to use Collard Lake Road,” he said. 

There are currently no county or residential plans to repair the hole on Collard Road.

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