By Ron Brown
BUTTE FALLS, Ore. — A plan to transform the former Butte Falls Fish Hatchery into a charter school for students is taking a big step forward. Tuesday, Oregon Fish and Wildlife officials handed over the keys and title, to their portion of hatchery, to the Butte Falls School District.
Flowers, weeds and brush are taking over much of the grounds around the nearly hundred year old Butte Falls Fish Hatchery. It closed two years ago amid budget concerns and problems with disease in fish. Now the Butte Falls School District hopes the 13-acre site can become a unique outdoors classroom facility.
“We’re sitting up there in the mountains in a beautiful place. We’re going to have the hatchery,” states Butte Falls District Superintendent David Courtney. “You know, we’re looking at another plot of ground for forestry and that kind of stuff. And so that’s going to be what our niche is going to be.”
Most of the property that’s gone to the school district so far lies on this side of the road, including those buildings there. The Buildings and property on this side of the road belong to the Federal Government, and it’ll be some time before the school district known when they’ll be able to get title to that land.
“The first thing we’re going to do is go in and start cleaning up the brush and stuff that’s been growing for the year and a half that it’s been closed down. But then, short-term plan is getting that hatch house available so we can start raisin’ some fish and put it into the pond,” Courtney explains.
The pond is dry now and full of weeds. The houses are targeted for conversion into office and dorm space once the district has title. It would mostly be financed by grants and donations.
“The big benefit is to get the kids out of the classroom more and into the field, more hands-on, project-based learning that’s more meaningful to them,” says Courtney.
Courtney says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is doing environmental assessment work on their portion of the property. Once all the appropriate federal agencies have done their studies, he expects the district will be first in line to take title of the remaining buildings and property.