Marys River Park sign
Marys River Park (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

A professional archaeologist’s visit to the future site of a water reservoir in the northeast corner of Marys River Park did not find any cultural artifacts, the city of Philomath announced.

SWCA Environmental Consultants archeologist Amanda Carroll visited the site for just over an hour on Dec. 10 and utilized a transect method across the tilled field area.

“No cultural materials were observed during the site visit,” states a press release distributed by the city. “Carroll identified charcoal, burnt wood, and burnt roots throughout the central portion of the tilled area.”

On Nov. 30, the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District’s Rana Foster had alerted the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Historic Preservation Office via email that possible archaeological artifacts had been discovered at the site during the camas bulb harvest event that took place on Oct. 14. The claim was made just days after a Nov. 22 City Council meeting that upheld the decision to locate the water reservoir in the corner of the park.

“Ms. Foster’s report described identifying a basalt hand tool, a fragmented biface made on obsidian, red and white cryptocrystalline silicate lithic flakes and a fire pit area with carbonized branches and fire cracked rock,” the city’s release states. “According to the email, these materials were observed within the roto-tilled and then plowed area of the project in the location of the proposed concrete reservoir.”

Foster used the wetland delineation map created for the project to describe the locations of the cultural materials.

“The area with potential cultural resources was tilled as part of the city’s coordinated efforts with Marys River Watershed Council and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians to collect and relocate the naturally occurring camas bulbs within the park prior to construction,” according to the release.

SWCA Environmental Consultants was hired by the city to conduct a site visit to confirm Foster’s observations of cultural resources within the project boundary. SWCA had previously surveyed the proposed water reservoir area in 2018, which consisted of pedestrian survey and subsurface testing.

SWCA’s field crew identified one piece of lithic shatter, but no other cultural materials were identified during the 2018 survey. SWCA coordinated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde prior to conducting the site visit.

The Corps of Engineers reported to SWCA that the materials identified by Foster were found on the surface and could be relocated.

On the Dec. 10 visit, Carroll identified what was likely one of the originally reported carbonized branches. Several camas bulbs were also observed throughout the tilled area, representing the remains from the initial gathering and relocating efforts, the city reported.

“The surface on some camas bulbs were slightly burnt, but they were rooted in the ground, and not part of a hearth feature or camas oven,” the release states. “Carroll observed small- to medium-sized basalt rocks, which may have been observed as FCR (fire cracked rock), but on closer inspection were subrounded naturally occurring rocks.”

Based on the results of the site visit, the city reported that SWCA has recommended no further work is necessary for the project.

The city paid $1,025 for the additional SWCA site visit and report.

The city added that an “inadvertent discovery plan” has been created for the project and should still be followed during all project-related construction activity. The city is waiting to hear back from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde prior to moving forward with the water reservoir project.