Timber would be cut on a 20-acre parcel at the northern edge of Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park under a plan embraced Friday by the Douglas County Park Advisory Board.
The money from the sale, estimated to bring at least $150,000, would be used to build an equestrian campground.
Mildred Kanipe willed her 1,100 acre ranch northeast of Oakland to Douglas County for a park when she died in 1983. Since then, the park’s trust fund has dwindled, and a planning committee appointed by the parks board recommended an equestrian campground to make the park self-sustaining.
The parks board voted unanimously to recommend the county commissioners approve the plan, along with the planning committee’s recommendation that the timber be cut to fund the campground.
About 25 park supporters turned up for Friday’s meeting — about 15 fewer than crowded into earlier meetings on the subject.
Those who opposed the logging plan argued the trees should be preserved and money for the campground raised through private donations instead.
Karen Roberson, a spokeswoman for Keep Kanipe Park a Park, asked for 12 to 18 months to raise funds and avoid logging.
In contrast to the park board’s previous meetings on the topic, most of those who spoke Friday were in favor of the logging plan.
Retired forester Bud Long accused logging opponents of being a special-interest group and said they were trying to “bully” the county. He said log prices are currently at a 15-year high and urged the board to approve the timber harvest.
“There is urgency to this decision. It needs to be made today,” he said.
A half-dozen equestrians also attended to show their support for logging the parcel.
Equestrian and planning committee member Norma Talburt brought a photograph of Kanipe using Caterpillar equipment to log on her farm as evidence that Kanipe did not oppose logging there.
Roberson said opponents of the logging plan want to preserve the park’s beauty.
“We’re not trying to make some kind of a political statement. That’s not what we do,” Roberson said.
Roberson asked the parks board to allow Keep Kanipe Park a Park to attempt to raise $65,000 from private donations toward the $130,000 needed to build a campground.
Park supporters on both sides of the logging issue believe the campground could help make the park self-supporting.
Planning committee member Jill Talburt noted that the timber cut was just one of the plan’s many provisions for managing the park.
Others include the campground, leasing land for cattle grazing, managing oak savannahs, adding a pavilion and playground, and salvaging the historical buildings on the site. The 150-year-old farmstead and a 100-year-old English Settlement School are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“(Opponents say) we cut 20 acres and all the sudden we’re not a park anymore. What about the other 1,000 acres?” Jill Talburt asked.
Dennis Acton was one of several parks board members who argued logging is essential to maintaining the park.
“We have made an agreement that the park will be self-sustained. That is the bottom line,” Acton said.
Board member Dick Swartzlender agreed.
“I think the first step is to start raising some funds. We already owe the county for administration. We need to go ahead and sell some timber,” he said.
Swartzlender said with the county’s financial struggles, parks are “a long way down” on the list of budget priorities.
“You don’t realize how close the county came to giving this park back,” he said.
Parks Director Gary Groth said just eight of the county’s 52 parks make money.
“The eight that generate revenue have to support the other 44. That’s the way it works,” he said.
The board unanimously approved the planning committee’s proposal but rejected two of its provisions. They recommended against formation of a new committee to advise the county on continued management at the park. They also struck the limitation that the logging on the 20 acres would be a one-time cut, opting instead for a sustainable harvest on that parcel.
The county commissioners are expected to take up the issue in January.
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.