The passion exhibited for Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park is inspiring.
A proposal to log 20 acres of the 1,100-acre park near Oakland to fund an equestrian campground has stirred up that passion.
What’s clear is supporters of the park want to see it improve and grow in popularity. And a campground that can sustain the park’s operations is a necessity in Douglas County, where the general fund has been dwindling and the Parks Department is expected to be self-supporting.
But park enthusiasts are divided on whether clear-cutting 20 acres in the northernmost section of the park is the best approach to funding the campground construction.
Many who treasure the park say the 100- to 200-year-old trees add to the park’s beauty and make it special. They’d prefer to raise funds and apply for grants to gather the $127,000 needed to develop the park.
Others insist that cutting an estimated 10 percent of the park’s timber is a reasonable and appropriate way to fund park improvements.
With so much division over the plans, the Douglas County Park Advisory Board wisely postponed any decisions at its meeting Friday. It initially rejected the logging proposal but some wonder if that vote is just a temporary setback.
The board stopped short of granting a newly formed organization, Keep Kanipe Park a Park, two years to come up with alternative funding. But it’s willing to wait for County Commissioner Doug Robertson to further investigate funding options.
In the interim, board members can also contemplate the group’s other proposal: Transfer ownership to the state.
As the Park Advisory Board members, and eventually the county commissioners, make decisions about the future of Kanipe Park, they should recall the efforts of the Friends of Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park.
The Friends group formed in 2005, shortly after the county entertained the idea of giving the park back to the Kanipe trust because it feared it wouldn’t be able to maintain the park.
Since then, the park has blossomed. The group successfully gained National Register of Historic Places status for the English Settlement School, which is being restored. The site of Kanipe’s home, built in 1865, along with nearby historic barns were established as the Baimbridge-Kanipe Farmstead National Historic District.
In addition, the group has blazed and marked trails, built bridges, removed invasive weeds and worked with the county to enhance the park’s day use and equestrian areas. It maintains a robust website, www.mildredkanipepark.org, sponsors an annual fundraising trail run and constantly seeks more volunteers to help maintain the park.
Douglas County should be impressed that so many people are so passionate about the park. The volunteers should be heard and a compromise found that doesn’t spoil anyone’s experience.
The potential and interest in developing this park should not be overlooked. It deserves as much attention and consideration as other Douglas County parks. A decision should not be rushed.