Douglas County has an extensive system of parks in beautiful settings. Established in 1950, the county park system was the first of its kind in Oregon.
Having easy access to and getting discounts at these parks is one of the perks of being a Douglas County resident.
The existence of these parks shows Douglas County leaders care about providing green spaces, peaceful settings and opportunities for recreation for county residents.
Counties aren’t mandated by the state to offer parks, however, so the development and maintenance of our park system has to come out of the county’s general fund. That’s the fund that’s been shrinking for the last several years, as federal timber safety net dollars have declined. The dwindling funds mean the parks must be self-sustaining.
Unfortunately, just eight of the county’s 52 parks generate income. That makes it imperative for the Douglas County Parks Department and its Park Advisory Board to look for opportunities to make more parks self-supporting.
After months of planning and meetings, the advisory board has a plan for one of its largest parks, the 1,100-acre Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park outside Oakland.
The board has recommended county commissioners approve logging a 20-acre parcel at the northern edge of the park. Estimated proceeds of $150,000 from the sale of the timber will be put toward building an equestrian campground at the park.
It’s hoped the 20-site campground would generate enough money to cover the costs of maintaining the park and eventually produce income.
We know this plan is upsetting for the dedicated volunteers who belong to the Friends of Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park. They have worked hard to improve the park by building trails and bridges and removing invasive weeds. They gained the distinction of the National Register of Historic Places for the English Settlement School and the farmstead.
We understand their desire to keep the park pristine and to be able to admire every one of its 100- to 200-year-old trees.
But park enthusiasts need to be realistic. Just 10 percent of the park’s trees would be logged in an area that’s not currently accessible by trails. Ten years from now, some of the logged area will have returned to its natural oak savanna. New fir trees will be growing, and equestrians will be able to ride and camp at the majestic ranch that the eccentric Kanipe wanted to share with her fellow county residents.
It’s a trade-off Kanipe herself likely would have made. A pioneer woman who fended for herself, Kanipe understood using resources to fund her ranch and further her dreams.
Timing also appears to be on the county’s side. Attractive log prices mean the county could maximize profits from the small-acreage timber harvest.
This is a one-time timber sale — not a conspiracy to clear-cut the entire park — with specific goals to expand the use of a beautiful county park.
Douglas County commissioners should approve the plan recommended by the Park Advisory Board.