OAKLAND — Douglas fir trees on the northern boundary of Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park began to grow a century ago, about the same time Mildred Kanipe was born on her family’s ranch.
The trees occupy 20 acres, about one-tenth of the park’s timberland, and are at the center of a debate over how to preserve the 1,100-acre farm, which Kanipe gave to the county for a park upon her death in 1983.
Some park supporters back clear-cutting the 20 acres to pay for an equestrian campground they hope will make the park self-supporting.
Other park enthusiasts, however, object to clear cuts in the park and advocate raising $127,000 in grants and private donations for the campground. The county estimates logging the 20 acres would raise $150,000.
Wherever the funds come from, time is short to get the money, Douglas County Parks Director Gary Groth said.
It costs about $40,000 per year to operate the park. By June, just $60,000 will remain in a trust fund that was set up by Kanipe’s will to maintain the park. If timber is not cut next summer, the 2014-15 budget could come up short, Groth said. The county is too financially strapped to pay for the park’s upkeep out of its general fund, he said.
Opponents of the timber sale last month persuaded the Douglas County Park Advisory Board against recommending the timber harvest to county commissioners. But the 4-3 vote may have just been a temporary setback for the logging plan.
The park board will revisit the issue at a meeting Friday. Groth said board members may set a deadline for the Friends of Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park to raise money for a campground before county officials reconsider the timber sale. So far, the group has collected $18,000 in pledges and an offer to design the campground.
This is not the county’s first flap over logging in the park.
In 1999, the county proposed a timber harvest to support the park. Mildred Kanipe’s will provided that “no timber shall be cut or harvested except as may be necessary.”
The county argued Kanipe’s wishes left room for logging to pay for park improvements. But the trust fund’s manager, Wells Fargo Bank, objected, and the plans were scrapped.
Last year, the bank concluded the park’s expenses were outstripping the trust’s funds and turned the park over to the county, once again raising the possibility of logging.
The county appointed an advisory board, the Mildred Park Planning Committee, to look at making the park self-sustaining. The committee voted 10-2 to endorse logging the trees.
“They’re an asset. They can bring us in money. I have no problems with them logging back there,” said committee member Norma Talburt, an equestrian who frequents the park.
“My worst fear is that if no one can agree on anything, the option is selling the park, and I would hate to have that happen,” she said. “Whichever way it goes, I just want the park to live.”
Talburt said she doubts enough private donations will be gathered to pay for a campground.
“Douglas County isn’t a real rich county. I just don’t know that they’re going to make it on just donations,” she said.
Friends of Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park member Karen Roberson said she believes the group can raise the money, but that she worries the group won’t be given enough time to complete the mission.
She said a price tag can’t be put on the 20 acres. “It’s a really unique and beautiful forest,” said Roberson, who grew up on a farm next to the park and still lives nearby.
“We live in Douglas County, and we understand logging is part of our life here. It’s how people make their living and how they survive. But there’s a difference between a commercial timber forest or a county timberland and a park,” she said.
Groth argues the logging would benefit, rather than harm the park. The cut would take just 10 percent of the park’s merchantable timber and be in an area not visible from even the park’s northernmost equestrian trail, he said. “We’ve laid it out as best we can, so it will have as little impact as possible.”
If the timber is cut, about seven acres will be replanted with native Oregon white oak savanna, while the rest would be replanted with Douglas fir, he said.
Roberson said the county should apply for a state grant to build a campground. She pointed out that park supporters obtained grants to renovate the park’s historic schoolhouse.
The historic barn was less fortunate. The barn, which was the oldest dairy barn in the state, according to court documents, collapsed about two years ago.
Groth said other parks like Whistler’s Bend east of Roseburg receive more use and should be given priority in applying for grants. Besides, he said, Kanipe park has $1 million worth of timber on it.
“I have to do what’s best for the whole park system and all the park users,” Groth said.
“We’re not asking for trees to be cut because we want to cut trees, but because it’s the practical solution,” he said. “I believe in using the resources you have.”
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or email@example.com.
My worst fear is that if no one can agree on anything, the option is selling the park, and I would hate to have that happen. Whichever way it goes, I just want the park to live.
Norma Talburt, Mildred Park Planning Committee