The Douglas County Board of Commissioners this week decided to grant the former Lookingglass dumpsite to a nonprofit that will continue to allow search and rescue operations to be conducted on the site.
The land in question had been the subject of controversy back in 2017. Neighbors voiced opposition to a proposed OHV recreational area there, while off-highway vehicle enthusiasts supported it.
In June 2018, the county gave up on the OHV recreation area and instead chose to lease the property to DRB Properties, which leased the facility expressly with the purpose of offering it to search and rescue volunteers for training operations.
On Monday, the commissioners decided to terminate that lease and grant the land to a local nonprofit named Champagne Creek Ranch, Inc.
Champagne Creek will be required, as part of the grant agreement, to work with Douglas County Search and Rescue to allow trainings on the land without charge.
County spokeswoman Tamara Howell emailed a written statement Wednesday regarding the commissioners’ decision to terminate DRB’s lease. The grant releases the county from any liability issues it would have had if it still owned the land.
“It was no longer in the best interest of Douglas County to continue to lease the property. The nonpublic access, unproductive, former dump location was a liability to the County. So, we found a way to create a great public benefit and at the same time remove the County from liability,” the statement said.
Champagne Creek is a different organization from DRB Properties, with a different name, but some of the same people are involved in it.
Virgle Osborne is a Douglas County Planning Commission member and a neighboring landowner who coordinates some search and rescue volunteers and who had supported the original OHV recreation idea. He is listed as the secretary of Champagne Creek in the Oregon Secretary of State’s business registry. Roseburg attorney Randy Rubin is listed as the organization’s president. Both were also listed as members of the DRB organization.
According to county officials, the parcel holds no commercial, timber or real estate value for the county, and Oregon law allows the government to grant land to a qualifying nonprofit for the purpose of providing the public with a needed service.
Douglas County Search and Rescue programs include a mounted search and rescue, four-wheel-drive search and rescue, amateur radio emergency services, a dive team, K-9 search and rescue, mountain and steep angle rescue, drone flying teams and ground search teams.