April 9, 2014
Bend OR -- The Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission approved an exchange proposal affecting a portion of the Bandon State Natural Area in Coos County at its April 9, 2014 meeting in Bend. Under the exchange, 280 inland acres of the 878 acre property would be traded to Bandon Biota for a future golf course. The state park system would gain 111 acres of adjacent oceanfront property, 97 acres of wetland property on the Coquille Spit north of Bandon, $300,000 in cash to control gorse (an invasive plant) on state park property, $450,000 to satisfy match for a federal grant to acquire 11 acres at Whale Cove on the coast on Lincoln County, and $2.5 million to purchase an as-yet unidentified major new state park property.
The commission vote was 4-2 in favor. Commissioners Brad Chalfant of Bend and Robin Risley of Cannon Beach voted against the motion, citing their desire to name a specific property as the target for the $2.5 million fund. Commission Chair Jay Graves of Portland acknowledged the concern, noting that the commission as a whole would also have preferred to name a specific property.
"In the end, the timing makes it too complicated to try and name a new incoming property today," says Graves. "Properties that are important enough to pursue right now can't wait for the exchange to reach fruition."
With the commission's action, the proposal now moves to the federal Bureau of Land Management for next steps. The portion of the Bandon State Natural Area included in the exchange originated with the federal government, and was sold to the state on condition the property remain open to public outdoor recreation. This condition must be removed before the property can be transferred to Bandon Biota, a process which could take several months or longer.
"We're bringing more oceanfront property into the system, and if the federal interests are satisfied successfully, we'll also secure funding to acquire another significant property in the future," says Graves. "Taken as a whole, the Commission decided the package represents an overwhelming public benefit to the state park system."
"I would have preferred to name a property," says Commissioner Chalfant. "At this same meeting, we heard information about Beltz Farm and it would have been a perfect fit for this. In fact, Beltz was our priority from the beginning, but we want to acquire only from willing sellers, and it wasn't available at the time."
The 300-plus acre Beltz Farm property contains ocean beaches, wetlands, and forests and sits north of Pacific City and south of Sand Lake. The property is privately owned and separated from the Clay Myers State Natural Area at Whalen Island by the Sand Lake estuary. It is slated to be acquired by the nonprofit Ecotrust for $1.7 million as soon as May, and the Parks and Recreation Commission expressed strong interest in acquiring it from Ecotrust with Oregon Lottery funds dedicated to state park acquisitions by the Oregon Legislative Assembly.
"The Bandon exchange isn't going to directly fund Beltz, but it's key to making Beltz and other important acquisitions happen," says Chalfant.
"This is a significant natural property," says Commissioner Risley. "It's been an important estuary to preserve for decades because of its location, beauty, and natural character."
The commission did not take an action related to the Beltz property, but information is available online at http://www.oregon.gov/oprd/Pages/Commission_packet_2014-4.aspx and after staff study the purchase, it could come back to the commission for action as soon as June.