By Boyd C. Allen

Pilot Staff Writer

Curry County Commissioners voted to have county staff draft a formal proposal to accept a land swap with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD). The deal – discussed at the board’s meeting May 8 – would net the county 30 acres of forested land off of U.S. 101 near Pacific High School in Port Orford – the Port Orford Cedar Forest Property – in exchange for a 90 acre peninsula jutting into Floras Lake.

The county gained the peninsula and roughly 400 acres near the lake when a developer foreclosed on the land and owed the county taxes, according to County Counsel John Huttl.

OPRD would develop a trail system in the area, according to reports on the deal, adding a bonus for the county because those areas are easily accessible from the county’s Boice Cope Park.

“I am in favor of the land swap if the State Parks are serious in their commitment of working towards making a quality trail system in that area,” Curry County Parks Director Josh Hopkins said. “I think it would be hugely beneficial in attracting more of the ecotourism that our county already draws, and might go a long way in providing an economic boost to North County.”

Tim Palmer, a local author, and Kalmiopsis Audubon Society President Ann Vileisis spoke in favor of the deal with Vileisis saying the deal had been discussed during 15 years of wasted time and noting information had been gathered, discussed and lost and then gathered again. She said this “small deal was a big step.”

Palmer warned against selling to corporations as a means to conserve land. He cited an inability for local residents to contact the owner of the land, the difficulty of negotiating a deal with a large and distant corporation and corporate interests outside of conservation as reasons to move forward with the state.

Commission Chair Chris Paasch said he would rather take the time to work with OPRD to improve the deal and possibly have the county find a way to gain McVay Rock State Recreation Site as well. He wanted to add land for the county near the Cape Blanco Airport in an effort to allow larger planes to land there and use an Instrument Landing System. This would allow larger planes to bring supplies and evacuate people during a disaster. He conceded, however, he was a new commissioner and had not been around for the previous years of discussion.

“We have a deal that is crisp,” Commissioner Court Boice said. “We can start a partnership (with the state) and build trust in a relationship. They have been true to their word.”

He said he was ready to accept the deal, and Commissioner Sue Gold concurred saying the county needed to take “baby steps, and this is a good step.”

OPRD Associate Director Chris Havel said the state was ready to move forward, and if the county wanted to work on more deals — including one for McVay Rock — the board could work with OPRD to include those deals in its comprehensive plan.

OPRD would help county staff prepare the formal plan for the current swap, according to Havel. He said McVay Rock would be more difficult for the state to trade because of rules regarding land along the shore, but added the state and county could work through those issues and find a way.

The board voted to have the proposal ready for a vote at its next meeting, with Paasch dissenting.

Other BOC news

Wolves

Commissioners voted to create a wolf depredation advisory council after Paasch cited a probable wolf kill near Langlois earlier this year and his and a neighbors’ loss of livestock to predation. He said the county could not afford another predator in its boundaries and warned predators were already a serious problem affecting the county’s deer and elk populations.

Boice said the board should be proactive and warned wolves are coming. He said he was frustrated by the lack of concern locally over the damage caused by the invasion of this species.

According to documents, the wolf advisory committee is to provide advice and guidance to the Board of County Commissioners on issues related to wolves, including the interaction of wolves and livestock operations.

Proclaim May Children’s Education Awareness Month

Commissioners declared May Children’s Education Awareness Month after a presentation by students from the Brookings Harbor Christian School requested the board do so.

Head Start remodel

Commissioners approved a contract for remodeling and improvements at the Head Start facility in Brookings with Adroit Construction Company. Documents state the negotiations did not change the scope of the project.

The awarding of the contract was continued from an earlier meeting because the original low bid — by Adroit — exceeded the grant budget for the work.

County staff negotiated a contract within the budget by reducing contract costs of $1,179,880 by $128,139. The approved contract cannot exceed $1,051,741.

Reach Boyd C. Allen at ballen@currypilot.com

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