By editorial board • 

It’s time county made parks a much higher local priority

The Yamhill County parks system is rudimentary in almost every way. It has never enjoyed even the semblance of priority status for funding, staffing or development.

To the extent grudging progress has gradually been made, it has largely been due to citizens banding together to secure property and develop facilities, largely if not entirely on their own. Unlike McMinnville’s more ambitious, extensive and sophisticated system, vision and momentum for the patchwork county network have almost invariably come from without rather than within.

The county didn’t get its first parks director until the turn of the 21st century, and even then only on a part-time basis, though the position was eventually made full time. The county park properties encompassing by far the most acreage and potential, the 94-acre Whiteson/Monroe Landing river frontage and the 17-mile Yamhelas Westsider Trail railroad right of way, remain undeveloped — and in the case of the potential local, state and national trail showcase, apparently dead.

That being the case, the recent Dayton Landing dustup should come as no surprise. The only good thing to come out of it — thanks almost entirely to public exposure through the newspaper — was a meeting managing in a matter of hours to break a stalemate lingering for a matter of years.

But should it have to come to that? Don’t taxpayers have a right to expect a greater degree of foresight, collaboration, communication and responsiveness from their county leaders?

Dayton Landing is a 1.4-acre county park featuring a small concrete boat launch served by a small gravel parking lot. It lacks toilet, lighting, fishing and picnicking facilities, not to mention any sort of regular maintenance or oversight.

The ramp was poured in 1956, some 65 years ago now, by an ad hoc cadre of local boating enthusiasts  It has been in a poor state of repair since at least the 1990s, rendering it almost unusable for trailered motorboats.

Publishers Paper donated the land, located at the confluence of Palmer Creek and the Yamhill River, about five miles upstream from the Willamette. It lies entirely within the city of Dayton, which has repeatedly offered to take it off the county’s hands and develop it into a true public park, with lighting, flush toilets, picnic tables, paved parking and a new ramp.

The state Marine Board finally flagged the landing for repair and upgrade in 2015. The state and county signed off on a plan three years later, but the city balked over its limitations, including reliance on pit toilets disallowed in city limits and impractical in flood plains.

There things sat until County Parks Board Chair Jim Culbert blamed the impasse on the city in a Nov. 5 letter to the editor. That drew a pointed riposte from Dayton Mayor Wytoski, shared with readers both via a letter to the editor and comments to a reporter.

The upshot of the burst of publicity was a hastily convened Nov. 18 meeting. And it produced enough city, county and state concurrence to get at least the basic framework back on track.

Let’s be clear about one thing: We’re delighted Dayton’s aging boat ramp is finally getting some long-overdue attention.

However, that pales in comparison to the county’s woefully inadequate parks program, where the need is much greater, the stakes much higher and the challenges much greater. If the county paid more attention to local park ventures and less to mask, vaccine and firearm regulations, which fall outside its purview anyway, our lives would all be the better for it.



This editorial about Yamhill County Parks requires some clarifications. First, most of our Yamhill County properties came from donations, and are too small for significant development. One exception is the Whiteson property, which has much potential should safe and adequate access ever be established. Second, although the Yamhhill County Parks Manager position is full time, the funding for the position is partly provided by the Dept. of Corrections and includes community work crew responsibilities, so it is not really a full time parks position. This has been the case since before 2009, when I came to Yamhill County. I agree that Yamhill County Parks deserve a higher priority, but it will take a groundswell of interest in increased parks funding expressed by the rural people of Yamhill County to begin to make a difference. In the next fiscal year (2022-2023) we will be requesting the County identify funding for a local match so that we can apply for a State local government grant for parks master planning. I encourage those interested to support our request by contacting your County Commissioners.