By editorial board • 

Let's not toss the park out with the fish water

The Yamhill County park system features almost three times more undeveloped, natural or restricted-access properties, some 164.3 acres, than it does actually developed and publicly accessible properties, just 59.2 acres.

Yes, the county finds itself strapped for revenue. Understandably, commissioners have never proposed a voter-approved local option levy to increase property taxes, but recently they agreed to forgo more than $12 million in tax revenue from Hampton Lumber for a mill already under construction and automated enough to substantially reduce local employment.

That being the case, it makes no sense for the county to sell off the largest single developed and accessible property in its entire 18-site inventory — 12.4-acre Crabtree Park, just off Worden Road four miles north of Dundee.

Yet one of four options it currently has under consideration for Crabtree would do just that. And shockingly, at least one county commissioner, newcomer Kit Johnston, said he was even open to sale of the 55-year-old parkland mainstay to a private party.

The impetus for this sudden crisis of confidence? The need to replace a 24-inch culvert conveying Hess Creek under the park’s Knudsen Road access route.

That would normally be a rather routine piece of maintenance work for either the county, which accepted donation of the site for dedicated park purposes in 1968, or the Chehalem Park & Recreation District, which has developed its substantial network of facilities and managed them under lease for more than 50 years.

It would be, that is, if Hess Creek didn’t feature a viable fish population. But it does, and the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife requires at least a much larger culvert in such cases, if not an actual bridge.

The parks district commissioned a study that showed ODFW would be willing to sign off on a culvert replacement running $203,000. But the county recently let the agency’s second consecutive 25-year lease expire, so it’s not clear who’s actually on the hook for the work.

What’s more, it seems neither the county nor the parks district ever secured an easement providing legal access via Knudsen Road, which the Chehalem Valley Sportsman’s Club has also been using for decades to access its adjacent shooting range. And Knudsen Vineyards, which could convey such easement, is demanding culvert replacement in exchange.

Yes, it’s crazy complicated. That’s largely due to a series of oversights and breakdowns, which don’t seem readily excusable.

But we don’t see how the $200,000 snafu could possibly be twisted into justification for sale of a parkland gem that hosts reunions, weddings and other events, in addition to providing a dog-friendly trail network and wooded picnic grounds.

Surely, the county, park district, sportsman’s club and winery can put their heads together and work out a serviceable culvert replacement/road easement solution — one serving to preserve the public’s interests as well as their own. It seems to us that there should be plenty enough benefit to go around.

We would also urge the county to reward the parks district with another 25-year lease. That’s only fitting in recognition of the extensive investment the district has made over the last half century in turning bare land into a highly developed park and managing it effectively on behalf of the park-going public.

We view $200,000 as a daunting sum for a lesser entity, including, perhaps, the Sportsman’s Club. We don’t see it looming nearly as large for entities operating on the scale of the county, district and winery.

It’s time to find the money and move on. Let’s just chalk it up to a lesson learned, all the way around.



This has made it apparent the the reason for the rampant cronyism of the recent Yamhill County council in the matter of the parks department. Ignoring all recommendation from the experts. Appointing no one with experience in parks, instead appointing family members and friends that can profit from decisions by those parks appointees. Just the decision on Stimson alone defies all logic and not only does not help the county but obviously damages the area in a very real way. Rewarding Stimson, this is was no way an incentive, for reducing their workforce.


I am not a legal expert, but it seems to me from reading the 1968 deed from Neva Crabtree donating the property to Yamhill County, that it can only be used as a public park. I quote: "Said conveyance is made subject to the express condition that the property herein described shall be used only for the purpose of a public park. On breach of this condition the grantor and her successor shall have the right to re-enter and take possession of the land..." Thus, it seems logical to me that the county would be violating this condition by selling the park to anyone or any organization where it becomes something other than a public park. I don't see how the county could sell the park and avoid this condition.


As Chair of the Yamhill County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, I am going to defend our Board from negative and incorrect comments whenever I encounter them. Commenter Robin casts disparaging and incorrect comments on the background and dedication of our members. In my ten years of experience with this Board, hardly any of our applicants or members has had experience in parks management. Instead, our common denominator has been, and continues to be, a sincere interest in promoting and improving the county parks system. I would also like to point out that our Board is purely advisory to county staff and the BOC. As such, we make no decisions on parks matters, only recommendations, and there is no way we profit from any actions that we take. I invite commenter Robin to attend the next Parks Board meeting on July 19th, where on our agenda we will continue to discuss the issues we face with Crabtree Park.


Why would Kit Johnston be open to selling the park to a private party? He very obviously did no research of any type on the matter. He seems to only be interested in doing what the other BS commissioners want. Why give a 15 million dollar tax break as an “incentive” to a company that already is building their new mill with the intention of laying off 75 of those workers ? Political donations!


Culbert’s post reveals a significant lack of due diligence by Mr Johnson that is necessary for decisions like this.
Seems like checking with legal (or maybe the parks board?) would prevent such off the cuff ideas.
Would anyone be surprised if they attempted to sell the property anyway?


And so it begins. Selling off public parks to private buyers to hurt those in our communities who need free public spaces most. Didn't MS say "if you want a park, buy a park" a few years ago? Her private park is fine and anyone who can't afford her estate or Kit's backyard rollercoaster and pool system - too damn bad. Work harder! Bootstraps and all


We won't need an advisory board once all of the county parks are sold off to the biggest political donors.


Corrections to this article:
1. Crabtree Park is not the "largest single developed and accessible property" of the 18 Yamhill County Parks. At almost 30 acres, Deercreek Prairie Park is by far the largest, accessible park.
2. The "dog-friendly trail network" at Crabtree Park is a small path that runs alongside the parking lot and driveway and measures about 1,000 feet long (0.19 miles) so hardly a "network" and the park is only "dog-friendly" for dogs not terrified of the loud gunshots going off at the adjacent gun range.
3. The culvert is not the only issue with Crabtree Park. From the May 17th parks board meeting minutes, "There are also other major maintenance needs in the park, including the west side of the loop road that is being impacted by Hess creek alongside it."
4. At no time has it been implied or stated that Commissioner Johnston is in favor of selling the park to a private property owner nor that the location would no longer be used as a park. For complete and accurate information, I encourage all News Register readers to read the May 17th Parks Board meeting minutes (, listen to the update given by Commissioner Johnston at the end of the May 18th Board of Commissioners meeting (, or attend our Parks Board meetings in person (


I watched the meeting, as I have watched many others. It is INCREDIBLY APPARENT that Johnston would sell any public infrastructure to anyone, for any use, if he's told that would be best. He will not push back on the crew who put him in office and none of them care about public parks because they, unlike the majority of Yamhill county residents, own their own private parks!

It is also obvious, to those watching meetings, that many of these topics are discussed outside of public meetings. That is entirely illegal. Caralee, when Lindsay calls to talk before the meeting, it's illegal. When Mary tells Kit in advance how she will vote, that's illegal. And when the commissioners are all buddies and post selfies together at partisan fundraisers, in the office, and at private events - they remind us that they are of one mind (and supported by the same funders). There are no thoughtful questions, there is no dissent, just nodding, jokes, and unanimous votes on predetermined outcomes. There are no counties in this state governed as poorly. Absolutely none.

And by the way, most of us can't attend Thursday morning meetings because the rest of us WORK for a living. So the best we can do is watch and roll our eyes in disgust.


Our county commissioners don't want the parks. They will sell them to someone to log as they are bought and paid for by the timber industry and timber united. Until they are replaced we will continue to have a county that only cares about doing what the timber industry tells them to do. They refuse to listen to experts or even the public regarding anything unless it is what they have already decided. They are not there for the public good but they will do as they are told by timber united.

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