The North Coast Land Conservancy may purchase 360 acres nestled between the organization’s Circle Creek property in Seaside and Ecola State Park.
To accomplish the goal, the conservancy has asked the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District to help it obtain a grant from the Oregon State Parks’ Local Government Grant Program.
The property, dubbed Boneyard Ridge, was appraised at $1.8 million. Owned by timber management and investment company Campbell Global, the property would become a new habitat reserve if acquired by the conservancy.
In February, 113 people contributed $25,231.75 for conservancy founder Neal Maine’s 75th birthday. The donations helped the organization more than double a $10,000 matching grant challenge from the Mintkeski Family Fund and put about $35,000 toward the acquisition of Boneyard Ridge.
The conservancy also has secured more than $500,000 from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. Now, the organization hopes to obtain another grant available only to park districts and municipalities. This is why the land conservancy is turning to the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District.
At the district board’s meeting in February, the conservancy’s associate director, Jon Wickersham, asked the agency to apply for and be the fiscal manager of a grant on the conservancy’s behalf.
“It makes sense when we can both achieve shared goals; it’s a good idea,” he said.
The group does not know at this time how much money it will request. About $4 million is available annually for outdoor recreation projects, Wickersham said, and Oregon State Parks funds about 42 percent of the grant applications. The conservancy is “trying to find the sweet spot in terms of the asking price,” he added. The grant is due April 1.
When considering applications, Oregon State Parks, the granting agency, uses certain yardsticks that are aligned with the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, such as unpaved or dirt walking trails and wildlife viewing areas. The Boneyard Ridge property would score highly for both those components, which are some of the biggest needs in Clatsop County, Wickersham said.
The property has three salmon-bearing streams that all drain into the Necanicum River. One stream is unnamed. The others are called Boneyard Creek and Little Buddy Creek.
The property shares a 1.5-mile border with Ecola State Park and a mile-long border with Circle Creek.
The conservancy plans to manage the property’s old growth trees, which could include thinning the forest, replanting new trees and removing invasive species, Wickersham said. First, the organization would hire a forester to assess the property.
The conservancy also hopes to add a recreation component.
“It’s a pretty cool idea to have a trail running through,” Wickersham said. Oregon State Parks is interested in helping the conservancy build a trail that would connect the property to Ecola State Park, he added.
The conservancy is creating a potential management plan for the property. The current draft proposes banning rifle hunting and allowing only archery hunting, but that is “up for interpretation” until the management plan is finalized, Wickersham said.
If the recreation district obtained the grant on behalf of the conservancy, it would hold a recreation easement for at least 25 years and would have some say in the property’s management.
Recreation district board member Ruth Johnson said she believes partnering with the conservancy on the grant is a good idea as long as it doesn’t cost the recreation district any money.
“It’s got all the hallmarks of a win-win for everyone,” board member Tom Horning agreed.
The acquisition of Boneyard Ridge could take awhile. Because some of the grants have deadlines for use, the conservancy hopes to acquire the property by summer 2016.
“That is the goal,” Wickersham said. “Some of that is regulated by the grants we get. ... The timelines are kind of set for us in a way.”