The City of Hamilton moved one step closer to adding a new piece of land to its park system last week when it unanimously approved on second reading the Public Industrial zoning designation for the recently annexed riverfront property that is destined to become a city park.
Former owners of the 22-acre parcel, John and Helen Taber, both deceased, always hoped to keep the wild land along the river undeveloped. Their daughters, Jeannie Taber Green and Lynn Taber Sherwood, out of respect for their parents’ wishes, figured out a way that would benefit not just the wildlife that uses the area but the public as well.
The unique arrangement was facilitated by the Bitter Root Land Trust. The BRLT has helped place over 4,600 acres of land in the valley into conservation easements designed to protect open land for wildlife habitat and aesthetic values in perpetuity. It has another 2,000 acres in the works, much of which could be finished this year. But in this case, however, BRLT did something it had never done before. It purchased the property outright with the aim of turning it over to the City of Hamilton to be used as a public park.
To date, BRLT has raised a whopping $310,000 to pay for the project. That includes the purchase price of $165,000 plus the costs of placing a conservation easement on the land, including the appraisal, legal work, an environmental assessment and a management plan. One additional cost that the land trust took on is the construction of a pedestrian bridge over the Corvallis Canal to facilitate public access to the property.
Now that the land has been annexed and zoned the next step would be for BRLT to donate the land to the City. According to City Planner Dennis Stranger, the closing of that deal is tentatively scheduled for August 20. After that, the final step would be to take the matter to the Board of Adjustments for approval to make it a park.
Executive Director of the BRLT, Gavin Ricklefs, said that the unusual arrangement is a win/win situation for both entities and the public.
“We are well suited to work with foundations and private individuals in fundraising,” said Ricklefs, “but our organization is not suited to holding onto land over the long term. The City, on the other hand, is in a good position to handle the long term maintenance of the property by integrating it into their park system.”
Ricklefs said the riverside park will be a great gift to the public and he is very excited about closing the deal with the city after years of work on the project.