Park district buys woods, log truck road for public recreation

      SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - The local park district bought 136 wooded acres and a 4-mile long log truck road from a timber company, with a vision of creating new parkland on the southeast edge of town.

      Willamalane bought the land from Weyerhaeuser for $3.6 million, less than the $4 million appraised value. The money comes from the $20 million parks bond approved by voters last November.

      The City of Springfield has committed $700,000 towards the purchase of the 4-mile haul road.

      The Trust for Public Lane negotiated the deal.

      Project Manager for the Trust, Owen Wozniak told reporters, "This natural area is going to serve as a park for the community. It's also going to accomplish objectives for wildlife habitat."

      Willamalane said the newly acquired Weyerhaeuser property will be a natural area park, with a trail system connecting to the Thurston Hills ridgeline.

      The new natural area park is near the MountainGate and Jasper Meadows subdivisions. 2 and a half miles of new trails are anticipated in the area.

      "The Weyerhaeuser property is the second phase of our vision of a walking, hiking and mountain biking trail system along the Thurston ridgeline," said Willamalane Superintendent Bob Keefer. "This property frames the east end of town and plays a rich part in our timber history."

      The haul road extends from Main Street to Wallace Creek Road.

      Willamalane will turn the former logging road into a linear park, including an off-street path for pedestrians, bicyclists and other users.

      The Trust for Public Lands helped Willamalane apply for federal funds to reduce the purchase cost. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has recommended $500,000 in wildlife habitat mitigation funds from Bonneville Power Administration for the project. Willamalane should receive official notice approving the mitigation funds within the next 30 days.

      The 136-acre property includes 106 acres of natural area and a 60-year-old, 30-acre closed woodwaste landfill.

      The landfill, which operated from 1953 to 1982, is managed under a state Department of Environmental Quality and city of Springfield permit. Willamalane said the agreement calls for Weyerhaeuser to build a new cap and cover system to minimize stormwater infiltration into the landfill and reduce operating costs.

      Willamalane plans to assess the natural area and prepare a master plan for park development within the next year. Keefer told reporter Tom Adams major trail construction likely won't begin until 2015.