Mt. Emily: Too many ‘ifs’

May 10, 2008 11:10 am

There has been so much newspaper coverage of the proposed purchase of the Mount Emily property being considered by the Union County commissioners that it would seem no opposition prevails. Wrong! There are a great number of citizens of our county who do not favor such an endeavor on the part of Union County officials.

In simple and direct language, there are a number of reasons why there is opposition to involving the county in this supposedly beneficial endeavor:

1. Costs

There is to be grant money forthcoming to pay for part of the purchase price, but there is to be a loan (albeit low interest) from an unknown (to the public) source at some unknown interest rate. Why is it an unknown source, amount and interest rate? No, no, this is not a private concern. This is a public matter.

2. Management

Who is to manage the land and the people who are to be using it? Bart Barlow and Hanley Jenkins seem to be the coordinators of said project. When were they elected by the people of the county to have such control? Are they to be the advisory committee that the commissioners have said they will have? I certainly hope not. How will the 60 miles of trails in the 3,000-plus acres of this purchased land be controlled?

There are to be three separate sections for use. The lower section off of the Igo Lane trailhead is to be for bikers only, the middle section off of Owsley Canyon Road for horseback riders and a third off the Fox Hill trailhead for ATV riders. Do they plan to hire an extra officer of the law to keep these groups of people from encroaching on the others’ areas?

It has been stated in public meetings and newspaper coverage that there will be someone hired to see to the management of the timber on the property. Who will pay the expense of a timber management specialist to do this job?

3. Wildlife habitat

This winter I counted at least 170 head of elk that came down from the proposed land purchase area. At the present time the bikers and riders who go into that property do not seem to bother the wildlife. But how will the animals fare when there are 60 miles of trails occupied by the numbers (one report stated thousands) of users in the elk and deer calving and living space? The cows have their calves and raise them during the very time the trails would be in use. I have seen these animals many, many times in the past 50 years. Maybe the users of the trails would chase away any cougars in the area (notice a positive point).

Hunting in a recreational area with the projected number of riding inhabitants

doesn’t seem very safe to me. Just as a turkey hunter’s shotgun is aimed at a turkey, and is discharged, into the line of fire a rider appears. Or a rifle with a deer or an elk as a target is missed and a bullet finds a different target. Accidents do happen but they could be accelerated with numbers of moving targets.

4. Fire

Not predictable, but possible. Who is responsible if an uncontrolled fire were to be caused by a careless cigarette or a campfire? There is no water system for control and the many valuable homes that border the area could be subject to loss. Would the county be liable?

There are too many “ifs.’’ There have been too many vague statements, too many misinformation designations and too many stretches of the imagination.

Who is to say that the land in question if not purchased by the county will be locked up when another purchaser is to buy the property? Just as, who is to say another owner would clear-cut the timber? The present owners have already logged it. Too many scare-type tactics are being printed.

I really don’t want to see Union County government become embroiled in a managerial dilemma and evolved into controversy. We already have enough of that.

I believe there are valid reasons to vote no on the May 20 ballot measure.

Marie Lester is a La Grande resident and former county commissioner.