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How did Oregon acquire the property?

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department acquires new state parks from willing sellers. Sometimes the sellers are private landowners who have decided to put their land on the market. After researching the property, and sometimes discussing the issue with other partners and local officials, our citizen oversight commission gives us permission to make a deal. We do appraisals and negotiate terms much like anyone else who buys real estate.

Cottonwood Canyon State Park was formerly owned by the Murtha Family. They farmed and ranched the area for several generations. The family decided to put the ranch up for sale several years ago, but we weren’t in a position to buy it even though it clearly was the kind of rugged, beautiful John Day canyonland to make a great park.

The land was eventually sold to the Western Rivers Conservancy, a private non-profit that specializes in river restoration projects. We negotiated with them, and in 2009 agreed to purchase the property, one piece at a time, from Western Rivers over several years:

  1. 2,400 acres adjacent to JS Burres Wayside on 206 for $2.2 million dollars, 2009
  2. 2,200 acres comprising the Murtha Ranch homestead and surrounding property for $2 million – 2011
  3. 2,111 acres surrounding Hay Creek for 2.2 million – 2011
  4. 1,300 acres south of hwy 206 for $1.5 million – 2011

The total state park property totals 8,015 acres at a final price of $7.9 million dollars, which is what the Western Rivers Conservancy paid for the property.

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