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In the Hunt?

City, Hunt Club hold discussions
by: Vern Uyetake, Discussions are ongoing about the possible purchase or trade of Lake Oswego Hunt Inc. by the city of Lake Oswego. Shown is the club’s first indoor arena, which is considered to be the oldest and largest wooden arena in the West.

Talks about a possible land deal could lead to a city purchase of Lake Oswego Hunt Inc., the nonprofit equestrian facility at 2725 S.W. Iron Mountain Blvd.

Discussions about a possible purchase have been ongoing for a year, according to the president of the club's board of directors, and the Lake Oswego City Council plans to continue probing the property exchange. The council reviewed the issue at a goal-setting session July 8, asking for a thorough report from the city's parks director.

Lake Oswego Hunt, known as the Hunt Club, occupies approximately 14 acres adjacent to Iron Mountain. The area is currently home to 70 stables, three riding arenas, a polo field and two miles of trails on Iron Mountain, as well as other equestrian pens and jump areas.

Tim Wyndham, president of the club's board of directors, said the equestrian events at Lake Oswego Hunt sometimes clash with the increasingly urban environment surrounding the club. The hunt club hosts events in dressage, jumping and hunting that sometimes span three days. The club also has a public riding school and offers camps and training.

Wyndham said a speaker system used during events can sometimes irritate neighbors, creating problems at a site once accustomed to an isolated, rural atmosphere. Situated along the side of Iron Mountain, the club looks out toward quieter portions of Oswego Lake and has few neighbors.

Changing environmental regulations near wetland areas now limit parking and the use of temporary horse stalls at the club, Wyndham said, also complicating operations.

Neither Wyndham or Alex McIntyre, city manager for Lake Oswego, have said who initiated talks about a possible city purchase of the site. Instead, both say the entities were drawn to a discussion by an unnamed third party and that their curiosity has been piqued.

Among the possibilities are a potential land exchange between the city and hunt club or an outright purchase.

'We're still on (the) listening end,' said Wyndham. 'The opportunities that had been suggested that would benefit us are good enough that we would consider doing it if everything that others have told us might come to pass. But at this time there's absolutely nothing that has happened other than investigation.

'I can't tell you what's next,' he said. 'It has to get to the point where somebody wants to spend the money to provide us a new location and at least retain the history of the hunt club,' before the organization will poll its members about a possible sale.

Wyndham said hunt club members are, however, aware of the continued dialogue.

McIntyre said the city is similarly uncommitted to the property exchange and is simply probing the possibility of a future acquisition.

'There have been discussions between the city and the hunt club about potentially acquiring (the property) and we've opted to explore the idea but nothing really more than that,' McIntyre said.

He said the city has an interest in preserving the rural character of the hunt club site but also recognizes that controversy over the purchase of the West End Building could complicate another public land purchase.

'The city acquiring more land at this point may not be in the best interest of the city,' he said.

For now Kim Gilmer, parks director for the city of Lake Oswego, has been directed to identify possible financial partners in an acquisition of the club and potential public uses for the site. Gilmer will report to the Lake Oswego City Council at a future date.

City officials say they would need an appraisal and a park concept plan developed before considering a purchase. Public involvement would be key to the process, according to city spokeswoman Bonnie Hirshberger.

Both city and hunt club officials say they are committed to preserving the club's historic character if the parcel changes hands.

Formed in 1936 by a merger with Multnomah Hunt and the Forest Hills Hunt Club, Lake Oswego Hunt was deeded an original 19 acres to create the membership club and loaned the money to construct its facilities.

The club's first indoor arena still stands and is considered to be the oldest and largest wooden arena in the West. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.