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Park and rec — The district is arranging a lease-to-purchase for the embattled Parrett Mountain Farm land

The Chehalem Park and Recreation District has agreed on basic terms with the Crystal Dawn Smith Rilee Foundation to purchase hundreds of acres on Parrett Mountain and establish Bob Crystal Rilee Park.

The final details of an approximately $260,000 lease-to-purchase agreement are being hammered out, but the deal is expected to close in July, in part so that CPRD may budget the cost over two fiscal years.

Known as Parrett Mountain Farm, the property includes the Parrett Mountain Equestrian Park and approximately 10 miles of trails that CPRD will preserve as a scenic nature area and eventually connect to the Chehalem Heritage Trail.

“It’s just an outstanding scenic property out there,” CPRD public information coordinator Kat Ricker said. “The view is amazing, so that’s going to be a really rich resource as far as nature parks for Newberg and Dundee.”

The foundation, which faced mounting debt stemming from the embezzlement of funds by former executive director Elizabeth Rhode, first approached CPRD about selling the property about a year ago.

Originally arrested in 2009, Rhode pleaded no contest, was convicted of aggravated theft in Yamhill County Circuit Court and sentenced in November 2012 to three years probation, 200 hours of community service. She also served 45 days of house arrest with an electronic monitoring device.

“Elizabeth Rhode stole all of our money,” foundation board member Danna Kemp said. “We’re kind of in a position where we need the help of the park and rec. They made the most sense to partner with us.”

According to a Sept. 24 letter sent from CPRD attorney Allyn Brown to the foundation, the recreation body will not directly assume any of its debt or bear the responsibility of any future debts that may arise. Rather, the foundation was tasked with determining its debts and paying them from the fixed purchase price.

Although the specific terms of the contract have not been established, CPRD has agreed not to sell the property for any housing or development purposes in accordance with the foundation’s mission.

“They all grew up on that property and it’s deeply personal to them,” Ricker said. “They want to make sure it is preserved the way that it was intended rather than being parceled out or developed in some other way and they just trust the parks would be a good steward of that.”

According to a release, CPRD intends to lease the property immediately and is in the planning stages for the park, which could be opened as soon as July. Some of the land will be leased to farm and the establishment of a historical museum to preserve the farming heritage of the property, the release said.

In Brown’s letter, CPRD agreed to honor the current farm contract with Steve Harvey through November 2014, but from that point forward contracts will be awarded according to competitive proposals presented to the board.

“(Crystal Rilee) spent most of her life putting her family’s land back together,” Kemp said. “It was her wish that it be held in one unit, not to be developed and sold off. That is our goal, to make sure it stays together and preserve that history.”

Contract Publishing

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