KNAPPA — North of Knappa School District lies a 13-acre rectangle of forested land the district owns.
Last sold to the Columbia School District in the 1960s and left to Knappa when it split with Clatskanie in 1998, the property is on the same lot as the main campus but cut off from the schools by U.S. Highway 30.
With few options to utilize the land, the Knappa School Board is deciding what to do with the property, directing Superintendent Paulette Johnson on Monday to seek the advice of a local retired forester on the value of the timber, while exploring with the county a possible partition of the land from the main campus.
Johnson said one forester commented he would not want to log around a ravine on the property, but that a Realtor determined there could be six buildable lots in the parcel. The school district had recently taken bids to log the land, but the school board was underwhelmed with a lone response valuing the district’s timber at $35,000, and declined.
Board member Cullen Bangs, a forest roads coordinator with the state Department of Forestry, suggested contracting Bud Henderson, a retired forester with Hampton Affiliates, to help the district determine the value of timber on the land and oversee any bidding process. “He’d be looking out for the interests of the school district,” Bangs said.
Bangs said the last cruise of the timber stands was finished in 2012 by employees with the Department of Forestry. The department had worked with Knappa High School’s forestry class and former student Kevin Tilander, who for his senior project helped cruise the timber and create a forest stewardship plan. Bangs said the cruise showed 231,000 board feet on the parcel north of the highway, and another 199,000 around the main campus to the south.
Board member Tammy Goozee said the school district could have Henderson help decide if logging is the best route, and if not, approach the county about the partition to make the property a separate lot. Bangs said the district could log the land and use the proceeds to help pay for a partition.
Board member Ed Johnson said he wants to know the value of the trees and of the property as is, considering potential buyers for residential property probably don’t want the land clear-cut.
The school district is also deciding how best to deal with trees around campus potentially endangering buildings, fences and other infrastructure. Business Manager Nikki Fowler said the district’s maintenance head, Bob Brockey, feels confident he can take most of the trees down, aside from some precariously leaning toward buildings and other infrastructure.
In other news:
• The school board voted to accept a bid by Portland firm DOWA-IBI Group to perform a facilities assessment and public outreach campaign. The school district recently received $55,000 in state Department of Education grants for the assessments. Johnson said the firm will determine the district’s infrastructure needs and projected growth, which will help inform the district as it prepares for a possible bond measure to fund improvements. Fowler said the district’s most recent bond — $5.5 million passed in 2001 for various campus improvements — will be paid off in June 2021.
The state Legislature in 2015 passed legislation which created a matching state grant program for up to $8 million for school districts that secure voter-approved bonds for capital improvements.