Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
The proposed Wallace Bridge equestrian center would encompass land near the intersection of Highway 22 and Highway 18 in western Polk County.
August 14, 2012
SHERIDAN -- J.W. Millegan knew he would find support for his planned equestrian facility proposed for a 325-acre site near Highway 22 and Highway 18.
He just didn't think it would accumulate this quickly.
"This is all happening much faster than I expected," Millegan said in a recent interview.
Millegan has received more than 20 letters of support for the Wallace Bridge project, including those from the Polk County Board of Commissioners, the cities of Sheridan and Willamina, the Oregon Dressage Society, and the Oregon Region of the United States Pony Clubs.
He believes there is good reason behind the support and compares the economic impact of his proposed facility to that of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on Oregon's South Coast.
He wants to build a world-class equestrian facility, featuring outdoor arenas, polo fields, riding trails, jumping fields, stables, a hotel, restaurant, distillery and RV facilities.
But before the center can be built, a Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) easement will have to be moved. Millegan submitted a final report requesting the modification to the Natural Resources Conservation Service on July 30 for evaluation.
Millegan believes the modification will be a benefit for both his ambitions and the WRP, as more and better-quality land will be added to the reserve at the same time he's given access to the flat land needed for the center.
The NRCS, however, has to assure the application meets thresholds before a modification can be approved. Among those is showing there is a compelling need for the facility and that the exchange wouldn't lower the environmental value of the current easement.
Millegan's final report provides responses to those requirements, adding acres of wetlands and tripling the stream corridor included in the easement, as well as bringing an economic boost to the region through jobs and events.
Corvallis-based botanical and ecological assessment firm Carex Working Group performed a survey on current and proposed easements. A final report included with the modification request supports his conclusions.
Millegan held an open house on the site on Aug. 3, to which he invited NRCS representatives. He said they declined to attend, but he's kept the invitation open while the request is being considered.
Millegan added that the modification, project planning and construction wouldn't require any taxpayer money. He said he has no requirement for profit on the facility, either.
"This is done for love," Millegan said. "If I break even, I'm happy."
Support for the project has convinced Millegan he can devote more time to seeing the plans through. However, one of the involved property owners may want to look for another buyer if Wallace Bridge doesn't move forward in a reasonable amount of time. Millegan said once the easement is moved, he could have the project "shovel ready" in two years.
"It's open-ended to a degree, but I can only keep the person from selling for so long," Millegan said. "I can't continue to do this forever."