Federal proposal offers little hope of saving old-growth trees, historic buildings

U.S. Corps of Engineers officials have proposed that housing subdivision developer Lennar Northwest pay a total of $150,000 among mitigation measures for the destruction of all historic buildings and groves of trees on more than 16 acres in Jennings Lodge.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Jenning Lodge's Friesen Chapel is pictured in winter 1949.If the proposal is approved, Lennar would only have to pay that amount and document the destruction in order to make way for a 72-lot housing subdivision.

Lennar set a high price for turning the area into a park, many times what the developer paid for the property in 2014. As previously reported, North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District officials told the developer of the proposed 72-home subdivision at the former evangelical campground that $300,000 per empty lot is too much to pay to acquire parkland.

Last year, officials from the Corps had given hope to Jennings Lodge residents for saving trees at the site, but that hope is fading with the Corps' proposal.

COURTESY: CLACKAMAS COUNTY - Clackamas County officials drew up this map showing interest in Jennings Lodge property as part of a Feb. 16 letter to the U.S. Corps of Engineers.Representatives from the local Jennings Lodge Community Planning Organization and Oak Lodge History Detectives, along with a national preservation organization, are telling the Corps that the $150,000 amount is not enough to mitigate the complete destruction of an entire nationally eligible historic district with at least 17 historic buildings and more than 320 trees, with some of the tallest Douglas firs likely 200 years old.

According to Karen Bjorklund, chairperson for the Jennings Lodge Community Planning Organization, the mitigation dollar amount is not only important to begin to compensate for what is being lost, but also because of what can be done with the money.

Currently proposed mitigation measures include offering funds for the potential offsite relocation of the Friesen Chapel, installing commemorative signage, re-establishing tree cover, adding history to the "Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions" for the Jennings Lodge Estates, retain the name "Jennings PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Clackamas Fire took part in a regional training exercise at the former evangelical campground in Jennings Lodge. The buildings there have been used as a training ground lately due to the property owners expectation that the buildings and trees will be razed to make way for a 72-lot subdivision.Lodge" in the name of the subdivision, assigning street names associated with the history of the Jennings Lodge area, and setting up a fund to be used for community education related to the Jennings Lodge Retreat Center.

But the Corps proposal to have Lennar pay $150,000 would not pay for relocation and preservation of the chapel, neighborhood experts say. Nor is the proposed amount "enough to pay for an ongoing local education fund, especially as we understand that the usual arrangement for funds in perpetuity is to only spend 5 percent a year, while preserving the rest to be able to keep the fund going," Bjorklund said. "With the dollar amounts currently proposed for this mitigation fund, that 5 percent a year would individually buy very little in the way of history education exhibits or other education projects."

Bjorklund pointed out that local community life developed for more than a century around the camp meeting site and its activities. This core of civic life drew families to Jennings Lodge.

"We need to be able to preserve, educate and foster PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Firefighters train using a building set for demolition in Jennings Lodge, first venting the building for smoke, entering the building using ladders (in a scenerio where the front door was blocked) and then searching for mock understanding of that critical role in the history and development of Jennings Lodge, not just now, but for future generations of Jennings Lodge residents," she said. "So there is need for enough funds to relocate and preserve at least the iconic Friesen Chapel, and to provide funds for Jennings Lodge community education in perpetuity."

The Corps' initial public notice incorrectly stated "The project will adversely impact the Jennings Lodge Western Evangelical Seminary."

While Western Evangelical Seminary did have its start on the former campground, it eventually moved to a new location just across the street, and then to Newberg. Readers, therefore, were left wondering if, somehow, the Western Evangelical Seminary buildings across from the former camp have somehow been included in the historic district to be destroyed.

The Oak Lodge History Detectives successfully asked the Corps to correct the announcement and update the 20-day notice period.

Bjorklund encouraged members of the public to visit the Corps website,, by June 21 to comment on the proposal.

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