Caspar Village Meeting : 26 April 1998
The meeting was brought to order by volunteer mediator Jerry Juhl who offered a 60-second recap of our informal meetings since Fall of 1997. He identified the main issue to be the imminent sale of the Caspar Cattle Company (CCC) land. He noted this was a problem as well as an opportunity for the community, and emphasized that our process to this point has been very informal: we are NOT an organization, and we have no structure. As a community, Jerry suggested, we'll all do what we can, and he was moderating because "It's my turn."
Jerry said that money was a focus for this meeting; the CCC land is scheduled to go on sale soon. The Finance Working Group (FWG) has explored the possibilities with State Parks and the Coastal Conservancy.
Vince Taylor reported his interpretation of the findings of the FWG, which he stated to be "preservation of the headlands." Since learning that the Coastal Conservancy has no money, nor does State Parks, and there appears to be some animosity between these agencies, the question becomes: can we do it ourselves? Vince says it's feasible, and offered a tentative plan. He identified three phases: Develop an informational package, Identify possible donors, and Solicit funds. He noted that the first two steps can happen simultaneously, but that the third step shouldn't be undertaken until a viable plan is agreed on. (Vince will provide an online version of his remarks as soon as possible.)
Peter Wells explained that the CCC lands comprise about 290 acres and the asking price is about $8,000,000. It is reasonable to put a $5 million pricetag on the headland and riparian parcel. Peter recounted his conversations with local state park representative Greg Picard, who he says is "enthusiastic about acquiring" the beach and riparian areas. A number of anonymous speakers made suggestions: one wondered if letters had been written to State Parks and the Conservancy. Someone else suggested letters to our elected representatives. Jerry Juhl mentioned that Virginia Strom-Martin has been very interested in the procedure, has assigned her local representative to attend meetings, and had requested a report on our meeting as she was about to go into a budget meeting with parks authorities.
In response to q question about the existing parcel boundaries, Peter explained that there are several existing parcels which may or may not be sold separately, and 15 or 16 "Cerficiates of Compliance" which can be used to adjust boundaries and allow for single-parcel sales. His impression is that Oscar, who was raised in Caspar, wants to sell off his investment without hurting the community, and is realistic about the ‘problematic' nature of selling the land. Oscar's probably frustrated at the failure of his lengthy negotiations with the Conservancy over sale of the lands south of Caspar Creek. Peter proposes we work to acquire the beach and riparian corridor.
Peter continued by noting this was the first meeting of the present Caspar group not held in a circle, and made the parallel with meetings with State Parks during the "Big River Uprising." He attributes his good standing with Greg Picard to the satisfactory outcome of those meetings, and reports that Picard is willing to work hard to get Parks to acquire the park parcels. Peter notes that State Parks would like to create a pedestrian connection between Russian Gulch SP and Jughandle SR. He reminded us that our shared objective is to preserve the headlands and the ambiance of Caspar, and suggested that our meetings have been suffused with an agreement that this would require some form of development of the other CCC lands. The many plans presented so far share some elements - park, residential development, open space and garden, and a water district. Peter suggested two plans, a minimum plan which we could all accept easily, and a maximum development plan which would stretch our ideas of what Caspar and the land can support, which would come into play only if State Parks doesn't come through. Peter believes it is possible to use adjusted appraisals, tax advantages, and the interest of several agencies to structure an attractive proposal that Oscar will be happy to accept.
A number of folks spoke up: one suggested DFG (Fish and Game) might be able to finance riparian preservation. Mary Flannery Kraut wondered if the Doyle Creek Campground folks would be interested in the adjacent point of land below the cemetery. Meridian Green asked about the possibly of a swap of state owned timberland since Oscar's Comptche land abuts Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF). Peter reiterated that Oscar is eager to sell, but that outside offers are likely to come with major contingencies, like approvals from the Planning Commission. He again suggested a coalition of many different ventures assembling a whole enterprise; this enterprise might include different forms of exchange, monetary based on cash investments, conservation funded by donations and grants, and split partnerships with agencies like State Parks, DFG, a Community Services district, a land trust...
Meridian said we're going to have to commit before we know the whole story. If we wait too long, there will be others at the party besides us and Oscar, like a new prospective owner, who doesn't appreciate Caspar's special qualities. Since we will likely know the What before the How, we must simply proceed. A number of speakers quickly propounded doubts of this path.
Jerry Juhl delivered a report from Jim and Judy Tarbell, who were unable to attend. They were responsible for getting Professor Hester and his class to come to Caspar. [Is that a children's book title: Professor Hester Comes to Caspar?] We should develop the 8 plans. Hester proposes (1) Hire a student to refine the plans with him this summer for $3,000; (2) Continue the process by contracting with Hester ($2,500) and a financial planner ($2,500) to condense the outcome of (1) into a single presentable plan; and (3) retain Hester to moderate a series of problem resolution and planning meetings (4 meetings at $3,000 each). The total of these steps would be $25,000.
Voices were raised at this point questioning the usefulness of the Hester plans, complaining that the plans hadn't been made available, and suggesting that we could do a better job ourselves. Peter suggested we set another meeting to look at the plans again, and decide then if we will hire Hester and a student to refine the plans. Michael suggested that Vince Taylor's family trust might be a possible umbrella organization, and that we should start raising the modest funds needed to move forward. Someone else said we should just designate someone to take the money. Jan recommended we put a non-binding pledge form containing many options for donation and investment into the information packet. The issues of control and responsibility were clearly of concern to the group, and the idea that we would formally organize seemed to horrify several attendees. Meridian said we need agreement on a plan, but that its long term details were unknowable. She suggests that "Caspar Commons" may be partly for profit, and partly non-profit, and that any organization take this into account.
Peter Wells attempted to express a consensus: we should gather again soon, look at the plans, and hear a report from a small committee on ways to form the simplest organization required to carry on. Since no one disagreed, volunteers were solicited, and Tommy, Meridian, and Michael agreed to meet. A new meeting date was set: Sunday afternoon, May 10th, 3:00pm at the Shul.
respectfully submitted by Michael Potts.
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