Land Grant DeedBoat House Status

On Monday, December 3, 2012, the livelihood of Kevin and Carol Westfall was balanced precariously on a request to the City Council to grant a 90-day extension on a lease with the City for property they had invested $200,000 in.

The request was a stopgap to allow the property owners more time to navigate a quagmire created by City staff in regard to the Boat House, a building and dock by the boat launch at Moore Park. They wanted and needed the City to extend their lease with no further restrictions on top of the myriad of conflicting points of micromanagement that have led to the demise of every business attempted at the site.

The request first cleared the Parks Advisory Board after a painful confrontation relating to the City’s perspective on went wrong with operations at the site and the vehement opposition to renewal from staff. The staff brought their bad attitude to City Council with full force, effectively shunning their own responsibility while fabricating a dubious crisis. As usual at Council hearings when staff allegations are challenged, certain Council members sided with staff and consumed the hearing with unfounded and irrelevant accusations. The charge was led by Councilwoman Trish Seiler, who was chairing the meeting for the Mayor who was on sick leave.

The chastising centered on the paranoid delusion that a past activity at the Boat House that lasted only for several months characterized the “snack” food services at times as a restaurant. This is the nature of the war within the troubled mindset of the City collective, which rests on a perceived fear that such an activity could jeopardize the terms of the 1926 land grant from Rufus Moore to the City.

Staff and Council were, and remain, whipped into a frenzy over this paranoia, and that is exactly what the issue of Boat House operations amount to. The City has used this to fabricate an attack on the Westfalls as a scapegoat for an administration bent on creating barriers rather than finding solutions. There have been many options for reconciliation, but staff repeatedly reverted to any underhanded subversion they could muster, from manipulating definitions to fear-mongering.

The City complied with its role in policing the uses in the park pertaining to the Boat House by ordering the Westfall’s to compel their tenant to cease reference to restaurant operations. The Westfalls evicted the tenant that was the source of the allegation. Having taken action and with no activity at the site in two years, the Boat House presence is most certainly not jeopardizing the land status now or in the future.

The situation is both baffling and maddening to the Westfalls. There is no just rationale to explain the way these investors were treated, especially after they complied with absolutely every staff edict. Since it doesn’t seem possible that anything they did caused the fear, the source must be something other than them.

FEAR MONGERING

The source is an artifact created by Rufus S. Moore in 1926. Rufus and his brother took over a lumber mill with vast property holdings from their father, who made enough money as a business owner to buy thousands of acres of land, some of which was gifted to the City. The land Moore Park occupies wasn’t the first land the Moore’s granted to the City. Rufus had gifted a large parcel of land covering most of the west side of Lake Ewauna to the City, only to see the City sell the entire piece to Union Pacific, which changed hands and ended up in the possession of the Shaw family, owners of the Modoc Lumber mill on the opposite shore. (Ironically, the City recently decided they wanted that property back, so they tried to steal it back to cover their original mistake. They condemned it and compensated the Shaw’s only $50,000. The Shaws sued and the court ordered the City to pay over $1.5 million in fair market value).

Not trusting the City of Klamath Falls to retain future property for public enjoyment, the next land gift included restrictions. Rufus couldn’t have anticipated how the wording of the deed would enable overzealous officials to counter an activity that was exactly what he would have supported at the park. This document, nearly a century old, is the source of the conflict with the Westfalls, and it will always be a source of fear until everyone involved all comes to understand and respond to it better.

The deed states the land is to be: “set apart exclusively as a municipal beach resort park for swimming, boating, skating, and other aquatic sports.” It also grants the City the right to “construct buildings, dressing rooms, and any other improvements that will make the park more attractive for aquatic sport.” Actual Moore Land Grant Deed–See Paragraph 3

What exactly is the meaning of a “beach resort” and “any improvements that make the park more attractive for aquatic sport”? Only Rufus knows, and we can’t ask him. But we can try to understand him. Think about what his family was doing with Klamath land. They were cutting down trees, towing them through the lake, and took over entire shores with heavy industrial equipment. We know he must have enjoyed exploring the lake because lake enjoyment is the focus of the deed, which has a lot to do with his nephew, Charles Langell Moore, who was referenced in historical documents as an avid sportsman. Everyone in Klamath fished and hunted in those days, so one could imagine him getting in a rowboat, packing a lunch and going fishing. He must have looked back at his land while waiting for a fish to find his hook and thought, “It sure would be neat if someday people could have a beautiful park there, launch a boat, buy some bait, get lunch and be with other people who love the lake.”

Based on how the Moores lived back then, especially being so directly involved in the birth of the industrial age, it is hard to imagine the original grantors would have a problem with offering food along with guided tours and boat rentals, activities that directly support the public enjoyment of watersports on the lake. But Rufus never considered what his great, great, great, great grandchildren might do, and some have called to complain on occasion. The City attorney mentioned this, but failed to share who was complaining, or whether she investigated if anyone with an issue is a valid descendant from the branch of the family downstream from Rufus Moore and not an irrelevant branch. As the attorney must be aware, referencing invisible people—whether real or made up—are effective tools for oppression.

If we fear what people so far removed from Rufus Moore could do, then we are so frozen by that fear we are preventing people from enjoying the lake as he intended or would have been open to. Throughout the park’s long history under City management, it has been many things. In the 1940s, it was a zoo. It also was home to a commercial ski area with a rope tow. Both enterprises offered food services. Those functions were not challenged by heirs and they had nothing to do with enjoying water sports on the lake.

The City generates revenue by renting the park out for events such as Civil War reenactments with canons firing, weddings, and the Klamath Kruise…all with food services, and none of these inland activities the City openly and continuously sponsors has anything to do with water sports. The only action that heirs EVER legally challenged was when the City ran a street through the park to the Lynnewood Subdivision. That is the ONLY case taken to court and it did not result in losing the park. The city prevented vehicle access to the roads, they became walking trails and the heirs let the City be. The heirs clearly won’t allow new roads through the park to connect subdivisions. That’s all we know for sure.

HYPOCRITES – NO MORE WEDDINGS, NON-WATER EVENTS, OR KLAMATH KRUISE!

If the City is going to react out of fear when any heir who hasn’t studied Rufus Moore calls to complain about one thing or another, then it is too dangerous to host any activities or leave any structures at the park except for those that don’t directly link to water sports as the deed mentions. If the City is to hold itself as accountable to the language in the deed as it holds the Westfalls, then the City should cease all activities at the park not directly related to water sports as the deed states. These other activities the City permits are far more dangerous to a City that fears the heirs of Rufus Moore than anything the Westfalls have ever attempted or dreamed of.

The Westfalls spent five years jumping through hoops for the privilege of spending their own money, time and resources to continue working hard to serve people who visit the park to enjoy water sports. That sequence of correct actions of hoops has led to a cliff. A cliff designed by staff.

COUNCIL VOTE

In spite of the fear-mongering rhetoric, the Westfalls received some sympathy from Council. Councilman Bill Adams, consistently the bright spot within the darkness of City politics tends to see right through staff gyrations. Being a business owner himself, he is sympathetic to the plight of an investor battling the illogic of City administration and voted in favor of the Westfalls.

Dan Tofell was on the fence. He became sympathetic to the Westfalls as they attempted to defend themselves and didn’t see harm in giving them a little more time. However, his comments reflected he was duped into believing the staff misinformation about the park land being in jeopardy.

Surprisingly, Bud Hart, the councilmember in office the longest, had the same mindset as Tofell and voted with the other two to grant the extension. These three votes carried the day.

Voting against the Boat House were Trish Seiler and Matt Dodson.

Dodson’s stance is so peculiar, it is making us re-think the broader stance of Klamath.net that any new person elected to office will make better decisions than an incumbent through being less likely to protect misbehaving staff.

Seiler’s actions are no surprise. Her voting record is consistently anti-business. She cultivates the demeanor of an intellectual, but given the history of the administration’s corruption of which she is fully aware, her odd role as the mistress with a whip in such a fantasy is as absurd as it sounds.

NEXT

Using the Council meeting as a stage for a Spanish-inquisition-style public smack-down that elevated a false fear didn’t help the Westfalls much. How are they supposed to operate in conjunction with a City that displays such extreme hostility?

Council was in agreement that they wanted to see a new plan and the Westfalls have 90-days to develop something acceptable.

Our government loves to tell people to make plans, but it fails to understand that doing so is not as easy as they may think. It requires a herculean effort to make plan under the duress the City has placed the Westfalls under. These people aren’t being paid for their time and effort, while staff get paid to reject their work. City officials summarily rejected plans in place, then used the lack of an acceptable plan as an excuse to disallow further activity. Planning being so expensive, it would be foolish to keep writing plans for uses that wouldn’t be approved, so the Westfalls have spent years running ideas by staff, only to reach dead-ends.

As Carol Westfall stated in the Parks meeting, “How are we supposed to write a plan when the answer to every activity we’ve asked permission for is NO?”

CONCLUSION

Although the Council did the right thing by extending the lease for 90 days, they should have seen through the puppet show staff orchestrated that led everyone down the path of false paranoia in regard to the Moore land grant. Remember, the only time the City EVER had a legal challenge from a Moore descendant was when they tried to build a road to a subdivision. If the City delusions were founded, they would have lost the park land at that juncture. Nothing bad happened. The roads stayed, were closed to traffic, and became walking trails. The park land did not revert to the family, even after the court found the City guilty of a violation.

The City Council should have stopped parroting the staff’s unfounded concerns, ordered staff to cease their nonsensical argument, and direct them to help find a solution, rather than continuing the assault on the Boat House and the Westfalls. Hopefully Council will do some research of its own and take this action later.

The best way to alleviate any future concerns would be to put a Moore heir in contact with the Westfalls. The Westfalls have always wanted to have a discussion to explain the challenges in operating the site to support water sports and are very open to doing anything that works. If the two could meet, the entire controversy could be put to rest forever. The Westfalls have tried to find one. The City has refused to faciliate the discussion.

Why a descendant with concerns hasn’t contacted the Westfalls directly is anybody’s guess. If an heir has indeed been in contact with the City as alledged, it was cowardly of the City and the heir to not have a meeting with everyone, including the Westfalls, in the room. The way the City has addressed the situaiton through misdirection, lies, and by failing to mediate the parties concerned is beyond cowardice, it is tyranny.