A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Stopped by a sign and threat of a fine

Written April 12th, 2021 by Hasso Hering


This sign stopped me when I reached the western edge of Albany’s little Hazelwood Park last week. “Private property?” Really? I thought this land was owned by Uncle Sam.

Indeed, Linn County assessment records show that this empty area — almost 18 acres outside the Bonneville Power Administration substation on S.W. Queen Ave. and bounded on the west by the Calapooia River — is owned by “United States of America.”

That doesn’t mean it’s public land in the usual sense. It is, instead, government-owned land that the government wants to keep people out of.

The big fat “NO” sign includes a couple of citations. One starts with “LC” followed by a bunch of numerals, and I have no idea what it means. The other cites a law known as ORS 164.245.

That state law defines the crime of “criminal trespass in the second degree.” A person commits the crime if he “enters or remains unlawfully in a motor vehicle or upon premises.”

It’s Class C misdemeanor. The maximum penalty is 30 days in jail and a $1,250 fine.

Evidently the threat does not apply to, or does not deter, whoever travels down that way on the track visible in the dirt.

As for Hazelwood Park, what brought me to those two and a half acres owned by the city is that the city council on Wednesday is poised to declare it surplus.

Then the park will be eligible to be sold or otherwise disposed of. One group that wants it is the Creating Housing Coalition, an Albany nonprofit that wants to build a community there of about 25 tiny houses to help ease the homeless situation in town. (hh)

In the background, the BPA substation off Queen Avenue.

6 responses to “Stopped by a sign and threat of a fine”

  1. Ron stevers says:

    My guess is that it’s the homeless making that trail to begin with. The laws don’t apply to them like they do the rest of us.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Well now…..so when the lawsuits start flying after an electrocution or drowning, and the little house village fails, the Creating Housing Coalition can market the site as “waterfront” property at a premium price.

    It’s a genius plan, when you think about it.

  3. john hartman says:

    In spite of his protestations, the author seems not to have defiled the No Trespass order. True courage in the face of obvious government overreach. As is well understood, public lands are just that – open to any and all for little or no reason.

    And then, a clumsy, ugly segue to Hazelwood Park, an out-of-the-way locale no one uses, but a place where Albany MIGHT allow relief for area homeless folks. What, one asks, would be an ‘acceptable” use to these parcels? A bicycle racetrack?

  4. GregB says:

    Homeless camps in that area were a problem in my era of working at BPA. It is not safe for people to live directly under the higher voltage lines that BPA operates. So, they do not allow people to live on their power line rights of ways. This whole area is covered by 230,000 and 115,000 volt lines going in and out of the substation. After I retired, the area was cleared of all vegetation so there was no place for campers to hide and no trespassing signs were put up.

  5. Diane Branson says:

    If the land is owned by the “United States of America” how can the City of Albany sell it? Wouldn’t the Federal Government have to sell it?


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