A beautiful 2.5 acre piece of land, located just south of the town of Klickitat, was given to Klickitat Trail Conservancy by Irvin H. Mitchell, a longtime Klickitat Trail supporter. The land is divided by the trail, with a little sandy beach on one side and a native oak woodland and meadow on the other.
Irv was KTC’s first member and believed in the preservation and public use of this rail corridor with all his heart. At a founding trail meeting in 2002, he pulled a five dollar bill from his pocket and said, “I’m in!” In the ensuing 13 years, Irv continued his avid trail support and became its Johnny Appleseed by planting fruit trees along the trail.
About seven years ago, Irv decided that he wanted his property to become part of the Klickitat Trail for everyone to enjoy. Early in 2015, he realized that he did not have long to live and wanted to donate his property to the KTC immediately. During Irv’s last days on his land it was agreed that KTC would accept his land donation and execute a major cleanup; then, donate the land to either Washington State Parks or Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. With this understanding, on May 8, 2015, Irv officially donated his property to KTC.
The reality of Irv’s land donation presented an interesting problem because it was covered with mobile homes, motor homes, large sheds and outbuildings in various states of ruin, numerous rusting vehicles, more than 100 tires, and debris of all kinds. This gigantic mess had to be cleaned up before a public agency would even consider ownership.
This donation has resulted in many new expenses for KTC, such as filing fees, title insurance, property taxes and expensive liability insurance. The biggest expense so far has been the professional clean-up of the land, completed in late October. We still are in the process of picking up lots of small debris all over the property. We found a few things of value in the course of the clean-up, but there are legal issues and it is unclear yet if we will benefit from that. The expenses of owning and cleaning up the property has come directly out of KTC’s limited bank account. With the majority of the clean-up now complete, KTC is involved in offering it to Washington State Parks, but anything involving government bureaucracy takes patience and time.
While Irv donated his physical land to KTC, he bequeathed his entire estate to the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) for the maintenance and development of the trail. With these funds in mind, KTC intends to work tirelessly to spur Washington State Parks to complete several large trail projects, especially the one-mile trail disconnect just north of the town of Klickitat.
When Irvin Mitchell passed away on September 5, 2015 at age 86, it was with the knowledge that his vision of the public enjoying his land as part of the Klickitat Trail would become a reality. On that day we said goodbye to a dear friend, local legend and fellow visionary who will always live on along the trail – in the spring with his fruit trees in blossom, summer under the shade of his oaks, fall when fruit is abundant, and in winter surrounded by quiet beauty.
For over a year, enormous quantities of energy and resources were channeled to clean up this heavily impacted property in hopes that Washington State Parks (WASP) would assume ownership and it would become a part of the trail.
This endeavor became a reality on October 24, 2016 when WASP assumed full ownership and management of this beautiful trailside property.
There is now a picnic table in a lovely spot under the oaks and a memorial bench, in Mitch’s honor, at the river viewpoint. We know that this section of the trail, which has access to a little sandy beach, will become even lovelier as the native wildflowers flourish. Andy Kallinen, WASP ranger notes that, “The Mitchell property donation is a nice addition for our parks. It is a great turn around point for the community of Klickitat and creates connectivity for the adjacent fish and wildlife property.”