Neil Ledward, the former county parks director, says he's glad a land swap between Jackson County and developer Cris Galpin appears to have fallen through.

Givan Ranch land swap on indefinite hold

EAGLE POINT — A proposed land swap that would have connected two tracts of land on Jackson County's 300-acre Givan Park along the upper Rogue River are on indefinite hold now, collateral damage in a Medford developer's ongoing bankruptcy case.

Developer Cris Galpin's February bankruptcy filing lists two dozen corporations as assets, including his Galpin Holdings LLC, which owns the 14.5-acre former Elks Picnic Grounds. That parcel was set to be swapped for 34 acres of the old Givan Ranch off Agate Road.

The former Elks property is listed for sale, with a $1.2 million asking price, the same market value as listed on the county's tax rolls.

The land separates two tracts of the former Givan Ranch owned by the county, and swapping out a chunk of the ranch's northern parcel was seen by county officials as the best way to unite the two parcels and one day create a low-intensity equestrian and hiking park there.

But county officials put the once fast-tracked agreement on the back burner this past week. The property that was once within their reach may instead go to pay off part of Galpin's financial liabilities, which he lists as more than $51.3 million in bankruptcy filings.

Galpin said in court filings that he intends to reorganize and pay his creditors.

"We're kind of at the mercy of the (bankruptcy) proceedings," County Administrator Danny Jordan said. "Frankly, we don't know whether the attorneys will allow him to decide what to do with that property."

The transaction was being reviewed by state parks officials because the original Givan Ranch land was bought in part with Land and Water Conservation Fund money in 1972.

The swap was under review to ensure that the county was receiving equal or greater value in the trade, and state parks officials were awaiting a review of the parcels' appraisals when county Parks Manager Steve Lambert told state auditors to halt work on it.

The move was seen as a victory for nearby landowners, who opposed the land swap out of fear it would lead to over-development, and because it violated a handshake agreement they said Charley Givan had made with county parks officials that the land would never be subdivided.

"I'm glad they pulled the plug," said Neil Ledward, the former county parks director who negotiated the Givan deal but failed to get the handshake agreement's language in the deed.

"That part of the ranch the county was giving away was a beautiful, forested area, and the Elks property is just eroding away," Ledward said.

Galpin hired a Portland law firm to investigate the scope of Galpin's financial difficulties and potential "restructuring needs" in March 2011 — seven months after signing a nonbinding agreement with the county to move forward on the land swap, Galpin's bankruptcy documents show.

At the time, the land was owned by a Galpin corporation called Kodiak LLC. In June, Galpin sold the property for $1.12 million to his Galpin Holdings LLC, county records show.

One appraisal of the Elks property at the time had it valued at $2.5 million, while the county's undeveloped 34-acre piece was appraised at $400,000.

At the time, Galpin said he would consider the value difference a donation that he would take as a tax deduction.

Galpin did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

County officials were unaware of those moves as they proceeded with environmental assessments and appraisals of the parcels required for transactions involving land bought with Land and Water Conservation Fund grants, Jordan said.

But they had no reason to continue, Jordan said.

"This was a gesture, a good deed on his part," Jordan said. "He was giving the county a lot of value."

Galpin bought the former Elks Picnic Grounds in 2009. The land originally was part of the Givan Ranch, but Elks Lodge members decades ago talked Givan into donating some of his land for the picnic grounds. That donation cut his holdings in half, with a road easement connecting them.

County officials eyed the Elks land as a way to join the properties that have largely sat idle since the day Givan deeded them to the county.

Several of the old barns and farming equipment remain on the property, virtually untouched the past 40 years.

"There's a beautiful oak savannah and a lot of history here," Ledward said. "It's neat."

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or

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