Mildred Kinape was born in 1907 in Oakland Oregon. Her own mother died when she was just 3 months old and she was raised by her father and her Aunt Mary (who came west to raise Mildred after her mother died). Mildred often said her one misfortune in life was being born a girl, but perhaps she was just many decades ahead of her time. Mildred wanted to be a forest ranger but the forest service was not yet ready to hire a woman ranger. Instead, Mildred built a successful 1,100 acre farm, building on the 290 acres her father left her in 1940 when she was 33 years old. Upon her death in 1983, Mildred left her property to Douglas County as a park.
The 1,100 acre park is designed to be a historical working ranch with numerous hiking and equestrian trails. Many of the original buildings are still in existence including Mildred’s house (built in 1865) and the sheep shearing shed (built in 1935). The trees in the old orchard are at least 80 years old, and their gnarly twisted trucks are a testament to their long life. Mildred kept peacocks as “watch dogs” and a flock is still in existence; they will greet you in the parking lot.
The park, like the land around it, is situated on rolling hills – primarily prairie land and oak woodlands. Aerial photographs taken of the area from the 1930s to the 1980s show that the landscape has changed very little in that time. Add the original farm buildings and the cows and sheep grazing nearby, and it gives a nice feel for what the homestead must have been like 80 years ago.
We visited the Mildred Kinape Memorial Park last weekend. It was our first time and we chose to walk the nature trail and explore the grounds around the house. More extensive hiking trails can be found across Elkhead Road from the parking lot, and an equestrian staging area is just to the south. From the number of trucks and trailers in the parking lot, it appears to be a popular stop for riding.
Personally, I look forward to going back to explore the hiking trails in more detail – perhaps in the spring to see the wildflowers.
Getting there: Mildred Kinape Memorial Park is located north of Oakland Oregon. We visited as part of our “Shoestring to Oakland” drive. Of course, it is also accessible from Oakland. Please visit the Friends of Mildred Kinape Memorial Park web site for more information, driving directions, and trail maps (http://www.mildredkanipepark.org/).