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As It Was: Failed Homesteader Becomes Oregon Parks Visionary

A failed Oregon homesteader in the early 1900s, Samuel H. Boardman, would become known as the father of the state’s park system.

Boardman came West as a young man, settling in Morrow County, where he founded the town of Boardman.  He promoted civic improvements and planting trees.  After a failed attempt at farming, he got a job with the Oregon State Highway Department in 1919.  Within 10 years, he was head of the roadside park system, consisting mainly of small picnic areas. 

Oregon’s beauty inspired Boardman to work beyond the highways.  He obtained public support and convinced the State Highway Commission to acquire what he called the “creator’s handiwork.”

His early efforts included the Silver Falls State Park near Salem.  Soon, he focused on the Pacific Shoreline, and during the Great Depression acquired land and developed it with the Civilian Conservation Corps.  One of his final projects, in 1946, was a 12-mile stretch north of Brookings that became the present-day Samuel H. Boardman State Park. 

Boardman retired as the state’s first full-time superintendent of state parks in 1950, but continued to advocate for parkland preservation, as he put it, “for all time to come.”

Source: Mark, Stephen R., and Douglas Deur. "Samuel H Boardman." The Oregon Encyclopedia, edited by Will Garrick, Oregon Historical Society, oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/boardman_samuel/#.XOCRpfZFyUm. Accessed 18 May 2019.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.