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Linked at last?

A proposed land swap involving pieces of the former Givan Ranch property offers the best chance the land will actually be developed into a park the public can use. We think longtime rancher Charley Givan would approve.

The land in question lies along the Rogue River near Eagle Point. For years it was farmed by Givan, who sold it to Jackson County in 1972 under three conditions: that he be allowed to live on the property until he died (he was 81 at the time), that the land never be broken up and that it remain a park forever.

Givan remained on the land until his death in 1986. In the intervening years, he donated 18 acres of his ranch to the Medford Elks Lodge for a picnic ground, effectively breaking up what he said he wanted kept intact. He did keep a small easement to run farm equipment between the two ranch parcels.

Over the years, the remaining land got very little public use because the county could not afford to develop it and access was limited.

Retired Medford developer Chris Galpin bought the 18-acre private picnic grounds from the Elks Lodge in 2009. Now, he's willing to swap it to Jackson County in exchange for a 34-acre piece of the ranch, most of which he wants to turn into a nature preserve.

Because the county bought the ranch in the first place using federal conservation grant funds, the property cannot be sold — only traded for land of equal or greater value. The 34-acre tract the county would deed to Galpin is worth far less than the picnic ground property, so state and federal parks officials are likely to give the deal their blessing.

Not likely to approve of the agreement are some neighboring property owners who say the county is reneging on the deal struck with Givan nearly four decades ago.

The county's promise not to break up the ranch property was never recorded with the deed, so the county is under no legal obligation. What's more, this deal will create a park the public can actually use — something Givan said he wanted when he sold to the county in the first place.

The neighbors are understandably concerned about increased traffic in their isolated, undeveloped neighborhood. That's unfortunate for them, but it's what the county bought the land for in the first place.

County officials envision low-intensity uses such as an equestrian center. State parks officials and the National Park Service should approve the swap, and the county should proceed to make it usable by the public.