A Living Legacy at Sweet Creek Forest

When Mat Purvis moved to Oregon in the early 1970s, he was excited to spend more outdoors. Growing up in urban Atlanta, Mat was accustomed to camping, hiking, and fishing but had always dreamed of owning a wilderness property. As a young physician with spare time, Mat leapt at an opportunity to pursue his dream when a colleague offered to sell him a tract of forest on Sweet Creek.

Through the early seasons of his tenure, Mat would take advantage of weekends and slow days to plant Douglas Fir in Oregon’s Coast Range. Previous owners had clear-cut the property, and only riparian hardwoods and a few rogue firs remained, holding Sweet Creek like a protective pair of parentheses. With his enduring southern accent, Mat shares that “the greatest days were spent planting trees on the property. I had only been in Eugene for a few years, and being on the land was a great way to identify with Oregon and the natural resources found here.” Slipping and sliding on scree, Mat fought his way uphill weekend after weekend, replanting dozens of acres

As Mat’s family grew, the property provided a wild destination for summer camping, fishing, and swimming. When recalling his time spent along the creek, Mat chuckles as he admits he remembers fishing but can’t remember ever catching a fish. As the decades passed, the young forest on Sweet Creek’s ridges grew, and Mat’s medical practice grew too. Visits to the property became fewer, and focused more on enjoying the natural world and the benefits of his early days spent planting the hillsides.

After 45 years of caring for the land, Mat and his family reached a time to make decisions about the property’s future. “We explored many options and decided that donating it back to the natural world had the most meaning. Rather than selling the property for a profit, I was able to work with the Trust to achieve my goal of preserving this wild place for nature.” In December 2023, the Purvis family completed the donation of Sweet Creek Forest to the Trust. Since his first forays up the bald slopes of Sweet Creek, Mat’s forest has grown into 50-foot timber stands. Each fall, Coho salmon make their way up the creek to spawn, and deer, bear, and elk find food and shelter in the recovering landscape. Along with his fir trees, Mat’s legacy will continue to grow for decades to come.