Giving it Back to the River

Della Cantrell was at the coast when the Holiday Farm Fire started along the McKenzie River. It was a full week before she found out what happened to her house near Finn Rock, the one she bought to be close to her daughter and son-in-law (and, eventually, her first grandbaby), the one she’d spent 6 months remodeling with new hardwood floors and quartz countertops, the one with the sunny deck overlooking a side channel of the McKenzie River where she’d lived for just two and a half years. She eventually learned her home’s fate from a video a stranger made out his car window and posted online: nothing left but the chimney. Her car, her house and everything in it, were all gone.

Her property, with its 800 feet of riverfront, is now part of McKenzie River Trust’s Finn Rock Reach conservation area. Della is still grieving her losses and adjusting to life in her new house in the Thurston neighborhood. But she has no regrets about the decision she made to sell the property to McKenzie River Trust—or, as Della put it, “Giving it back to the river.”

Della was already familiar with McKenzie River Trust and the ambitious salmon habitat restoration project they were planning just across the water from her house. Months earlier, she’d had a visit from Daniel Dietz, McKenzie River Trust’s Conservation Director. Daniel wanted to share with her what the Trust was planning and get her input. She was impressed that he’d reached out, but she wasn’t entirely happy with the way the project would impact her view. That is, not until she talked it over with another of her children, a daughter who happens to be a marine epidemiologist, whose PhD dissertation, coincidentally, had focused on salmon. “I like what they’re doing,” her daughter told her after speaking with Daniel herself. “I feel like this will help the salmon population,” adding, “Conservation is more important than your view.” 

“It kind of put things in perspective for me,” Della says. “It helped me see things in a different way.”

So when Della decided to sell rather than rebuild, she reached out to Daniel. She figures she might have been able to get more for her property, but the price she and the Trust settled on was enough to get her into the kind of replacement house she wanted to buy in Springfield. “Not all money’s good money, you know?” Della reflected. “I needed closure, and I thought, it’s a good cause, and my daughter believes in it; she helped me to see how important it was.”

“The fire burned through the heart of this area where we’ve invested so much, affecting so many of our friends and neighbors,” said Robin Meacher, McKenzie River Trust’s Land Protection Manager. ”We were really pleased Della approached us and considered selling to us as a way to help her bring to completion this part of her life.”