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Notable Oregonians: Samuel H. Boardman - State Parks Pioneer

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Samuel H. Boardman

Samuel H. Boardman, 1874-1953

Samuel Herbert Boardman was born on December 13, 1874 in Lowell, Massachusetts, where he attended public schools. He later attended Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin for two years. Boardman did engineering work with several Colorado companies before coming to Oregon in 1903. He continued working as a highway and railroad engineer for companies including the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railroad and the Portland Railroad & Navigation Company.

 

Meanwhile, Boardman filed a homestead on a dry, treeless area of Morrow County near the Columbia River beginning in 1903. He worked for the next 13 years to develop irrigated land before finally platting the town of Boardman in 1916. His wife, Anna Belle, assisted and also taught school to help with expenses. A lover of nature, Boardman gained a reputation as he planted trees along non-forested sections of the Columbia River Highway and Old Oregon Trail from The Dalles to the Idaho border.

 

Boardman's career with the state began when he started work in road maintenance in 1919. Ten years later, the newly created State Parks Commission recognized his larger talents and tapped him to be the first state parks superintendent for Oregon. The commission instructed him to protect roadside timber and develop a state parks system. Boardman launched into his new job with gusto, increasing the number of parks from 46 mostly small roadside areas to 181 properties. Park acreage grew from 4,000 acres to 66,000 acres during his tenure, which ended with his retirement in 1950. In the process, he rarely stood still, driving nearly 500,000 miles while building and managing the park system.

 

Boardman knew that land would never again be cheaper so he applied his considerable powers of persuasion to everyone from corporate executives to private citizens in an effort to acquire as many of the natural gems of Oregon as possible before they were developed. Working on a tight budget, he inspired many landowners to donate land or to sell it for significantly less than market value. His first purchase, Silver Falls State Park, remains one of the crown jewels of the the park system. He also acquired large amounts of land that would be developed into a string of spectacular coastal state parks as well as numerous scenic parks in the Columbia Gorge.

 

Commonly known as the father of the Oregon parks system, Boardman has been widely honored for his vision, judgment, and dedication. The Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor in Curry County is a fitting tribute to his efforts. The 12-mile, forested linear park features a rugged, steep coastline interrupted by small sand beaches. The corridor helps to preserve some of the best of the stunning beauty of the southern Oregon coast for future generations to enjoy, just as Sam Boardman wanted.

 

(Sources: Oregon State Archives, Samuel H. Boardman Records | Oregon's Highway Park System, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department | Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department Web site) Revised 1/2013

 

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