Some Ashland Residents Not Happy with the New Owner of Billings Ranch

KDRV website In a zoom meeting that Billings Ranch owners, Thaddeus Gala and Rebecca Blust, hosted, Gala confirmed to the public they will no longer be considering building a motocross track at the ranch, period.

“Okay how about this, no motocross anywhere around the property,” said Gala. “We won’t do motocross. We won’t put in jumps and ramps and all those things.” Latest Report

ASHLAND, Ore. — Ashland residents plan to meet with the new owner of Billings Ranch, Thaddeus Gala, on Thursday to express their frustrations with a letter that they received, one that they say came across as an extortion attempt.

The Billings Ranch property sits just outside of the Ashland city limits, bordered by the Bear Creek Greenway to the north and Highway 99 to the south. Just to the east of the property are residential neighborhoods.

According to a letter delivered by the new owners to some of those neighboring homes, a handful of neighbors — especially those near property lines — would like to see wildlife such as bison, caribou, and birds come to the ranch. But later on the letter, Gala stated that putting in a 15 to 20-acre dirt bike track would be more financially feasible, and would generate quicker income.

Further on in the letter, Gala stated that the dirt bike track is not their first choice, but that they must make smart business decisions. He continues by asking the community for help, saying the he needs funds to make the wildlife ranch a reality. He said that if the community can contribute $40,000 in total, or $1,000 per household, that they can move forward with creating grazing pastures for animals and build the necessary fencing.

Towards the bottom of the letter Gala did specify in writing, “Be it $5,000, $1,000 or even 500$ we appreciate any consideration as every bit gets us closer to our goal.”

However, some members of the surrounding community were taken back by Gala’s letter.

“When I first read the letter, I took it as extortion,” said Eric Greene, who has been a resident in the Ashland community for over 50 years. “I had to actually go back and read it a second time to understand, but it felt like we were being extorted.”

“The response of, ‘this is costing me more than I anticipated to do, which was be put animals on to the ranch, and that if I don’t get help for paying for it, I’m going to put a motocross track on there’ was really shocking,” said Mike Munter, a resident of the Ashland Billings Ranch Community.

According to Munter, as well as several other members in the surrounding community, the idea of a dirt bike track being a part of Billings Ranch was something that was never mentioned to them in previous conversations with the new owners. From what residents have told NewsWatch 12, the owners had previously talked about maintaining the beauty of Billings Ranch, as well as including a community garden, hosting future wedding events and hosting wildlife.

“I just believe that this ranch should either remain a beautiful place for us to enjoy, or it should become a nice piece of Ashland that benefits Ashland,” Green said.

Some members of that community have expressed concerns over the possibility that a dirt bike track could be approved by Jackson County. According, to Craig Anderson, a former employee of the Jackson County Developmental Services Department, there could be a chance that the county will approve the ranch for a dirt bike track — if the owners decide to move forward with that idea.

“They would look at what the law says and they would also look at prior cases like this,” said Anderson. “I expect that based on that, they could approve this.” 

Anderson stated that in a similar case in Coos County, a piece of land zoned for exclusive farm use was approved for an off-highway vehicle park.

He also says that even though a piece of land like Billings Ranch may be an exclusive farm zone, there are multiple things that the land can be used for — including a golf course, provisions for private parks and even off-highway vehicle park like a race track.

Although there is no guarantee that a part of Billings Ranch will be turned into a dirt bike track, community members are planning to meet with Thaddeus Gala on Thursday at 6 p.m. in a Zoom meeting, to discuss their concerns with the future of the ranch and how it will affect them.

Thaddeus has also since apologized to the community for his letter on the app Nextdoor, saying: “I’ll start by saying I owe everyone a huge apology. I see our letter completely missed the mark from our intention.”

Members of the Ashland Billings Ranch community, as well as the surrounding area say, they are willing to work with the new owners of the ranch, but only if they continue to support the values of the Ashland community.

“We’ll stand behind you when you’re doing an endeavor that benefits the society and the culture that matches with the ethos, the ethics and the direction that this town wants to go,” said Munter.

NewsWatch 12 did reach out to Thaddeus Gala for an interview, but he was unavailable. We also reached out to the Jackson County Planning Department to assess the chances that part of the ranch could be turned into a dirt bike track. No response was given. 

//inserted by Sharon