Loren Parks is an ultra-conservative businessman and, for the past decade, Oregon's biggest campaign donor to such conservative causes as crime victims' rights, tax-cutting initiatives and the property-rights group Oregonians in Action.
But now, Parks is in a position that might strike Oregon liberals who demonize him as unusual—he's fighting a real-estate developer and trying to turn private land into a public park.
A trial set to start June 19 in Tillamook County Circuit Court will decide whether Parks, an 80-year-old entrepreneur and self-styled sex therapist, is the rightful owner of a slice of coastline about a mile north of Rockaway Beach. Parks says he wants to donate the land to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
"I want it to go to the public," says Parks, who lives in Las Vegas but was reached by WW last week at his house in the Washington County hamlet of Helvetia. "A developer is trying to take it away from me."
Sea River Properties LLC, owned by Lake Oswego developer Steven Hursey, and the family of deceased former adjacent land owner Robert Riley are challenging Parks' ownership—and thus his ability to donate the property—in a lawsuit filed Jan. 27, 2006.
Parks calls the suit "a bunch of crap." Hursey's attorney, Steve Crew, says since the land appeared as a result of building a jetty in 1910, it belongs under law to the upland owners—the Rileys and now Sea River.
The lawsuit against Parks claims Sea River Properties is the rightful owner of a portion of oceanfront land at the mouth of the Nehalem River. The lawsuit doesn't say how many acres are in dispute, but Parks says he owns just under 40 acres there.
Two notarized deeds of sale are attached to the lawsuit. One says Parks bought the land from Times Mirror Land & Timber Co. of Oregon on Aug. 29, 1989, for $75,000. Another says Sea River Properties bought the same land from the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon on June 9, 2005, for $104,000. Parks says the land may be worth about $1 million today, but he paid the asking price at the time. He says the newer deed is a "phony." But Crew says the new ownership is legitimate.
Parks says he tried to donate the land to the state years ago, but he says the state declined the gift because of what Parks described as a "cloud" over the deed. Parks says ownership has been disputed because the 97-year-old jetty changed the course of the river and the shoreline. The land was initially surveyed in 1858.
Dave Wright, assistant director of state parks, confirmed that Parks offered the state the land. Wright says his department would be interested in acquiring the site if the dispute is cleared up.
Parks says he bought the land to give it to the state, and he hopes the trial will settle the issue. "There's a lot of people who go down there," Parks says. "They watch the boats, they watch the surf, they watch the sea animals, and all of that."
Parks says his charitable intentions should come as no surprise to lefties who lampoon him as a sexual hypnotist and funder of right-wing causes.
Parks has donated nearly $8 million since 1996 to campaigns in Washington, D.C., and Oregon, including $381,000 to Kevin Mannix's unsuccessful 2006 GOP primary run for governor (see "The Man Behind Mannix," WW, April 19, 2006).
But he's also given at least $244,000 to Tillamook Anglers for improving fish habitat and $350,000 for a fish hatchery at a prison camp on the Wilson River, and converted other land in Tillamook County into public boat launches.
Parks also brings his share of controversy for the unorthodox and explicit sex advice he dispenses online at psychresearch.com.
Parks settled out of court a 1983 million-dollar lawsuit by a woman who accused him of using hypnotherapy to seduce her. In 2002, an employee of Parks Medical Electronics Inc., the Aloha factory Parks owns, sued him for inappropriate sexual behavior. Parks again settled out of court.
"There's always some s.o.b. trying to take my money or screw me out of something," Parks told WW in an email last week, "and since Oregon in general doesn't like me...I doubt I can get a fair trial."