Oct. 02–SAGINAW — Big rigs, and their drivers and mechanics, soon might bring an economic revival to a long-idle mill site in south Lane County.
Springfield-based Nelson Bros. Trucking likely will close soon on a deal to buy the former Westwood Lumber Co. mill in Saginaw, the trucking company’s president, Rick Nelson, said last week.
The company plans to shutter its operations in Springfield and Eugene and be fully moved into the 37-acre Saginaw property in about a year, he said. The mill site, a couple of miles north of Cottage Grove, has been vacant since at least 2012.
“We need to plant lots of trees and cut down blackberries — just clean up the mess,” Nelson said. “We are going to put in about 3,000 feet of cyclone fence.”
He declined to disclose how much the company has offered for the old mill property, which includes manufacturing and storage buildings. The property, owned by Bend-based Bank of the Cascades, has a market value of $1.34 million, according to the Lane County Assessor’s Office.
Lane County has approved most of the necessary permits for the trucking company’s move into the old mill, and a company study of the pavement strength of Lane County-owned East Saginaw Road will determine whether the county needs to beef up the roadway to handle Nelson’s trucks. The road runs just under a mile from the Westwood property to the Saginaw interchange on Interstate 5.
Nelson’s company hauls logs, wood products and heavy equipment.
Nelson’s likely decision to move ahead comes after months of sparring between him and county regulators.
The Lane County Planning Department in June denied Nelson Bros. permits necessary to open a log-and-lumber terminal at the old mill. But Nelson appealed, and in August county Hearings Official Gary Darnielle sided with Nelson.
Darnielle’s approval came with the condition that the company evaluate the sturdiness of the pavement on East Saginaw Road, but the county rather than the trucking company would be responsible for any needed improvements.
Lane County transportation planners missed a window earlier this year to require the trucking company to evaluate the effects on the road of any potential impacts from Nelson trucks, Darnielle said Wednesday.
“The county didn’t follow the steps they need to,” he said.
If the pavement study concludes that improvements to the road are necessary, Darnielle said the county will have to add the project to its list of capital improvement work.
Nelson said the company recently completed the pavement study, but the results have not been finalized yet.
Nelson Bros.’ fleet includes 106 trucks and 207 trailers, Nelson said. Of those, 60 rigs are logs trucks. The family-run business began in 1967 and has been in Eugene-Springfield for decades.
“It will be a great move for us,” Nelson said of the shift to Saginaw.
The company has yet to apply for building and sanitation permits with Lane County for the old mill, county spokeswoman Devon Ashbridge said. She said it will need those before going ahead with the redevelopment.
The county also is requiring Nelson Bros. employees to monitor results of invasive plant removal and native vegetation planting for five years at the Saginaw property.
Nelson Bros. plans to pull out blackberry and Scotch Broom thickets and replace the non-native invaders with willows, dogwood and other native riverside trees and shrubs. The Coast Fork of the Willamette River flows along the old mill’s eastern property line.
The move to Saginaw will put all Nelson Bros. trucks in one place. The company has two locations, a property it owns at 3112 Industrial Ave. in Springfield and a property it leases at 1485 W 1st Ave. in Eugene. Combined, the properties are smaller than the old mill site in Saginaw.
“We are out of room,” Nelson said.
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