A barbecue is being held on September 1 in Falls City by the Falls City Alliance, a group working to regain access to Luckaimute Falls, the landmark for which the town is named. The event is the latest fundraiser to support residents in an ongoing dispute with the owner of the private property on the north side of the river at the falls. The north side has the best access and view, and a rock running ramp.
Townspeople have enjoyed access for decades, according to Alliance spokesperson Janelle Anzalone. “The property just sort of became ours through constant use over the years,” she says. “No one can remember a time when the falls were not used for swimming and picnicking. Jumping off the rocks into the water at the base of the falls is a rite of passage for all the young people in town.”
In the years prior to 2008, Anzalone says, “City crews maintained the weeds and collected garbage from the can that was provided.” In 2008, the property on the north was sold to current owner of record, Judith Bent. Bent immediately posted “no trespassing” signs.
“Those who did not notice the changes were cited,” Anzalone says. “Bent is not local, and she called Polk County Sheriff constantly for two years… The Alliance has tried to approach [Bent] with an offer to buy the property, but it is difficult to communicate with her.”
Salem Weekly wanted Bent’s point of view but was unable, despite several attempts, to find or obtain contact information.
Now the Alliance has hired a lawyer and filed for adverse possession, a process in which title to an owner’s property can be acquired without compensation. Like squatter’s rights the historical “possession” of the falls by townspeople makes the case more winnable, says Anzalone. “We believe that the Falls belong to all of us,” the Alliance site reads. “We claim adverse possession and we will not ever, ever go away until we complete this mission.”
The September 1 event, “Bad to the Bone,” includes a barbecue contest, music, vendors, helicopter rides, frying pan toss and more. It will be held in downtown Falls City, a town of about 950 people, from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Proceeds will join the sales of “Save the Falls” t-shirts, a Casino Night and July 4th fundraiser to support the Alliance’s efforts.