OROVILLE – While it’s back to square one on the decision as to who will get Osoyoos Lake State Veterans’ Memorial Park, the state has agreed to open up its registration system to park users again in 2010.
At the Tuesday, Dec. 1 meeting of the Oroville City Council, City Clerk Kathy Jones said she would be attending the State Park Commission meeting in Chehalis on Dec. 3 to represent Oroville’s interests in having the park transferred to the city. Chris Branch, the city’s Director of Economic Development, would be out of town on vacation at the time, she told the council.
It was understood the park would be transferred to Oroville, but the commission reversed an Oct. 1, 2009 decision and asked that interested parties, including Oroville and the Colville Confederated Tribe, resubmit their presentations in March on why they should take over the park’s operation. The final decision is now slated for June 24.
“I am just so excited the state has reopened the reservation system for the park,” said Jones. “I believe Rep. Shelly Short was influential in getting the state to do this.”
Jones added that Sen. Bob Morton and Rep. Joel Kretz, also from the Seventh Legislative District, have been supportive as well.
“One thing I’d like to convey at the meeting is how our local businesses appreciate the reversal of their decision to close the reservation system for Veterans’ Memorial. Our businesses depend on that park being open and with other owners that might be different. We need to preserve access to that park for everyone.”
At the council meeting and at previous meetings Mayor Chuck Spieth and the council members have voiced concerns that a transfer to the Tribe, rather than to the city, might limit the park access the public currently enjoys.
Jones asked the council, mayor and staff if there were any comments they wanted to make before she attended the meeting.
“As much support as we can have from the community is important,” said Rod Noel, Superintendent for Public Works.
If transferred to Oroville, Veterans’ Memorial would become part of the city’s existing park system and under Noel’s Parks Department.
“We need as many letters of support as we can get… which is something the chamber could probably work on,” added Noel.
Facing a severe budget shortfall Washington State threatened to close several of its parks, including the state park at Oroville. After listening to the concerns of those who benefit both through recreation and economically by these parks, the State Parks and Recreation Commission agreed to transfer 13 parks to other public entities. Oroville sought the park and it looked like they would take over operations, but threats of legal action over the commission’s transfer criteria by the Colville Confederated Tribes, who also wanted the park, led to a reversal of the Oct. 1, 2009 transfer decision in Oroville’s favor by the commission. In rescinding the transfer, the commission said it thought Okanogan County was under the Growth Management Act that requires Urban Growth Area designation. The park, which is adjacent to Oroville, is not within its official boundaries and even though the city has designated it part of the Urban Growth Area, the fact the county is not under GMA caused the commission to hold up transfer and go through the process of deciding between the city and the Tribe at a later date.
Much of land comprising Osoyoos Lake State Veterans’ Memorial Park was owned and operated as a park by Oroville’s American Legion Post and the city before being donated to the state to become a state park. Many people have expressed their belief it should be transferred back to the city, rather than the Tribe for this reason.