SPOKANE – A small delegation of representatives of Oroville travelled to Spokane last week to ask the state Parks and Recreation Commission to transfer Osoyoos Lake Veteran’s Memorial State park to the city.
The park was one of 13 the commission had slated for closure due to state budget shortfalls. However, the City of Oroville, as well as others, appealed to the board to let the town take over the park’s ownership and operation. The same response occurred in many of the areas near the other parks that were due to be closed and the commissioners agreed in several cases it would be better to turn the parks over to agencies and governments willing to take on the cost of operating them.
Oroville’s city council approved a resolution formally requesting the park be turned over to the city. The commissioners requested the city appear before them to present their cause at the regularly scheduled commissioners’ meeting. Representing Oroville were Mayor Chuck Spieth and Chris Branch, director of Community and Economic Development and Rod Noel, Superintendent of Public Works.
“We were one of many on their agenda,” said Branch. “Our presentation was considered, as was one put on by the Colville Tribe. They talked about luxury RV sites, a bigger dock with fuel and a floating stage. They also talked about the cultural connection with the sockeye salmon.”
Branch said the Tribes’ attorney also challenged the Park Commission’s set of criteria for consideration as to who the park should be transferred to.
“One of the criteria was that the park is in our stated urban growth area and this would give us first opportunity for the transfer,” said Branch, who spoke for the city and gave a short presentation on why the city should be given the park.
“Most of the reasons were included in the city’s resolution which also talked about the history of the park and how it was originally donated to the state by the city along with the American Legion,” he said.
The Parks Commissioners then went into executive session because of the challenge by the Tribe’s attorney.
“When they returned they voted to allow the Regional Director to proceed with the transfer to Oroville,” said Branch.
He added that at this point the city plans to take the park and run it for a year or two before considering any major changes.
“We will have our hands full, we would like to keep it on the state’s reservation system, but that might not be possible,” he said. “I am sure there will be areas where we will be able to save money over what it cost the state to run it. We have to make it pay for itself.”
One of the first things the city will do is annex the park grounds into the city. The state had approached the city about annexing in prior to the announcement of the park closures, but then the matter was dropped until the transfer could be resolved.
“I was very pleased with the decision to transfer the park to the city,” said Mayor Spieth. “They listened to the presentations of the Tribe and the city and decided to unanimously to vote for the transfer to the city. It was a good meeting.”
The mayor said he believes there are many ways the city can run the park at less cost than the state did.
“It is also close to our other city parks and I believe it makes a good match. I do not see any major hurdles and I believe the Parks Commission’s decision will be of benefit to the community,” the mayor said.
Decisions on camping fees and whether to drop the boat launch fee at the state park will be decided in the future.