Out of My Mind, Jan. 12, 2012

Whistler Canyon is a popular hiking and horseback trail that the county helped to develop with help from the Backcountry Horsemen, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Whistler Canyon is a popular hiking and horseback trail that the county helped to develop with help from the Backcountry Horsemen, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Your chance to guide the county’s recreation plan

Turnout for the Okanogan County Recreation Plan meeting last Wednesday in Oroville was rather disappointing. However, the information gathered in the recreation survey was very interesting from many perspectives.

As a member of the press, a Chamber of Commerce Board member and as someone who enjoys many of the recreational opportunities this county has to offer I think we need to encourage the county to do all it can, with the limited money it has, to enhance the recreation possibilities it offers. The natural beauty of our area is the one constant we have to offer both the people who live here and those that come to recreate here, leaving some of their dollars behind.

That beauty stays with us whether the regional economy is good or bad and perhaps when things are hardest is when we start to benefit the most. When times are tough people who live near here enjoy “staycations” and rather than traveling out of the state or even out the country with their vacation dollars. They spend their money closer to home – in places where their dollars go further.

It came as no surprise when Okanogan County Outdoor Recreation Coordinator Ted Murray said that hiking and walking on trails was the most popular activity, according to the recreation survey. Here in the north part of the county we benefit greatly from the work the county and volunteers have done on the Similkameen River Trail and the Whistler Canyon Trail. There is also a trail that starts in Winthrop and follows the river and a park that is very popular. Hopefully the county will be able to expand its trail system to the benefit of all who live here and those that visit. Working with the state to add a bridge to Driscol Island south of Oroville would also enhance the trail system in the area. Other potential trails discussed might go north from Oroville toward Veranda Beach Resort and the possibility of constructing a bridge from Oroville’s Veterans Memorial Park to existing public trails at Sundalia. Anything that would attract people to the community, especially trails that connect directly with town like the Similkameen River Trail, could be of economic benefit.

Of course, an indoor swimming pool, a dream of the Tonasket community, was also high on the list for those who filled out the online survey. The top four answers were Hiking and Walking Tails, Pleasure Driving, Swimming and Picnicking. Farmers Markets also did well across the county.

The highest number of surveys were returned from the Methow, with Oroville second. Several Oroville kids under 18 also returned surveys in the three days leading up to the Oroville meeting. A skatepark was high on the Oroville kids’ list. The top three responses about the needed facilities were pretty evenly divided between Nature and Interpretive Areas, and Indoor Pool and Picnic Areas, according to Murray. The recent traffic jam of birders trying to get a glimpse of the Ross’s Gull at Palmer Lake is testament to the draw that wildlife can have to our area.

Time is running short on your ability to fill out a survey, but there is still a little time left. To make your voice known and to guide the county on how their limited recreational funds should be spent, go to the county’s website: www.okanogancounty.org.

About Gary DeVon

Gary DeVon is the managing editor of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and celebrated his 25th year at the newspaper in August 2012. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Communications - Print Journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a proud alumnus of Oroville High School. His family first settled in Okanogan County in the late 1800s. His parents are Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He has a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.

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