Legislators meet with Oroville representatives about State Park

OROVILLE – The state may be willing to transfer ownership of Osoyoos Lake Veterans State Park to Oroville rather than closing it, but the city still has its concerns.

“I’ve been to Olympia and talked to all the legislators about transferring the State Park to Oroville and our concerns and about not getting all the information we need,” said Chris Branch, Oroville’s Director of Economic Development.

Branch told the Oroville Council at their last meeting that the last person he talked with was Rep. Shelly Short, the Seventh District’s newest legislator.

“I was quite impressed… she called a meeting with the Director and the Regional Director of State Parks and Rep. Joel Kretz joined in on a conference call,” Branch said.

Branch learned that the state legislature is asking the Parks and Recreation Department to double the 10 percent ($10 million) reduction the governor had asked for to help the state meet its budget shortfall.

“They (State Parks) indicated they are willing to transfer all of the 47-acre park to the city with full ownership and all the equipment,” Branch said.

The Parks Director and Regional Director also told Branch their department was willing to commit to updating the restrooms and showers as had been planned before Parks and Recreation had made the decision to close the park.

“They are intent in us being successful with it,” Branch reported to the council. “Seems we have a pretty good opportunity with the State Park and what they offered us. It sounds like they covered a lot of the things we were concerned about.”

The Parks Department representatives told Branch that they would get the city more detailed information on the costs of running the park. So far they have told the city that it costs about $300,000 a year to run and brings in about $150,000 in revenue through camping fees. The city thinks they can do it for less, already having a parks department with a staff.

“They also said they would try to get us into their registration system. They couldn’t promise, but we have been concerned about how we would do registration for campers,” said Branch.

Rod Noel added that the Directors had offered to come and present a public meeting.

“They were very favorable toward the transfer and trying to keep the park open,” said Mayor Chuck Spieth, who sat in on some of the meetings.

“Much more so than the meeting we had on keeping the Oroville Driver’s License office open,” Branch said, adding, “I think we should review any additional information they get us and maybe by the next time we have a council meeting we will be able to arrange a public meeting with them.”

The Oroville park is one of 13 State Parks that has been slated to be close across Washington, including Fort Okanogan State Park near Brewster. The Parks and Recreation Department has said it would be willing to transfer both Osoyoos Lake Veterans Memorial and Fort Okanogan to local governments.