Veterans Memorial Park will be transferred to Oroville

OROVILLE – After once approving the transfer of Osoyoos Lake Veterans Memorial State Park to Oroville and rescinding their decision, the state Parks and Recreation Commission has again agreed the city would be the best stewards of the facility.

“Here’s a draft of the deed that just awaits the governor’s signature,” said City Clerk Kathy Jones, who traveled to Lakewood, Wash. to give a presentation on why Oroville would be the best entity to take over ownership and operation of the park.

Jones added that the transfer still has to be reviewed by City Attorney Mick Howe before it can be accepted, but the State Parks Department and the city hope the transfer can take place as soon as possible.

“We had some questions about some of the language in the transfer,” said Jones, who was aided in Oroville’s presentation at the public hearing by Chris Branch, Oroville’s Director of Community and Economic Development.

“We are working out the little details now, but the state would like us to take over as soon as possible,” Jones said.

Also joining Jones and Branch at the hearing were Mayor Chuck Spieth and Superintendent of Public Works Rod Noel, who will be responsible for the park as he heads up the city’s Parks Department. Arnie Marchand, a Colville Tribal Member, also testified on the city’s behalf.

Representatives of the Colville Confederated Tribe made their presentation asking for the park first and cited a move toward tourism as their wood products divisions were suffering in today’s economy. Marchand, however, in a letter to the Gazette-Tribune, had questioned the Tribes’ ability to take over the park after closing other recreational businesses they either owned or operated under contract.

The transfer process began because the state found itself in the middle of a budget crisis. The State Parks Department decided it would be shutting down 13 parks statewide to save money. Realizing closing Veterans Memorial would deal a crushing economic and recreational blow to the community, Oroville requested that the park be transferred to the city. The state began to work with several entities that wanted to take over management of the parks to be closed. The state asked for presentations from entities that wished to be considered for the transfers. In the case of Veterans Memorial, the Colville Confederated Tribe also asked to be considered.

After both Oroville and the Tribe made presentations last year, the Parks and Recreation Commission recommended the park be transferred to the city in October 2009. However, after the Tribe threatened to sue the state over the decision saying it had not followed it’s own criteria, the transfer was rescinded.

A Tribal attorney argued that the park could not be in Oroville’s Urban Growth Area, one point cited in the state’s original decision, because Okanogan County was not under the state’s Growth Management Act, which defines UGAs.

In making its presentation to the Parks and Recreation Commission, Oroville presented 50 letters of support and 943 signatures on letters of petition asking the park be returned to the City of Oroville, which along with the local American Legion Post had given the park to the state in the 1950s.

“Their letters and their signed petitions I feel had a very big impact on the decision. We had support from people from Oroville and around the state and Canada. We even had a letter from a 10-year-old,” said Jones.