Improvements eyed in latest master plan
By Paul Wahl
Wallowa County Chieftain
Yurts are becoming wildly popular with campers across the nation. Wallowa Lake State Park has only one yurt.
It could eventually have several.
Yurts –– essentially circular cabins –– are one of dozens of improvements included in a master plan released Thursday in Joseph.
Other key features include a fenced dog park, a fueling station for boats, better garbage handling and more.
Don’t visit the park next summer and see all the improvements in place, cautioned J.R. Collier, who heads local operations for Oregon State Parks.
He and a number of presenters mentioned several times the master plan is in the concept phase and nothing is set in stone.
In addition, no specific funding has been identified for any of the improvements, according to David Stipe, Integrated Park Service manager for the state.
“What we’re looking at is mostly modest improvements within the properties to enhance visitor experience,” Stipe told a group of a dozen gathered Thursday evening at Joseph Community Center.
Two overarching impacts on the park in coming years are driving some of the suggested improvements.
A plan to restore the portion of the Wallowa River where it enters Wallowa Lake is under development. It would form several channels in a delta-type formation to allow for better fish breeding grounds and flood control.
That work would disrupt the existing layout of the park’s day use area, Stipe said. Trails and perhaps structures would have to be moved to accommodate the new channels.
A plan to repair Wallowa Lake Dam and allow the newly formed Wallowa Lake Irrigation District to take its full water allotment and raise the lake level for certain periods is also ongoing.
That would most likely impact the large parking lot adjacent to the marina, Stipe said. The master plan calls for changes to the lot that would accommodate higher lake levels and better utilization. The docks at the marina would also need to be moved further out into the lake, also included in the plan.
Wallowa County members of the state’s advisory committee were supportive of the park plans.
Rick Bombaci, who represents both Wallowa Resources and the Wallowa Mountains Hells Canyon Trails Association on the panel, said he was pleased the design included a boat-washing station.
“That makes sense as issues and regulations around transfer of noxious species –– both plants and animals –– is likely to increase,” Bombaci said.
He said improving access to the Eagle Cap wilderness for park visitors was also welcomed, although it likely wouldn’t involve significant alteration to the existing infrastructure.
James Monteith, who is also involved with a number of organizations that are part of the park, said he’s also generally pleased with the scope of the suggested improvements.
“It’s such a wonderful natural resource,” he said. “We need to do whatever we can to keep it that way.”
Wallowa County will eventually be asked to adopt the master plan into its county land use maps.
Commissioner Susan Roberts said she didn’t see any issues with moving forward.
“Of course, no money comes along with any of these items, so we have no idea when or if they will ever be developed,” she added.
Roberts said she is excited about the plan to create more river channels in the park because the area would once again resemble the park she visited as a child.
“Everything I saw on the review committee looks doable over time to make it easier for visitors to stay with us,” Roberts added.
The dog park is envisioned in the spot where the current fish-cleaning station sits. That would be moved to another area.
The fueling station is mentioned in many surveys of park users, Stipe said. Boat fuel is generally not available to the public in Enterprise or Joseph, which means a trip to Wallowa.
“Right now, we have a lot of people refueling with five-gallon cans over the water, which isn’t necessarily a clean safe way to do it,” said Collier.
Visiting bears have prompted concerns over better garbage handling in the park.
Collier said bear-proof receptacles have proven too difficult for the average camper to use. When they can’t get the can open, they simply leave the garbage beside it.
He is suggesting a centralized garbage facility with a compactor and the ability to improve recycling efforts at the park.
The plan also includes improvements at the Minam State Recreation Area and the day use facilities the state operates adjacent to Hwy. 82.
FOR COMPLETE DETAILS AND MAPS OF THE WALLOWA LAKE MASTER PLAN, VISIT WALLOWASTATEPARKSPLAN.COM