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Mark Touhey, second from right, the City of La Grande‚Äôs parks and recreation director, talks to La Grande Rotary Club members about a development plan for Morgan Lake Park. The four men are at Morgan Lake Park looking at an aerial photo which has details of the development plan. The Rotary Club members are, left to right, Gordon Kohler, Lance Shoemaker and Colby Marshall, far right. The La Grande Rotary Club will assist with the development project. - Observer photos/DICK MASON
At the base of Morgan Lake Road is a large but inauspicious metal pipe sticking out several feet. Water from Morgan Lake once flowed through the pipe to a small hydroelectric plant, one that stopped operating many decades ago and burned down in 1963.
The pipe is a remnant of Morgan Lake’s past.
On the opposite end of the history spectrum is an aerial photo of Morgan Lake Park in the office of Mark Touhey, the City of La Grande’s parks and recreation director. The photo is a blueprint of the park’s future, for upon it are typed proposals for Morgan Lake Park’s development.
The proposals are intended to make Morgan Lake Park more inviting — except for those who like to go four-wheeling in the winter or conduct loud, wild parties there in the summer.
The plans Touhey has developed call for many things. Included are new campsites and restrooms, roadway construction, boat ramp improvements, the addition of fishing platforms, a winter gate and the addition of a campground host.
The last item is first in the mind of Touhey. He said the addition of a campground host would essentially kick off the Morgan Lake Park project.
“A key component to doing a lot of things in the grand scheme will be having a camp host,’’ Touhey said.
The camp host proposal must be approved by the La Grande City Council. Work will begin on a site for a camp host once city approval is received. The site would have an area large enough for a recreational vehicle, a concrete pad with a shade shelter and a wastewater holding site.
Touhey hopes to have the camp host site completed by the end of 2009 and possibly earlier. Once completed, the site would be where a host or hosts would live from late April through early September. They would likely receive a cell phone and a small stipend. Their stipend might be funded with revenue generated by a small fee that would be charged campground users.
The presence of a host would help greatly with management of the park, Touhey said. Hosts would be able to explain park rules, keep the restrooms and garbage can areas clean and prevent vandalism simply by always being around.
An aerial photo of Morgan Lake shows details of a plan for improving the park. - Observer photos/DICK MASON
“Just having a presence there would be big for us. They (the hosts) would be our eyes and ears,’’ Touhey said.
The role of a camp host would be invaluable because the parks department does not have the manpower needed to send someone up to check on Morgan Lake each day.
The presence of a camp host would prevent vandalism in the spring and summer, just as the installation of the winter gate would stop property damage in the colder part of the year. The gate would be locked in the winter to prevent people on four-wheelers from riding around Morgan Lake in the winter and causing significant damage.
Touhey emphasized that Morgan Lake would remain open in the winter but would be closed to motor vehicle traffic, under this portion of the plan, which also must be approved by the city council.
The projects Touhey wants to complete at Morgan Lake would cost $356,000. The City of La Grande has voted to provide $10,000 in start-up funding for the project. But most of the money will have to come from grants and donations of funds and in-kind services.
Those who will provide free assistance include the La Grande Rotary Club.
A crew from the Oregon Youth Authority‚Äôs RiverBend Facility work at Morgan Lake Park. The crew, which is helping with development projects at Morgan Lake, is being led by supervisor Rick Snyder, green shirt. - Observer photos/DICK MASON
“The club is committed to moving forward on the project,’’ said Colby Marshall of Rotary.
Marshall said that the project will go a long way toward enhancing usability and safety at Morgan Lake and make it easier to manage. He noted that Dave Koza, president of Rotary, is a strong supporter of the Morgan Lake project.
Support from service clubs such as Rotary will play an important role in the success of the Morgan Lake program. Touhey hopes to receive help from the Oregon Youth Authority’s RiverBend Youth Transition work crews, who are already assisting. Some Boy Scouts may complete Morgan Lake Park development work for their Eagle projects.
Touhey said the Morgan Development projects will take about five years to complete.