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The Observer paper 12/26/14

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Viewing opportunities elevated at wetlands

Mounted on concrete pillars, the platform and walkway stand over a portion of Ladd Marsh at the Tule Lake Public Access area.  DICK MASON/The Observer
Mounted on concrete pillars, the platform and walkway stand over a portion of Ladd Marsh at the Tule Lake Public Access area. DICK MASON/The Observer
Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area bird watchers are in for a treat.

A new wooden viewing platform and walkway is giving visitors a bird’s-eye view of the Tule Lake Public Access Area of Ladd Marsh, 1.25 miles north of Highway 203 on Peach Road.

The platform and walkway, mounted on concrete pillars, stand over a over a portion of Ladd Marsh, which is now an expansive sheet of ice. The area under the platform and walkway is almost impossible to walk through without ice skates or cleats. It is equally difficult to get through in the spring and summer when people have to slosh through thick mud and vegetation.

Ladd Marsh visitors, however, can comfortably reach and stand over the site year round.

“When you walk out over it, you get a bird’s-eye view of the wetland habitat,’’ said Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Biologist Cathy Nowak.

The wooden ramp leading to the platform is flat and handicapped accessible. The ramp is wide enough at one point for two wheelchairs going in opposite directions to pass one another.

“It (the platform and walkway) allows people with limited mobility to experience the wetlands up close,’’ said Dave Larson, manager of the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area.

The platform is 10 by 10 feet and three-fourths of it is covered by a roof. This allows visitors to look up and see birds but also be protected from the elements, Nowak said.

The platform and its ramp was built with donations from the the Oregon Hunters Association Memorial Fund, the Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation, the Don Miller Fund, the ODFW and Bill Brown, a retired supervisor of the ODFW’s Northeast Region. Brown played an instrumental role in founding the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area more than five decades ago.

The platform was also constructed with assistance from the Anderson Perry & Associates and La Grande Rotary, which helped coordinate the project. Jason Peterson of La Grande also assisted, doing engineering work.

A sign with the names of those who donated funds for construction of the platform and its walkway will be put up later.

Hanging Rock Construction of La Grande built the platform.

The platform is on the north end of the auto route at the Tule Lake Public Access Area. People can drive right up to the walkway when the Tule Lake auto route is open from March 1 through Sept. 30.

People can now access the platform by walking about 75 yards east of Peach Road on days when the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area is open for hunting — Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays and state recognized holidays though Jan. 31.

The number of birds people can see at Ladd Marsh is limited because so much of it is frozen. It will become a haven for bird watchers by April and May when many shore birds including stilts and avocets arrive to nest or to make migration stops.



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