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The marina parking lot at Wallowa Lake was repaved in June. The upgrade was one of many around the lake and at Minam State Park. (Katy Nesbitt/The Observer)
Wallowa Lake is one of Oregon’s most visited state parks and the gem of the county. This summer, several upgrades are being made to make it even better.
The marina parking lot was repaved in June and the swimming area improved, said Park Manager Todd Honeywell.
“We took out bad pavement that would get flooded out every year, which is not good for the pavement or aesthetics.”
Honeywell said they redid most of the area in front of the marina store.
“We took out the old pavement that’s been there a long time and put in a nice, good pavement mix that will hopefully last a few years.”
He said some of the curbing was replaced that was falling away toward the lake and the lane to the boat launch was repaved as well.
The swim area, adjacent to the marina, is also getting some much needed work.
“You see the lake as soon as you come around the corner (toward the marina),” Honeywell said. “So, we are making it look nicer and providing more grass and picnicking space. We cleaned up the swim area and made that look better and cleaned up the view.”
In addition, Honeywell said they added a disability access ramp onto the sidewalk toward the swimming area parking lot.
Honeywell said new interpretive panels were installed — one tells visitors about the wildlife and advises to not feed them, something that is a problem at Wallowa Lake.
“The deer get habituated to people — when they see a car they go over to it,” Honeywell said. “If we can get the word out they are killing the deer by feeding them it will be a big help.”
The other panel is about kokanee, a unique feature of Wallowa Lake. In the fall they can be seen spawning in the ribbons of the Wallowa River as they feed into the lake.
A few other small projects are underway down at the Minam State Park on the Wallowa River. Honeywell said fence work is being constructed to keep cattle out of the park and campground. A new liner was installed in the water tank and a solar-powered pump installed that Honewell said is working really well.
Two years ago the state bought a small parcel of land between the Minam boat launch and the rest of the park where a raft rental business was run. Grant and Lottie Richie leased the land and the building from the state until they moved their business across the river this year.
“We have some archeologists doing some testing to ensure that we are protecting that area, especially since we now own that property,” Honeywell said.
Parking spaces were added and the park plans to add interpretive and “way finding” panels.
The old store, which was most recently used to rent rafts, had renovations this spring and summer.
“We did quite a bit of work on the siding, doors, electrical, windows and insulation and we are trying to get that looking a little better,” Honeywell said.
There are also plans to work on the roof and interior this summer and eventually replace the walls, lighting and flooring.
Honeywell said now that there is no longer a business being run out of the building, the plan is to provide a visitor or ranger station.
“I think it’s great to get out and see those little parks like Minam — most people know about Wallowa Lake whether they’ve been here or not — but people forget about Minam. It’s one of the little parks that are around this area that are great for a day trip or a get away because it’s close to conveniences and a little more protected,” Honeywell said.
Besides capital improvements, Honeywell and his staff are changing up some of their programming. “Let’s Go Camping” was started a few years ago to get people who have never camped, but don’t have all the gear, an opportunity to try it out.
“They show up, bring some food and we show them how to cook and set up a tent. We provide tents and sleeping bags and give demonstrations,” Honeywell said.
“Let’s Go Camping” inspired other programs like “Let’s Go Hiking” or “Let’s Go Canoeing.”
“We are adding in all those different types of outdoor activities that people might enjoy,” Honeywell said.
“These are for the local people, too. It’s not just for the tourists. Come on up in September and October and enjoy the park and see some of our presentations like Art in the Park. We are trying to get the word out there that it’s not just for people from out of the area.”