By Dick Mason
Some students become lethargic during their senior year of high school.
Not Hailey Wiles of Elgin. Instead of shifting into park, she built a park.
A mini park with an exclamation mark. One that will never sleep.
The park is at Elgin's east entrance and exit on Highway 82. Wiles created it for her senior project.
Its features include an exit sign that reads Leaving Elgin, Come Again!, painted by Jon Hanley of
La Grande; a kiosk with points-of-interest signs; a wide range of flowers and shrubbery and more.
Wiles is nearly finished. All she needs to do is add electric lights for both signs, and a drip watering
Civic pride prompted Wiles to take on an exceptionally challenging senior project.
"I wanted to make a good impression for our town. I want people passing through our town to think, Wow!, that looks nice,''' Wiles said.
Prior to Wiles' work, the site, owned by the City of Elgin, consisted of a plot of trees and flowers and a sign welcoming people to Elgin. The site was maintained by Elgin High School's Future Business Leaders of America chapter. Wiles, a member of the chapter, was among those who helped water its trees and shrubs.
"It was not noticeable,'' Wiles said. "One day I was working down there and I said to myself, I want more to happen here.' I wanted to do something with it.''
The points-of-interest signs at the kiosk contain photographs and descriptions of area attractions including Tom McDowell Park, the Elgin Community Center, the Elgin Opera House, Jubilee Lake, Lookingglass Fish Hatchery and Spout Springs Ski Resort. Descriptions of annual events like Riverfest and the Elgin Stampede are included.
"A lot of people don't realize how much there is in Elgin,'' Wiles said.
She wants people to realize that Elgin is more than a town people pass through while driving to the Wallowas or Spout Springs.
The points-of-interest signs also have historical information. For example, one passage states that Elgin was known as Lochow to Native Americans, which means "Lovely Little Forest.''
The signs are made from brochures first created by Tosh Connor and then modified for display at the kiosk by David Yerges of the Mitre's Touch Gallery.
Wiles hopes that things like the kiosk will help Elgin's economy.
"There's a saying, When they stop they shop,'" said Wiles, the daughter of Bob and Therese Wiles.
Wiles received help from many professionals who volunteered to help with the project. They did things like install wiring, dig trenches and more things that nobody could do alone.
"I learned that to get things done, I had to reach out to other people and count on them,'' Wiles said.
She can't say enough about the help she received.
"Everyone was there for me,'' Wiles said.
Coordinating work was tricky because often one task could not be done until another was completed.
"Timing was huge,'' Wiles said.
Coordinating the project has made for a roller-coaster spring in terms of stress.
"The whole thing is timing. There would be stress points, and then things would release,'' Wiles said.
This fall the EHS graduate will attend Boise State University where she will study business management. Her park will be maintained by EHS's FBLA chapter.