Home Opinion Editorials Community spirit alive in MERA
Community spirit alive in MERA
The people of Union County wound up with more than a good thing last
year after they advised the county board of commissioners, by vote, to
purchase the land for the Mount Emily Recreation Area. The 6,000-acre
tract just a few miles north of La Grande has taken shape as a scenic
wonderland available to all outdoor recreationists, for all time.
Tons of junk left on the land over the years have been hauled away. Steps have been taken to protect wetlands and riparian areas. Trails for motorized and non-motorized use have been cleared, groomed and marked.
A campground and staging area have been constructed on the area’s western edge, and nearby is an ATV course built especially for young riders. More improvements will be made as time goes on.
Many people, volunteers and paid workers alike, have had a hand in the creation of MERA, and they all deserve applause. In a relatively short time, they’ve built a park that’s as fine as any in the state.
To recognize all the hard work, Union County recently sponsored an event to celebrate establishment of MERA in general, and more specifically, the completion of the campground.
It was noted that Forest Capital Partners, former owners of the land, pitched in with men and machines to build the roads through the campground, plus other features. The company didn’t charge a dime.
That’s one good example of the community spirit that’s made MERA possible. Yet another is the labor donated by volunteers to build the youth ATV riding area. That piece came to be thanks to the efforts of parents who wanted a safe place for their kids to learn how to ride.
Less tangibly but certainly not less importantly, the county’s MERA advisory committees, comprised mainly of volunteers, have devoted countless hours designing a master plan that will ensure MERA remains an asset valuable to all.
It’s frequently been noted that MERA was a grass-roots effort from the beginning, from those days when the Mt. Emily Recreation Coalition mobilized forces to keep the land from being sold to private developers.
Backed by a mandate from the voters, county government became the MERA’s sponsor, applying for and winning the $4.6 million Oregon Parks and Recreation Department ATV Program grant that paid the bulk of the purchase price. A grant from the Blue Mountain Habitat and Restoration Program did the rest.
A big team effort has yielded big results. The gates that would have locked us out never appeared, and Mount Emily, a better Mount Emily than before, is there for everyone to enjoy.