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Work group finishes first set of meetings for managing Bates State Park and pond

Sept. 16, 2016

Canyon City OR -- A stakeholder's work group discussing the future of Bates State Park and Bates Pond completed the third of three scheduled meetings Sept. 15 in Canyon City. The group reviewed six proposed options to modify the pond as a way to improve fish habitat, but did not reach a consensus about a recommendation to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD).

Agency staff will review the results of the discussion in the coming months, and then reconvene the group in spring 2017 to resume the conversation. The group's results will go to senior OPRD managers. Oregon Consensus, part of the National Policy Consensus Center in the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University, facilitated the group's work.

The 131-acre park, near Austin Junction at the confluence of Bridge Creek and the Middle Fork of the John Day River, opened in 2011 and includes a 28-site campground, camping for hikers and bicyclists, short trails, and a small pond on Bridge Creek. Debate over the best management approach for the old mill pond, and especially balancing recreation with the pond's effects on water quality and fish passage, in part prompted OPRD to convene the group. The group's members included:

* Local landowners Pat Voigt and Melanie Dejong
* Friends of Bates State Park
* Native Fish Society
* North Fork John Day Watershed Council
* Grant County Court
* Grant County Soil and Water Conservation District
* Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
* Warm Springs Tribe
* Department of Environmental Quality
* Department of Fish and Wildlife
* Parks and Recreation Department
* Water Resources Department
* National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
* U.S. Forest Service
* U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Department managers, including Clyde Holliday Park Manager Dennis Bradley and agency Director Lisa Sumption, will consider any recommendations made next spring and develop a plan to implement them.

"We know the pond is important as both a historical reminder of the Bates Mill, and as a recreation feature of the park," said Park Development Manager Scott Nebeker, who represented the OPRD executive team on the work group. "Balancing these facts with the need to improve water quality and fish habitat is a challenge, and we're thankful the stakeholder group came together to work through this openly. We expect the group will be able to develop an alternative when they convene again."

The park currently serves around 20,000 day visitors and provides 1,600 camper nights a year. A camper night is equal to one camper spending one night in a state park.