Southeast Washington park to reopen under State Parks banner this spring
OLYMPIA – Jan. 12, 2015 – The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) have signed a lease that transfers management of a popular park site at Lyons Ferry back to the State Park system, with capital improvements in the works.
The lease agreement and plans for opening are the result of work by Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, to expand park service in Southeast Washington. State Parks and the Corps have been working together on the details since last year and plan an opening celebration at the site on June 5, 2015.
Lyons Ferry State Park, owned by the Corps, is in Franklin County near Starbuck. Lyons Ferry was managed under a lease with Washington State Parks for many years, until 2002. At the time, landowners who had been relying on State Parks to operate their properties were not able to help cover operating costs.
Since the state lease cancellation, the Corps has signed leases with other entities to operate on the property, and a dedicated group of volunteers from the nearby community of Starbuck have helped oversee operations at the location. However, resources did not prove adequate to keep the park open.
“After the state gave up the Lyons Ferry park more than a decade ago, I never lost hope that someday we could find the funding to reopen it—and someday turned out to be 2013,” said Schoesler, who secured $600,000 in the Legislature 2013 capital budget to put toward bringing the park up to standards. “Seeing Lyons Ferry open again is not only personal, but it’s great news for our part of Washington and good news for those of us who value our state parks.”
“We’re very excited to be able to enhance park and recreation services in Southeast Washington,” said Don Hoch, State Parks director. “With Senator Schoesler’s support, we’re beginning work on needed improvements, and with the continued help of the community that has helped care for the park, we’re going to be able to provide a great recreation experience again at Lyons Ferry. People who visit the park will enjoy a unique and beautiful area of our state. Visitors share their excitement and generate business, and that can be a real boost to regional tourism.”
“The Corps is pleased to have the State of Washington resume their operation of Lyons Ferry State Park. We are also impressed by the State’s commitment to upgrading the facilities in this park,” said Walla Walla Corps District Commander Lt. Col. Timothy Vail. “The Corps of Engineers has worked hard to keep this historic park from permanently closing due to reduced federal funding for recreation. Now, Lyons Ferry Park will once again serve as a premier regional destination near Palouse Falls.”
“Recreation is a big part of the region’s economy. Visitors to Lyons Ferry park will buy food, drinks, gas, bait, fishing equipment, boating accessories and other supplies from nearby businesses while they’re here,” Vail added. “We anticipate that the State’s investment in Lyons Ferry Park will result in thousands of additional visitors to this park each year.”
The lease agreement applies to the developed areas of the Corps-owned property. State parks will operate the day-use area, restroom and swim beach, as well as the watercraft launch area. The park will have an administrative area and two residences on site. No overnight camping is planned at this time.
Capital improvements include a new restroom with shower facilities near the boat launch, recently installed by the Corps. The $600,000 legislative allocation will be used by State Parks to remodel a previously existing bathhouse, improve the parking lot and water system, as well as to provide minor boat launch dock maintenance and make irrigation system repairs. State Parks expects to have all upgrades completed by mid-May, in time for the June opening.
Once open, the park will be staffed seasonally with a park ranger and park aides. State Parks hopes to continue working with area volunteers to help oversee the operation. Hours at the park will be 6:30 a.m. to dusk, Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, with the possibility of extending the boat launch opening into the fall.
The Corps began construction on Lyons Ferry Park in 1969 and originally leased it to the state in June 1971. It was named for the Lyons ferryboat that was operated by local resident Dan Lyons and used in the area for more than 100 years. The ferry was one of the few operated by river current and originally crossed the Snake River to connect to the Mullen Road, which was constructed in 1858. The ferry is berthed at the park.
State Parks is planning interpretive events to showcase the park’s history and the natural features and history of the area.
About Washington State Parks
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission manages more than 100 state parks and properties totaling approximately 120,000 acres. The Commission provides a variety of recreation opportunities for citizens and provides stewardship protection for a diverse array of natural, cultural and historic resources. State Parks’ statewide programs include long-distance trails, boating safety and winter recreation.
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Virginia Painter, State Parks: (360) 902-8562
Gina Baltrusch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: (509) 527-7018
Wash. Telecommunications Relay Service: (800) 833-6388