Upgrades and improvements completed at Southeast Washington day-use park
OLYMPIA – May 20, 2015 – The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) invite the public to a reopening celebration at Lyons Ferry State Park, along Highway 261 near Starbuck in Southeast Washington.
The opening event is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, June 5, at the day-use park, and participants are invited to bring along a lunch and make a day of it. The day will kick off with a speaker program featuring State Parks and Corps officials and tribal and community representatives, as well as remarks by special guest Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville. A new sign will be unveiled as part of the festivities.
Following the speaker program, visitors can hear music provided by local high school band and orchestra performers and also take in displays and programs offered by area historical groups and re-enactors. Tours of facilities and a walking tour to the site of the historic Lyons Ferry crossing will be available. At 2 p.m., local community members will present a special celebration of the 155th anniversary of the first crossing of the Lyons Ferry, which occurred on June 5, 1850. Event-goers can hear a re-reading of the 100th anniversary celebration speech delivered in 1950 by Dr. Herman Deutsch, Washington State University professor of history. Area community members connected to Lyons Ferry will share tales of the crossing, the ferry operator and the Mullen Road, which was crucial to the development of the Walla Walla area.
The reopening is made possible in part by Senator Schoesler, who worked to secure a 2013-15 appropriation of $600,000 to help State Parks make improvements at the site and re-enter a lease agreement with the Corps to once again manage Lyons Ferry as a state park. The state cancelled its lease on the Corps-owned property in 2002 as part of an operating budget reduction.
“Seeing Lyons Ferry reopen as a state park will be like greeting a friend you thought you might never see again. At the same time, the improvements will make it seem like a brand-new park,” said Schoesler, whose legislative district is bordered by the Snake River. “I am looking forward to taking part in this celebration, which will honor the historical significance of Lyons Ferry while introducing – or re-introducing – people to the recreational opportunities it offers today.”
“We’re very excited to be reopening Lyons Ferry as part of the state park system,” said Don Hoch, State Parks director. “It’s a beautiful natural setting, and with the upgrades and improvements at the site, we can offer a high-quality recreation experience that will bring people to the area and boost regional tourism. We also look forward to working with the community in this much-loved area.
“The Corps is pleased to have the State of Washington resume their operation of this historic park. As parks go, it’s a gem, with something to offer all types of outdoor recreation enthusiasts,” said Walla Walla Corps District Commander Lt. Col. Timothy Vail. “Recreation is a big part of the region’s economy. We anticipate that the State’s investment to make facilities improvements in Lyons Ferry Park will result in a significant annual increase in visitation. Recreation is a big part of the region’s economy. Visitors buy food, drinks, gas, bait, fishing equipment and boating accessories from local businesses.”
Capital improvements at the park include a new restroom with shower facilities near the boat launch, recently installed by the Corps. State Parks’ $600,000 legislative allocation was used to renovate a previously existing bathhouse, improve the parking lot, upgrade the domestic water system, improve the boat launch lane and dock and landscape the park.
The lease agreement between State Parks and the Corps applies to developed areas of the property. State Parks will operate the day-use area, restroom and swim beach as well as the watercraft launch area. The park will include an administrative area and two residences on site. The park will be staffed seasonally with a park ranger and park aides, and State Parks hopes to continue working with volunteers who have been involved in helping at the park. State Parks also has plans to provide interpretive opportunities to showcase the park’s history and the natural features and history of the area. 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. No overnight camping is planned at this time.
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.
June 5 event details:
11 a.m. – Festivities include speaker program and sign unveiling
11:45 a.m. – Tour upgraded facilities; enjoy music of local high school band and orchestra; meet local State Parks rangers and staff; enjoy displays and presentations by local historical societies and re-enactors; walking tour to the site of the historic Lyons Ferry crossing.
2:00 p.m. – Special celebration of the 155th anniversary of the first crossing of the Lyons Ferry. Hear re-reading of the 100th anniversary celebration presentation delivered in 1960 by WSU History Professor Dr. Herman Deutsch; hear stories about the ferry operator, the ferry crossing and the historic Mullen Road, which was important to the history and development of the Walla Walla 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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