BATES - The opening ceremony for the new Bates State Park is set for 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday, Sept. 20, at the park, off Highway 7 about one mile north of Highway 26 at Austin Junction.
The ceremony will feature local and state officials, and Oregon’s poet laureate, Paulann Peterson, will read a poem written for the occasion.
The public is invited, and the event is expected to draw many former Bates residents and members of the Friends of Bates State Park.
The park is the newest state park, and the eighth to be opened by Oregon Parks and Recreation (OPRD) since 2004.
It is the site of a former lumber mill that operated for nearly 60 years. The 131-acre property, nestled along the Middle Fork of the John Day River, sits adjacent to the former Bates company townsite, home to about 400 families at its peak.
By 1975, when a new mill was built in nearby John Day, the Bates mill was shut down and the town gradually disappeared. The mill pond, the last vestige of that era, remains a central feature of the park.
The nonprofit Friends of Bates State Park worked for many years to promote the property’s preservation as a park. OPRD purchased the property from Grant County for $407,000 in 2008 using lottery funds designated for property acquisition, and has so far spent about $900,000 to open the park. Park development is funded by dedicated lottery and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund through a $275,000 matching grant.
The site has also benefited from a $119,000 grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board to the North Fork John Day Watershed Council. The grant helped fund the first phase of restoration work on the floodplain near the confluence of Bridge Creek and the Middle Fork of the John Day River. Substantial work to restore native plants is already planned for this fall, and will involve planting more than 4,000 trees and shrubs. The department is not funded by state taxes.
The park opens with 28 sites in a primitive campground designed for tents and self-contained RVs. Potable water is available. A six-site hiker/biker camp also opens for riders cycling the popular TransAmerica Bicycle trail. The day-use area has a picnic shelter, vault toilet and more than three miles of hiking trails. The first-come, first-served campground, as well as the rest of the park, will be open May-October (depending on the weather). Day use entry to the park is free.