The La Grande Park & Recreation Department has been managing Morgan Lake Park since 1959. During this time the park has experienced an exponential increase in visitors having more diverse interests. There have been challenges for the park including littering, habitat destruction, and vandalism. For the last four years, the Parks & Recreation Department has initiated changes to mitigate some of these negative impacts and recently, the L.G. Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission was charged with creating a sustainable management plan.

A public hearing and comment period was completed in February, where the majority testifying wanted the Commission to consider a day use only plan along with a fire ban. Groups, such as the Optimist Club, who organize the fishing derby, would still be allowed to obtain a special event permit for camping similar to those permitted to camp at Pioneer Park for the Moonlight Softball Tournament.

The citizens, many who have visited the park for decades, voiced frustration with the denigration of the area from campers, including considerable litter, forest fire hazard from large campfires, and the exclusion of day users from portions of the lakefront used by campers, some of whom stay for up to a week. According to one Commissioner with young children, parents she has talked to have voiced their concerns about feeling unsafe with their children and have found drug paraphernalia around the shore; others would no longer camp with their kids because of the activity that occurs during the night. In addition, the majority of people other Commissioners talked to said they would use the area more if it was a day use park, particularly if the waterfront was restored, picnic areas improved and more accessible, and more family events were scheduled.

Closing the area to campers, night visitors, and eliminating fires could mitigate the majority of Morgan Lake Park’s problems but is a momentous change to the current management policy. Therefore, the Commission is hoping for significant input from the citizens of La Grande before proposing such a change to City Council.

Thus, the Commission will hold a public hearing at the City Hall on April 4, 2017 at 5:30pm at City Hall. Public comments are welcome by post, email, or phone to Stu Spence, Parks and Recreation Director at sspence@cityoflagrande.org or 541-962-1348 or 2402 Cedar Street in La Grande.