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'Woo hoo!' Oregon's state park system turns 100 in 2022

Brian Bull

Locals who love nature and historic places can mark 2022 as a year-long special occasion. That’s because it’s the centennial for Oregon state parks.

It all began with the creation of the Sarah Helmick State Recreation site near Monmouth in 1922. From that modest beginning, over 250 rock formations, lighthouses, and waterfalls have formed the state parks system.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Silver Falls State Park, Sublimity, Oregon.

“Woo hoo!” exclaimed Chris Havel, a spokesman for the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.  He said 2022 will see many events celebrating the restorative and calming magic of parks.

“Through wildfires and pandemics and everything else that sort of pummels us from side to side in everyday life, visits continue to be up over the last five, six, seven years, taking into account the weirdness that was 2020, as a brief interruption to that.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Wolf Creek Inn & Tavern, Wolf Creek, Oregon.

“But we’re on a steady climb, upward.”

Among the commemorative events is a year-long initiative to carry out 100 service projects.

Havel told KLCC this is to acknowledge a century’s worth of help from volunteers.

“Because we know people like to give back,” explained Havel.  “The parks aren’t just there to serve our needs.  Parks become what they are thanks to the generosity and tender loving care of the people who visit them, and the people who take care of them as part of their job. We all pitch in together to make the state park system work.”

Volunteer events will be posted on the OPRD website throughout 2022.  Besides volunteerism, legislation like the voter-approved Measure 66 have kept Oregon’s state parks maintained. That measure dedicates part of Oregon lottery revenue to the parks system.

One event already scheduled will be a community picnic at Sarah Helmick State Recreation Siteon State Parks Day, June 4th.

Copyright 2021, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.