By Laurelle Walsh
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission took a tour of Pearrygin Lake State Park on Friday morning (May 30), after meeting at Sun Mountain Lodge last week to tackle issues of statewide importance, starting with a work session on Wednesday followed by a public meeting on Thursday.
The State Parks Commission is a board of seven citizen volunteers appointed by the governor. The commission has regular meetings six times a year at pre-determined locations around the state.
The seven commissioners, along with Eastern Region Manager Tom Ernsberger, Communications Director Virginia Painter, and a handful of spouses, wrapped up their Methow Valley visit with “a day in the life of a park,” from the perspective of Pearrygin Lake State Park Manager Rick Lewis.
Although no official work was conducted during the Pearrygin visit, the commissioners were clearly interested in the workings of one of the state’s “flagship” parks, posing pointed questions, engaging in spirited discussion, and proposing at least one action item for future consideration.
The tour began at the west campground, where Lewis outlined the history of the park since its opening in 1965, with a focus on more recent changes such as the addition of the west campground in 2004.
The commissioners viewed the lingering damage from the 2011 Pearrygin Creek flood, which carved an 8-foot deep canyon, smothered several acres of the west campground with sandy debris, and diverted the creek’s course over the entry road. That campground will be closed the last three weeks of September in order to install a culvert and rebuild the road, Lewis told the commissioners.
Lewis highlighted recent land purchases across the lake from the developed areas that will allow continuation of the Rex Derr Trail past the group camp and along the western shore.
Commissioner Steve Milner from Lake Chelan, who lent a hand in the original construction of the Rex Derr Trail, wondered about the future of winter trails access for skiing and fat biking in the park. Lewis replied that the past two winters a few private enthusiasts have taken on the task of grooming trails in the park and adjacent Department of Fish and Wildlife Lloyd Ranch property “at no cost to the park.” And while spot-checking cars parked at the winter trailheads, park staff have found “100 percent compliance” with the Discover Pass, Lewis said.
Commissioner Milner, keenly interested in expanding winter access, said, “I sense that local merchants don’t feel completely confident telling visitors about the groomed trails here … It would be great if we [the commission] could come up with some policy to develop winter trails use here.”
After discussing park capacity and the possibility of expansion, and the benefits of establishing a “friends of the park” group, the tour moved to the east campground’s day-use area. There, Lewis described the volume of watercraft using the lake on busy summer weekends, and outlined the never-ending task of turf care and irrigation — a full-time job for one park employee.
Lewis pointed out that the day-use restroom is currently being remodeled to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and to upgrade the fixtures and roof.
Lewis said that the park store, formerly located near the boat ramp, had been torn down last fall after a park maintenance crew determined the 50-year-old building was unsafe.
“It was the perfect time to 86 the concessionaire,” Lewis said, in part because the Sedro-Woolley family that had been running the concession did not renew their lease, and because the park’s master plan calls for a road to run through that location, eventually connecting the two campgrounds. Ultimately a single entrance road will be constructed, unifying the two camping areas and creating one entrance for all park users, Lewis told the commissioners.