By Laurelle Walsh
Pearrygin Lake State Park was expected to re-open today (Aug. 6), after the second fire-related closure in as many weeks, according to Park Manager Rick Lewis.
Both campgrounds were evacuated and the park was closed on Friday (Aug. 1), when the county issued a Level 2 evacuation notice for the area, and “we couldn’t guarantee the fire in the Pearrygin Creek/Ramsey Peak area wasn’t going to run down hill,” Lewis said.
Air operations had been diverted from the fire above Pearrygin to the swiftly moving Rising Eagle Road Fire across the valley, and air tankers and helicopters with water buckets were making frequent refills at the lake, necessitating closure of the lake to recreational boaters and swimmers.
When Lewis was called away to evacuate his own home in Twin Lakes, at Level 3 evacuation due to the Rising Eagle Road Fire, Assistant Ranger Bryan Alexander took over and managed the park’s closure.
While they couldn’t have known it on Friday, emptying the campgrounds most likely prevented property damage and injuries from the powerful storm cell that moved through the area on Saturday (Aug. 2), Lewis said.
“Twelve trees came down in the windstorm and we’ll be taking out more that were compromised by the ones that fell,” said Lewis.
In the west campground, one tree came down over a power line, shutting off power to the campground and necessitating replacement of the stretched line.
More trees fell in the east campground. “We would have lost somebody’s RV and somebody would have been injured” when several Russian olives and a weeping willow fell on site 36, Lewis said.
The Eastern Region Arbor Crew out of Wenatchee was felling, cutting and chipping the downed trees at the park on Monday.
In other park news, due to a new area management model for Washington State Parks operations, Lewis has been named area manager for the new Okanogan Highlands Park Management Area. Conconully State Park’s former park manager Ryan Layton has moved to Olympia, where he will act as region manager for the Southwest Region, Lewis said.
Lewis will now be managing Conconully State Park in addition to Pearrygin, he said.
Libby O’Daimhin is now lead administrator for the area and Alexander is now Pearrygin Lake Operations Manager, Lewis said. An operations manager will be hired to fill the same role at Conconully, he added.
The north end of the lake was open again for recreation on Tuesday, and would remain open as long as boaters stay away from helicopters refilling their buckets, said Dave Rodriguez, chief criminal deputy for Okanogan County.