Summer may be drawing to a close, but Hermiston boasts some of the nicest autumn weather you could ask for, as well as some beautiful multi-purpose parks in which to enjoy the warm weather.
Hermiston is home to 12 city parks that, combined, total 112 acres of land. The oldest parks in town are Newport, McKenzie and Belt, which were developed around 1950. The newest park, Riverfront Park, was developed in 2012. Hermiston averages about seven acres per 1,000 people, which is below the national average of about 10 acres per 1,000. But while Hermiston’s acreage per 1,000 is a bit on the low side, Hermiston Parks and Recreation Director Larry Fetter said that number will likely increase over time.
“We’re always looking for potential park property,” Fetter said.
Next year will be a big one for the Hermiston parks system. Fetter estimates that the Oxbow Trail will be open to the public by June. Although it will not be officially classified as a park, the trail is adjacent to Riverfront Park and could likely serve as the crown jewel in the city’s parks system. Oxbow Trail will be a 1.5 mile long paved multi-use recreation trail from Riverfront Park northward through Bureau of Outdoor Reclamation property.
The 12 city parks in Hermiston range in size from a corner lot-sized park up to the 40 acres of land that makes up Butte Park. Most of the them are neighborhood parks – meaning parks designed for the use of a neighborhood, but Riverfront Park and Butte Park are considered community parks – larger parks with plenty of parking and that often host community events. They’re designed to serve the entire population. McKenzie Park is sort of a hybrid – it’s technically a neighborhood park, but because of its central location, hosts its share of community events.
Fetter said the parks department has historically attempted to distribute the parks evenly throughout the city, but admits the east side is underserved when it comes to parks. Only three of the 12 parks are located east of Highway 395.
Each of the 12 parks is available for members of the public to reserve for private functions from April 1 to Oct. 31. The parks can be reserved for six-hour sessions from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. The cost is $40 for Hermiston residents, $50 for non-residents. The Rotary Cook Shack at McKenzie Park can also be rented at a cost of $40 plus $20 for use of the barbecue gas. Fetter said McKenzie Park is most often reserved by the public, but Butte Park gets the most overall use. Several of the parks have picnic shelters available, including Butte, Belt, McKenzie and Victory Square. Fetter said plans in the works to install a shelter at Riverfront, as well.
Fetter said the Parks and Recreation Department is always on the lookout for volunteers. One of its programs, Volunteers In Parks (VIP), allows individuals or organizations to adopt a park – or a portion of a park – and help with the upkeep. Fetter said those who take part in the program will typically have one or two work parties a year in which they pull weeds or plant flowers. Anyone interested in the VIP program should contact Fetter at 667-5018.