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Lava Beds deserves to be a national park; keep pushing for it

Herald and News by Pat Bushey 4/16/17

Lava Beds National Monument’s unique combination of fire-formed landscape and human history builds a strong case for trading the “monument” part of its title for “national park.”

The monument occupies 46,000 acres of mostly wilderness-designated rugged lava land about 30 miles south of Klamath Falls in California near two wildlife refuges next to Tulelake.

It has a lot to offer visitors in addition to the visual impact of the frozen waves of craggy “aa” — the Hawaiian name for lava, which monument signs explain. The area’s history includes the 1882-83 Modoc War between the Modoc Tribe and government forces, which ended with the forced exile of Modocs to Oklahoma and execution by hanging of four Modoc leaders.

The conflict came after a period of contentious relations between Modocs and settlers. The Modocs were forced by the government to leave land desired by settlers and go to the Klamath Tribe’s reservation. The two tribes were long-time enemies, which led the Modocs to leave.

There’s a lot more than that to the history, as signs and other displays at the Lava Beds show.

Another major part of the Lava Beds’ story is its 500,000-year volcanic history and how its 700 or so lava tube caves came into being.

In short, the area has attractions that would draw more visitors, if they knew the attractions existed.

The national park designation carries a cachet with it that’s as a seal of approval. It tells people, “There’s something special here. Get here if you can.”

The more visitors, the bigger the economic bump.

So the effort to move the Lava Beds up a notch is more than welcome.

It was the subject of a gathering last week at the monument that included representatives of Rep. Doug LaMalfa and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, both from California.

We hope the interest continues and support spreads to Oregon members of Congress, since the economic benefit would cross state lines, especially since Klamath County’s Crater Lake National Park is within easy driving distance. Why see just one national park when you can see two on the same trip? Oregon members of Congress should be willing to help.

The National Park Service is also adding another historical aspect to the local area with development of the Tule Lake Unit of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, which is being administered by personnel at the Lava Beds. It will include remnants of the Tule Lake Segregation Center and Camp Tulelake, in which Japanese Americans were forcibly interned after World War II began. Learning this part of the nation’s history will be another good reason for visitors to come to the area.

Jim Chadderdon, executive director of Discover Klamath Visitor & Convention Bureau, told congressional aides and others attending last week’s meeting that becoming a national park could increase direct annual revenues between $23 million and $32.6 million a year and indirect revenue between $117.5 million and $163 million.

As he pointed out, this is “pretty big money.”

It also won’t come unless local officials and others in the area continue to push for it. Don’t let it grow cold.


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