of change: Congressional aides visit Lava Beds
LEE JUILLERAT, Herald and News 4/13/17,
"...a second meeting is planned for
2 p.m., May 10, again beginning at the Tulelake-Butte Valley Fairgrounds office
in Tulelake, with a longer tour of Lava Beds, possibly including
a cave visit..."
LAVA BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT — Groups hoping they’ll need a new
sign at the Lava Beds National Monument Visitor Center took a
step forward in ongoing efforts to rally Congressional support
for having Lava Beds redesignated as a national park.
“Gather around the Lava Beds sign, but block out the ‘national
monument’ part,” joked Patrick Taylor, Lava Beds chief
interpreter, when the 20 people touring the park this week
gathered for a group photo.
Included in the group were Shane Starr, district representative
for California Rep. Doug LaMalfa, whose Congressional district
includes Lava Beds, and Tom Paulino, field representative for
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, it was a first-ever visit to
Lava Beds. They were joined by tourism officials and business
leaders from Siskiyou, Modoc and Klamath counties. A growing
coalition of groups are increasing efforts to designate Lava
Beds as a national park, a change that requires Congressional
During discussions at the Tulelake-Butte Valley Fairgrounds
before the bus tour, Jim Chadderdon, the Discover Klamath
Visitor & Convention Bureau’s executive director, said economic
studies indicate the status change would increase regional
visitation. He said projected annual revenues could increase
between $23 million and $32.6 million in new direct spending to
surrounding communities and increase between $117.5 million and
$163 million in “recirculated/secondary” spending.
“For these rural areas this is pretty big money. It’s going to
be a welcome addition to see those dollars flowing into our
communities,” Chadderdon said. The increases, he explained,
would because increased numbers of visitors would likewise
increase overnight lodging, food and beverages, gasoline sales
and other expenses.
Others, including Tulelake Mayor Hank Ebinger, also cited the
economic benefits. “Tulelake is working hard to reinvent
itself,” Ebinger said. “We’re a typical little farm town in
decline .... The park designation is really important for us.”
Elizabeth Norton, president of the Volcanic Legacy Community
Partnership, emphasized her belief that Lava Beds “meets all the
natural, cultural and historic criteria for designation as our
nation’s 60th national park.”
Norton said she and other regional tourism and business
representatives met with Congressional representatives last June
to discuss steps necessary to have Lava Beds redesignated. At
their urging, groups supporting the change have been sending in
letters of support and other requested information. “It’s been
really positive,” she said of support from regional communities.
Norton said a second meeting is planned for 2 p.m., May 10,
again beginning at the Tulelake-Butte Valley Fairgrounds office
in Tulelake, with a longer tour of Lava Beds, possibly including
a cave visit.
She said a larger delegation of supporters is expected at the
May gathering, possibly including people who attended Tuesday’s
gathering and others from the Oklahoma Modoc and Klamath Tribes,
Oregon state Sen. Dennis Linthicum and state Rep. E. Werner
Reschke, staff representatives for Oregon senators Ron Wyden and
Jeff Merkley and Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, along with Modoc and
Siskiyou county supervisors. Norton said it’s hoped staff for
California Sen. Kamala Harris, who took office in January, will
also attend the May tour.
History and geology
Following the tour, which included a brief stop at the
Petroglyphs, with its concentration of easily viewed rock
carvings, and bus views of the Peninsula, Captain Jack’s
Stronghold, the Canby Cross, the Devil’s Homestead lava flow and
the Thomas-Wright Battlefield/Black Crater trailhead, the group
stopped at the visitor center. Most visited nearby Mushpot Cave,
the park’s only lighted lava tube cave. Lava Beds has nearly 800
caves, some with trails created by the Civilian Conservation
Corps in the 1930s and ‘40s, but most remain undeveloped.
Both Starr and Paulino, who had never previously visited Lava
Beds, said they were surprised by the natural landscape and
rugged beauty, following the short tour.
“My impression of today is this is absolutely stunning,” Paulino
said. “This has been an incredible day.”
“Today has been a fabulous day,” echoed Starr. “It has been a
great opportunity to see the area.”
Both said they will report back to “their bosses,” Feinstein and
LaMalfa, but made no promises. Both cautioned that even if
LaMalfa and Feinstein support the redesignation, Congress
typically moves slowly and deliberately.
“We’ll definitely keep in touch on the next steps,” Paulino
“We have a lot of work to do,” Starr agreed.
ahead for Lava Beds
LAVA BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT — It's
not a matter of if, but when.
Whether or not Lava Beds National
Monument eventually becomes a national park, changes to
handle increasing numbers of visitors are in the planning
Lava Beds Supt. Larry Whalon, who
joined Tuesday afternoon's Lava Beds tour, said he and park
staff are studying changes to deal with increased
visitation. He emphasized he and park staff cannot comment
on whether they support redesignating Lava Beds as a
Whalon said Lava Beds is at about 80
percent capacity for visitors, citing use at Indian Well
campground and the number of people visiting the park's most
accessible lava tube caves. Even if the monument designation
remains, he said park officials are looking at possibly
adding camping sites, including RV spaces, and increasing
the number of featured caves and trails to help disperse
If Lava Beds becomes a national park,
which is expected to significantly increase annual
visitation, Whalon said changes would give the park "more of
a destination feel." A goal of the changes, both at the park
and in neighboring communities, would be "to keep people in
the area." Studies indicate increased visitation would
benefit the park through increased revenue from entrance and
camping fees and retail sales at the visitor center.
Whalon emphasized Lava Beds officials
want and intend to keep close cooperative relations with its
"neighbors," the Modoc National Forest and U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service. "I want us to be still able to work with
those other units."
He also stressed Lava Beds, whether
designated as a national monument or national park, will
retain its feeling as a place where its natural landscape is
combined with its human history.
"We're not trying to become Crater
Lake or Lassen Volcanic national parks," Whalon insisted.
"We're Lava Beds."
Increased visitation numbers
A tri-county area that includes
Klamath, Modoc and Siskiyou counties could see increased
visitation and significantly more tourism-related dollars,
according to a Lava Beds National Monument Redesignation
The report was made by Jim Chadderdon,
Discover Klamath & Convention Bureau executive director, at
the Tulelake-Butte Valley Fairgrounds before a Tuesday tour
of Lava Beds National Monument.
Chadderdon said the report says
redesignating Lava Beds as a national park would create
increased visits from people already going to Lassen
Volcanic National Park, about a 2-1/2 hour drive from Lava
Beds, and Crater Lake National Park, about a 1-1/2 hour
Based on National Park Service
figures, Lava Beds had about 124,100 visitors in 2015, which
created a $4.9 million economic impact. The study predicts
Lava Beds would have upward of 12,400 to 24,000 additional
annual visits. If Lava Beds is redesignated, the report
predicts that two years projected annual revenue increases
to the park would be expected to be between $588,700 to
The projected annual increase to local
communities from increased visitor spending, according to
the report, would be between $23 million and $32.6 million
in direct spending and between $117.5 million and $163
million in "recirculated/secondary dollars."
"Five percent of existing visitors to
other (nearby) national parks will now stay one extra night
and spend the average daily spending level ($118 per person
per day) because there is a new national park attraction
nearby," according to the report.
Chadderdon said the report is based on
a 2015 National Park Service study; "Oregon Travel Impacts"
by Dean Runyon & Associates; Travel Oregon; internal Lava
Beds records; internal data from Travel Southern Oregon,
Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association and Discover Klamath;
and 2015 Oregon Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of
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