Deal provides volunteer parking, science studies for area students

A bulldozer moves dirt Friday north of the Umatilla River while creating high school practice field that will also serve as additional parking during the Pendleton Round-Up.<BR><I>Staff photo by E.J. Harris</I>

The Pendleton Round-Up Association's new volunteer parking lot, is much more than a parking lot - or will be.

Hixon Construction of Cold Springs is filling and leveling the property at 1798 N.W. Carden Ave., just east of Bedford Bridge.

Carl Culham, Round-Up publicity director, said the association bought the property from George Bonbright last year.

Round-Up Security Director John Trumbo is organizing a golf-cart shuttle to carry volunteers to and from the Round-Up. During the remainder of the year, the Pendleton School District plans to use the property for a variety of things. It is directly across Northwest Carden Avenue from Pendleton High School.

"After this Round-Up, the school district wants to come in there and plant some grass, use it for a practice soccer field," Trumbo said. "This has been a real collaboration with the school district, the city and the Round-Up Association."

Trumbo, who's also the Round-Up's project manager for the volunteer parking lot, said the 4.77 acres Bonbright sold the association should accommodate 150 to 200 vehicles.

"Really, all the Round-Up wanted it for was parking during Round-Up," Trumbo said. "The citizens are going to benefit 51 weeks out of the year."

The city of Pendleton owns the lower 1.87 acres, which abut the Umatilla River.

Bob Patterson, Pendleton public works director, said the Planning Commission approved a conditional-use permit in May, allowing the parking area that also will be used as a multipurpose park, athletic field and student learning area.

Patterson said the property is zoned high-density residential, which allows school parking, but not Round-Up parking. That's why the partners needed a conditional-use permit.

"From the city's perspective, they need to look at restoring the riparian habitat," Patterson said, referring to the lower city-owned property.

That's precisely what the school district plans, said Tom Lovell, Pendleton High School principal. He said Marty Campbell, PHS ag teacher has talked with Round-Up directors about working on that land. He intends to reapply for a three-year, $16,000-per-year service learning grant from the Oregon Department of Education. It funds projects combining learning and community service.

Lovell said the district expects to receive the money because it had to return a previous grant because it couldn't meet the grant's timeline.

"If you've got something going and you reapply you, have a pretty good chance," he said.

The district plans to use the money for studies of the riverside area. Lovell said Pendleton High School science and agriculture classes, will use the city property, and the parking lot will provide better river access for students from Lincoln and West Hills elementary schools.

"We've got chinook salmon spawning right here in town," he said, noting it's a good educational experience for all ages.

He expects the high school biology classes to study the river's water, plus salmon and steelhead habitat. There could be some historical studies of what used to be there and some student recommendations about what needs to be done to improve fish and wildlife habitat. The ag students would make the riparian improvements, he added.

"It's good for school district in general," Lovell said. "It really makes kind of a huge laboratory right there, which is really nice."

The principal expects the district seldom would use the parking lot, but he's glad it'd available for overflow parking during the district track and state basketball tournaments, and during summer swim meets.

"A flat piece of grass in Pendleton is a premium piece of property," Lovell said. "We couldn't play a high school soccer game on it, but it's good access for kids.

The district plans to seed the parking area after Round-Up.

"I think this year, it'll be dirt that's been watered," he said. "It'll certainly be better than the eyesore it's been."

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