John Day Fossil Beds
Administrative History
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Chapter Two:

Park planning and development at Painted Hills

In comparison to the Sheep Rock area, planning efforts at Painted Hills could be characterized as minuscule. This is mainly because the state had only its picnic area in fee simple ownership until 1971. Consequently, park development did not go beyond occasional roadwork and the basic facilities provided at the picnic area. A single sign represented the extent of on-site interpretation, though there appears to have been some support for wayside exhibits along park roads as the condemnation proceedings neared their end.

Some estimates for roadwork and facilities in the proposed picnic area had been generated in 1947 when Boardman brought about the park's establishment, but the state could pay little attention to them until 1949. That year Wheeler County crews began widening the access road so that work on the picnic area began in September. [132] Boardman insisted on an austere development composed of several tables, two pit toilets, and a stove. [133] The chronically tight budget, coupled with Boardman's conviction that man-made things should never deface the park, apparently nixed recommendations for improvements from Armstrong. These involved placement of directional signs at road junctions, wayside markers near the park's points of interest, and trees in the picnic area. [134]

Armstrong, however, orchestrated some development at Painted Hills upon assuming Boardman's post as state parks superintendent in 1950. He had a sign on the Ochoco Highway enlarged and two others in the park replaced. The new parks superintendent also ordered that several turnouts be constructed at points of interest throughout the park. [135] Preparation of text for a geological marker began in February 1951, but differences over wording delayed its placement in the picnic area. [136] Some trees appear to have been planted at the picnic area around this time, because there was mention of Russian olives and an elm tree as being able to eventually provide shade in a 1961 field inspection. [137]

Armstrong's emphasis on overnight camping in the state parks is probably the reason why Painted Hills found its way onto a list of campgrounds in the State Parks and Recreation Division's report for 1957. A 1959 study of proposed development in Thomas Condon-John Day Fossil Beds State Park, however, placed facilities at Painted Hills in the day-use category. [138] Visitor facilities at Painted Hills in 1961 consisted of two picnic tables, a hand pump, and two pit toilets. [139] Annual operating costs amounted to only several hundred dollars, though Armstrong noted that stock grazing and periodic flooding of Bridge Creek made it difficult to maintain facilities at the park. [140]

Little changed at Painted Hills during the 1960s in spite of developments in other state parks. Tests showing impure water resulted in the pump's removal in the summer of 1968. [141] That fall a new sign replaced the geology marker in the picnic area, though the wording remained identical. [142] When the state finally acquired the entire park in 1971, it proceeded to install roughly 11,000 lineal feet of fence to protect the hills from off-road vehicles and posted five signs which listed park regulations. [143] Apart from these measures, however, state parks officials made little headway toward developing the land formerly under easement. Near the end of condemnation proceedings, they had hoped to improve it for interpretive, scenic, and scientific purposes utilizing the existing roads and major viewpoint, but fell short of their goal. [144]

Next> Establishment of a park at Clarno

Sheep Rock | Painted Hills | Clarno

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Last Updated: 30-Apr-2002