Parks & Recreation are La Grande Economic Drivers

Parks & Recreation are La Grande Economic Drivers Main Photo

13 Aug 2023


There is a growing trend in the country of individuals and families deciding where to live first and then finding employment there. Therefore, the amenities a community can offer its residents are becoming more critical daily.

Residents of La Grande, OR, are fortunate to be able to draw on the surrounding natural resources of Eastern Oregon. Still, there is ample opportunity for fun activities within the parks and recreation in the city itself. 

This summer is the perfect time to recognize the importance these amenities and green spaces have in building the quality of place families, visitors and outdoor adventures seek.

Parks and recreation serve vital roles

July was Park and Recreation Month when the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) recognized the power parks and recreation opportunities have nationwide. This year, the NRPA’s theme was “Where Community Grows,” directing attention to bringing people together to foster goodwill and growth in communities like La Grande.

The La Grande Economic Development understands the vital role parks and recreation play in our community. They are essential for residents’ high quality of life and enjoyment and for new families looking for a place to live. Parks and recreation can also serve as an economic driver. When people visit our community to play at a park, participate in a tournament or use our recreation facilities, they often spend money locally as they shop, eat at restaurants and fill up their vehicles with gas, creating jobs and other local benefits. The State of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department also operates a grant system to promote economic development in wide-ranging enterprises focused on ATVs, recreational trails and heritage projects.

La Grande’s Parks & Rec Department actively works to meet the needs and wishes of the area residents. Its Master Plan includes its vision to ensure that work continues. A unique focus is the Urban Forestry Division, which seeks to preserve and protect the beautiful, existing majestic trees and plant more to keep the excellent aesthetics of the city’s tree-lined streets and parks.

Business focus on recreation

The La Grande Pump Track project is an excellent example of recreation’s importance to a community. Local groups like the Blue Mountain Singletrack Trails Club (BMSTC), local businesses like The Mountain Works and Eastern Wheelworks, the City of La Grande Parks & Recreation Department and area officials are collaborating on the pump track, which is close to becoming a reality. What began as an idea in 2018, said BMSTC president Tyler Brooks, is now hoped to start construction in the spring of 2024. 

“The pump track is an excellent opportunity to bring outdoor recreation tourism to the city, while educating on the importance of exercise and making our community a better place to raise children,” he said.

The city plans to provide the land for the pump track adjacent to a current park and perform the ongoing landscaping and maintenance once the track is constructed. The community’s interest was apparent in 2020 as the club raised $12,000 through a GoFundMe campaign to advance the design. After being on hold like so many other projects during the COVID-19 pandemic, the group worked with the City of La Grande to apply for several grants to pay for construction. It has secured a $10,000 grant from the Wildhorse Foundation and eagerly anticipates a potential Local Government Grant Program administered by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. In addition to the original GoFundMe campaign, the club has raised approximately $20,000 through local business and resident donations.

“La Grande has a fantastic and growing outdoor community that is eager to drive the accessibility of outdoor recreation to all users. The pump track will be a free and accessible  opportunity for mountain bikers, skateboarders, rollerbladers, and even those in wheelchairs,” said Brooks. 

Parks and recreation in La Grande

The opportunities for family fun in La Grande are varied and exciting, with 14 different parks and greenways in and around the city limits. Numerous events occur at the facilities throughout the summer - the La Grande Parks and Recreation Facebook page is an excellent resource to see the latest happenings. Some of the parks include:

Birnie Park is home to an Oregon Trail Display. A series of eight oval, glazed ceramic columns designed by local artists symbolizes pioneer life via a covered wagon trip through the Grande Ronde Valley.

Morgan Lake Park offers camping, hiking and fishing on the non-motorized lake, stocked with rainbow trout annually. The Annual Morgan Lake Regatta occurs each July, featuring live music and non-motorized boat races created by the participants themselves.

Pioneer Park is the site for most of La Grande’s organized athletic leagues but also has Veterans' Memorial Swim Pool and a 15,000-square-foot skate park for skaters and bicyclists alike.

Riverside Park is undergoing public input to renovate the city’s largest playground. It includes a dog park, a trailhead for the Greenway Trail and the site for Concerts in the Park, which runs from June through late August.

Make your next adventure in town

We encourage you to get outside, explore, do something new and bring a friend. La Grande has much to offer, and our parks and recreation opportunities allow for enjoyment by all community members. Still, only some take advantage of these opportunities. There are many ways you can help spread the word. Share posts about our parks and rec on social media. Invite friends to visit, leave positive reviews on Facebook and Google and become an ambassador for our community. Connect with La Grande Economic Development or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn to learn more about the opportunities awaiting you in La Grande!