The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Kelly Shipp
For the Sentinel 

New parks manager wants fresh approach

 

Kelly Shipp, for The Sentinel

TAKING A FRESH LOOK: Lem Pratt, new manager for Goldendale area state parks, looks through the telescope at the Goldendale Observatory as Interpretive Specialist Steve Stout looks on.

Lem Pratt, the new manager for the Goldendale area state parks, proposes revitalization and more community involvement for the Goldendale Observatory and other nearby state parks.

“We want to get the park back into the community and the community back in the park,” says Pratt.

Pratt, who started at his new post on Dec. 1, is now managing the Maryhill State Park, Columbia Hills State Park, the Klickitat Trail Park, Brook’s Memorial, Doug’s Beach, Spring Creek Fish Hatchery, the Goldendale Observatory, and the old ski resort on Satus Pass.

“We want to reinstitute the relationship between Goldendale and the Observatory. We are going to give it a face lift,” he says.

Pratt plans to improve the aesthetics of the Observatory and develop more community programs working within the budgetary restraints imposed by the Washington State Park Service. The statewide budget for the state parks for 2013 is approximately $19 million.

“The Observatory is the only state park interpretive center that has a barb wire fence. We want to open that up and make it more inviting for the public,” says Pratt. “We want to increase the activities up there. We want to start more school and educational programs.” Pratt also wants to open up the space as a venue for the local bluegrass festival and other possible events.

He notes that the Observatory and the grounds have not changed since he visited in 1979 on a high school field trip to see an eclipse.

Pratt grew up in Snohomish and went to school with Goldendale Police Chief Rick Johnson. Pratt married his high school sweetheart, Nellie, and they went to Central Washington University. He started with the Ellensberg Police Department in 1985 before seeing an ad to be a park ranger with the National Park Service.

Pratt’s first job with the National Park Service was at Mt. Rainier in 1987 as a seasonal ranger. He says that he went to the East Coast for a time, then got a job at Bryce Canyon National Park doing high-angle search and rescue, wildlife firefighting, and horse patrol. Four years later the Pratts moved to Zion National Park, where he continued horse patrols and firefighting. While at Zion he also worked for local cattle ranchers on his days off and during branding.

Pratt was transferred to Grand Canyon National Park in 1996. Soon after he decided to move the family back to Washington State and was hired by Lake Stevens Police Department. In 2007, he became the Washington State Park’s area manager for the Sea-Tac area. He remained there until Dec. 1, when he became the area manager for the Goldendale area.

Pratt spent 10 years in the Coast Guard Reserve and is now in the Coast Guard Auxiliary. He is looking to get onto the detachment in The Dalles. He is also a master scuba diver, a hobby that is shared by his family. His wife, Nellie, will be moving to the area soon from their home near Seattle.

He says that he is looking forward to getting established in Goldendale. “I have been networking and talking with Goldendale City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, the Klickitat County Sheriff Office, Washington State Patrol, and the Goldendale Police Department,” says Pratt. He continues, “I have also been working with Interpretive Specialist Stephen Stout, who has a wealth of information and talent.” Pratt also says that he is planning on conducting a community meeting soon to get feedback and ideas from the citizens of Goldendale.

At present, the Goldendale area state parks employs three year-round rangers, four seasonal rangers, seven seasonal park aides, and one maintenance worker. Pratt is planning to look at the budget and see if there are possible funds for more office staff and for arbor crews.

“I am looking into some revenue generating ideas,” says Pratt. “The Discovery Pass was created to generate enough revenue to fund the park and last year they did not generate enough.” The Discovery Pass is required for motor-vehicle access to state parks and recreation lands managed by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and costs $10 for a day or $30 for a year.

 

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