PARKER - The Sunnyside Valley Irrigation District has formally taken control of the Parker rest area on Highway 12.
SVID has been maintaining and operating the park for the last two years on an unofficial basis. The park was owned by the state at one time and then was given to Yakima County. Due to budget constraints the county didn't have enough funding to operate the facility so their plan was to close the park and block access to it. First, the county asked if SVID would be interested in helping.
"We were interested in helping out because the park is in an area that's important to SVID," Don Schramm, assistant manager/operations for SVID, said. "It's where the water for the Sunnyside canal comes out of the river so it's a good spot to start our tours."
The park overlooks the Sunnyside canal diversion dam, where water is diverted from the Yakima River to the Sunnyside canal. The spot also overlooks the radial gate. This gate controls how much water is diverted into the canal. Fish screens are also visible. These screens prevent fish from swimming down the canal and instead redirects them back into the river.
SVID sometimes gives tours to agencies or groups of people interested in seeing SVID's projects. "It's a good place to start," Schramm said.
Recently, Yakima County offered to give the land to SVID since they had been maintaining the park for two years. The SVID Board accepted the offer and approved the transfer at the June 6 meeting.
Schramm said the park is fairly easy to maintain and isn't that expensive. He estimates SVID spends approximately $5,000 a year on the park. SVID performs most of the maintenance but contracts out the mowing of the grass.
"The park is well used so we're trying to keep it up nice," Schramm added.
Another reason SVID wanted to keep the park operating is the area is a historic fishing area for the Yakama Nation. He said fishing is still done in the area to this day.
The park has other historical significance to SVID, as well.
In 1879, Konnowac Ditch Company constructed a small irrigation diversion there to irrigate 3,000 acres. In 1891, the Northern Pacific and Yakima Canal Company started construction on the Sunnyside Canal, using the existing ditch from 1891. In 1905 the canal became part of the Yakima Reclamation Project.
The bathrooms have long been taken out but there are picnic tables and plenty of grassy areas to rest and picnic. The area also offers great views.