Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

Sumpter boasts one of the larger structures in Baker County - the 2 1/2-million-pound gold-mining dredge - but the city's skyline is marred by a conspicuous gap.

The dredge, retired since 1954, makes a fine centerpiece, and namesake, for the state park on the south side of Sumpter.

What's missing is a visitor center commensurate with the park's popularity.

The current center, covering a garage-like 240 square feet, hardly

rates such a lofty title. The building is woefully inadequate for a

park that lures about 40,000 people per year, most coming during summer.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department wants to rectify this

problem. The agency has applied for a $1.85 million federal grant to

build a 3,144-square-foot visitor center at the Sumpter Dredge park.

We urge the Oregon Transportation Commission, which will pick grant

recipients this spring, to recognize how valuable the Sumpter project

could be.

A proper visitor center could propel the Sumpter Dredge park from merely popular to one of the jewels in the state park system.

The park already has great amenities beside the dredge - hiking trails,

the Sumpter Valley Railroad, the three annual flea markets.

We're certain visitors would appreciate a little extra elbow room, though.