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Milo McIver State Park to celebrate 50th anniversary with historical photos, guest speakers, concert

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - A memorial plaque for Milo McIver is unveiled during the dedication for the state park named in his honor.

Half a century ago, a state park neighboring the city of Estacada was dedicated.

The park was named for Milo McIver, chairman of the Oregon Highway Commission and advocate for state parks in Oregon.

Next month, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department will celebrate this anniversary by looking back at history. In addition to a concert by Bend-based classical pianist Hunter Noack, an event on Saturday, June 9, will feature a display of historic photos, and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Deputy Director MG Devereux and Milo McIver's grandson Malcolm McIver as guest speakers.

Milo advocated for the land near Estacada to be preserved, noted Guy Rodrigue, park manager at Milo McIver State Park.

"He saw the potential for this property and advocated for its preservation and protection," Rodrigue said.

The Oregon State Parks Department used to operate under the Oregon Department of Transportation, which is one reason why Milo was connected to the park.

Malcolm, who was born several years after Milo's death, recalled his father describing Milo as a "plunger."

"He liked to take risks and do big things," Malcolm said.

In addition to his work with the highway commission, Milo also founded a family business, Commerce Properties, that is still in operation today. One significant project for the company under Milo's leadership was the development of the Vermont Hills neighborhood in Portland.

"He was a super entrepreneurial guy, and very personable," Malcolm said.

During the park's dedication ceremony in 1968, then-Governor Tom McCall, Oregon Highway Commission Chairman Glenn L. Jackson and Dr. Lansing Kempton of Trinity Episcopal Church in Portland all spoke, an article in the Oregon City Enterprise Courier noted.

"Honor guests for the program included Mrs. Milo K. McIver; her son and family, Mr. and Mrs. Douglas McIver, Christopher and Malcolm. The dignitaries present included John J. Inskeep, state senator, and Leo Thornton, state representative,"

the Enterprise Courier reported.

During the dedication, McCall said, "Milo McIver was a great lover of nature and an active proponent of parks and recreation for the present and future generations of our citizens. It was during his term on the Highway Commission that many of the acquisitions and improvements of our existing state parks were accomplished and plans laid for continuing activities which are still being carried out."

During Milo's tenure on the Oregon Highway Commission, 40 new areas were acquired by the state parks and attendance at the parks increased by 240 percent.

Much of the park was originally private property, including what is now the equestrian area, the disc golf course and the River Bend Day Use area. Rodrigue also noted that signs designating areas as property of the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife had been found near the park's office, though the ownership had not yet been able to be verified.

When Milo McIver State Park first opened, it covered just under 100 acres. Included in the park's initial offerings were trailhead access, campgrounds, 115 picnic tables, three bath houses with showers and four kitchen shelters. The kitchen shelters were smaller than the park's current covered picnic areas and each featured a sink and a grill. The last one was removed 10 years ago.CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - This image shows Milo McIver State Park during its early years. When it was dedicated, the park featured trailhead access, campgrounds, 115 picnic tables, three bath houses with showers and four kitchen shelters.

During the dedication, the Enterprise Courier reported that "it presently takes two mowers going continuously to keep the McIver park lawn areas trimmed. It is anticipated that an underground sprinkling system will be installed in future years."

Several years after its dedication, the park was home to Vortex I: A Biodegradable Festival of Life, a concert organized by McCall and conservative business owners. The event drew thousands to the park in August of 1970, and one anecdote says a traffic jam of festival-goers eventually extended all the way to Portland's 82nd Avenue.

"I'm sure (the festival) opened McIver to the Portland Metro area," Rodrigue said.

Since its dedication 50 years ago, Milo McIver State Park has changed in several ways.

"At first, it was very much a community park. Over time, we've seen much more of a regional presence," Rodrigue noted.

In its earliest days, the park was logged somewhat heavily, meaning that views of Mt. Hood could be found throughout the park. Today, many of the trees have returned and the mountain can only be seen from several spots.

"It's interesting to see how the local ecology has transformed," Rodrigue said.

Additionally, some of the features that the park is known for are more recent arrivals. For example, the disc golf course was installed 20 years ago, and access to Estacada Lake was added in 2008.

Rodrigue is looking forward to the park's anniversary event.

"Fifty years is an interesting time frame," Rodrigue said. "People who were here during the original dedication are still here to tell their stories. Whether they're a park neighbor or people who used (the park) when it first opened, to hear their perspectives on how the park has changed will be the most interesting part (of the anniversary event)."

Celebrate 50 years

Milo McIver State Park will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a display of historic photos, guest speakers and a concert on Saturday, June 9. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Milo McIver Memorial Viewpoint, 24101 S. Entrance Road. Speakers will include Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Deputy Director MG Devereux and Milo McIver's son Malcolm McIver. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. and features Bend-based classical pianist Hunter Noack. Attendees of the concert are encouraged to bring their own chairs or blankets.

Admission to the event is free, and parking costs $5 for the day. For more information call 503-630-7150 or visit oregonstateparks.org.

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