WALLA WALLA, Wash. --
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff opened Rooks Park’s gates to vehicle traffic today, April 1, according to Walla Walla District operations officials at the Mill Creek Project. Rooks Park is located on Mill Creek Road about 1 mile east of Walla Walla, Washington.
Rooks Park is normally open to vehicle traffic from 7 a.m. to sunset, during April through mid-October, but accessible year-round to pedestrians. The park’s group picnic shelter is reservable via the online national reservation website www.Recreation.gov.
Visitors should be aware of ongoing work in the park to construct a new paved trail that meets Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. The Corps’ Walla Walla District awarded the contract to build the new trail to Ffrazure Earthworks Excavation LLC, a woman-owned small business in Walla Walla, Washington, for approximately $107,000.
“A month of snow in Walla Walla delayed progress some on the new trail, and now that the weather is cooperating, the contractor is working hard to finish the job as quickly as possible,” said Mill Creek Project Park Ranger Jeremy Nguyen. “The new paved trail creates a safe path extending from the parking lot, between the restrooms and picnic shelter, past the playground and connects with the existing paved trail located along the eastern edge of the park.”
Rooks Park is part of a group of recreation areas associated with District’s Mill Creek Project. The recreation areas also include Bennington Lake and the Mill Creek Recreation Trail. The lake parking lot is open for visitors from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“Lingering mountain snowpack in the Mill Creek Basin means Bennington Lake will need to stay empty for a while,” noted Mill Creek Project Operations Manager Justin Stegall.
The lake is a man-made off-stream reservoir, primarily used to store flood water. Bennington Lake is also filled for recreation, but only after the threat for a flood carries very little to no risk, Stegall explained. “Filling the lake too soon could result in reduced available storage capacity. We will continue to monitor the snowpack and weather forecasts, and fill the lake to recreation level once the risk of flooding has passed.”
Bennington Lake is the only public lake within 45 miles of Walla Walla. Mill Creek Project’s recreation areas support hundreds of thousands of visits each year, said Stegall.
Corps recreation planners invite the public to "play it safe" while having some warm-weather fun. Although above-water temperatures are becoming warmer, springtime water temperatures can be cold enough to cause hypothermia – a severe lowering of core body temperature. State boating, hunting and fishing regulations apply to visitors at Corps sites. Hunting on Corps property is allowed in designated areas and only during state-scheduled hunting seasons.
For more information on Corps parks, visit www.nww.usace.army.mil/corpsoutdoors. Keep up with events and announcements at Mill Creek Dam and Bennington Lake on Facebook at www.facebook.com/millcreekdam.