Under construction since 2006, Morgan Creek STEP Hatchery was officially dedicated on November 3 before a crowd of over eighty-five volunteers and local dignitaries. Because of the vision of STEP biologist Tom Rumreich, Morgan Creek became a reality through a unique combination of extensive local grant funding, a very active regional STEP group, the local community’s dedication to the project, and Rumreich’s passionate leadership.
A Coos County mainstay for over 33 years, Morgan Creek Hatchery has evolved into a world-class multi-generational facility that positively impacts the region’s environment and economy, while bringing a unique educational experience to hundreds of children annually.
“There aren’t many children who grew up in Coos County that weren’t influenced by this facility,” noted Rumreich during the dedication.
Local businessman and influential project donor Bill Lansing recalled a conversation he had with Medford parents about the value of busing children all-day to experience the hatchery. The parents responded that, “There was no better education than the one day students spend at the Morgan Creek Hatchery.” Nearly every speaker at the dedication echoed similar stories.
This hatchery is “part of a culture, a way of life, that didn’t exist not that long ago,” said Bruce Bertrand, president of the South Coast STEP Association. “Now the fish are spread out from the Coos Bay bar all the way up to Tidewater for two-and-a-half months a year. That is a 25-mile range! And it has an economic impact.”
A significant one in fact. The most recent economic impact study found the late summer/early fall Chinook runs bring in $6 million to the local economy from sport fishermen. Because, as Bertrand noted, those numbers are dated, the fishery is an even stronger economic driver today.
As proof, he pointed out that both local boat dealers, traditionally closed seasonally in October, are now open year-round to handle the increased off-season demands of boat maintenance and repair.
That much needed seasonal economic boom isn’t going to end soon. “There are now 38 times more fish in the Coos basin than at its lowest point on record. In 2013, 82 percent of the adults and 94 percent of the jacks (2 year-old males) caught came from Morgan Creek Hatchery and its sister stations,” Rumreich said.
As one attendee declared after the dedication, “Developing and maintaining the fishery health of this community has definite economic benefits.” And in the end that was the part of Rumreich’s vision: To create a world-class hatchery and a world-class education system on the 40-acre site.
It was also announced during the dedication that the hatchery site would now be known as the Oregon Natural Resource Education Center. Rumreich said plans are underway to develop a trail through the mostly old-growth property in partnership with local Eagle Scouts.