BATES - Temperatures nearing 100 degrees didn't stop hardy ex-residents of Bates from turning out last week for a reunion at the site of the former Grant County mill town.

About 150 people gathered - some for the day on July 28 and others camping for the entire weekend - at the site near the junction of Highway 7 and Middle Fork Lane.

Jackie Rapp, an organizer of this year's reunion, said the former residents and their descendents have been holding reunions every two years since 1979. The group drew as many as 600 people in the early years after the mill town was dismantled more than 30 years ago, but the recent turnout has usually hovered at 150-200.

"We've lost a lot of people in the last two years," Rapp said.

The most senior member of this year's crowd was Ray Rasmussen, 102, who worked at the mill and now lives in John Day. He came to the event with daughter Flora Cheadle of Mt. Vernon.

The reunion gave former residents a chance to relive old memories and also learn about the plans for a Bates Museum and Park.

Grant County Commissioner Boyd Britton (above) told the crowd that the foundation formed to promote and develop the park is making headway. He said there have been preliminary talks with the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department, which may be interested in teaming up on the project.

Britton said the department's expertise would be a welcome addition.

"They know how to do this kind of stuff," he said.

Dennis Reynolds, former county judge and a member of the Bates Musuem & Park Foundation Inc., said the organizers want to preserve the heritage of the site, which has links to the mining, logging and railroad past of the region.

"The history is what brings all of you here today, and that's what brings this site to life," he said.

The hope, he said, is to develop the park and make it a self-sustaining operation. The initial cost estimate for land and development of the park/museum is about $3.8 million, he said.

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