Since You Asked: Espey Had Quite a Life
July 28, 2007
In the July 20 issue of the Mail Tribune, there was an article by Damian Mann titled “Cleaning Up Espey” in reference to the Espey Wildlife Station. He wrote that the station was built in honor of Larry Espey. I am intrigued by the name because I know of a family memorial on top of a local mountain with the Espey surname on it. Can you enlighten us further as to who Larry Espey was?
— Alan H., Phoenix
Larry Espey had quite a life, Alan. His hard work makes pale even the slavelike devotion seen at Since You Asked headquarters. If we had enough room, we could probably write a book about all his accomplishments. But in our inimitably cramped style, we will try to summarize Larry Espey’s life in just a few words.
Born June 27, 1911, in Springfield, Mo., Espey came to Portland in 1922 and graduated from Benson Polytechnic School. His studies of math, surveying, and drafting started him on his engineering career. He began working with the National Park Service, then the Forest Service, managing crews that built trails and forest roads including one from Butte Falls to Lake of the Woods. He also built trails in Crater Lake National Park in 1928.
During World War II he was a civilian engineer on the staff of Col. Del Harvey of the Army Corps of Engineers involved in the construction of Camp White and the Marine Corps hospital at Klamath Falls.
Espey was among the original members of the Jackson County Parks and Recreation Commission, later serving as its chairman. The commission advised the county on recreation facilities at two federal projects then under construction — Howard Prairie and Emigrant lakes. Three federal agencies shared in the development, and once completed, the land was turned over to the county to administer.
In his spare time, Espey designed and supervised construction of the Rogue Valley Country Club and part of its golf course.
(In our spare time at SYA Headquarters we made a cozy for our in-box.)
Throughout his life, Espey worked in Oregon, California and Washington, particularly on parks and recreation projects. At his death he was president of the Oregon Parks Foundation, a nonprofit organization to encourage growth of state parks and recreation facilities.
We could end right there, Alan, but there’s still more.
Espey’s achievements attracted the attention of Nelson D. Rockefeller, who appointed him in the late 1940s as chief engineer with the Rockefeller Foundation subsidiary, American International Association. Espey spent two years in Venezuela developing a farm-to-market road system.
Returning to Medford, he joined Copco in 1957, serving as assistant engineer on the John Boyle Dam on the Klamath River.
Espey was among the first to urge cleaning up Bear Creek and laid the groundwork for the Willamette Greenway.
He was transferred to the power company’s Portland office in 1968, but continued his interest in Southern Oregon.
Appointed by Gov. Tom McCall to the Livable Oregon Committee, Espey was instrumental in establishing the Cal-Ore Recreation Development Association, the Oregon Parks Association, and Oregon Park and Recreation Society, serving as chairman of most of them. In 1968 he was appointed to the Bureau of Land Management Advisory Board.
Espey, died May 10, 1993, at his home in Beaverton at the age of 81.
You’ll probably agree with us, Alan, that just a few of Espey’s achievements would be enough for most people in a single lifetime.
Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.