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WURA gets support from state parks
WALLOWA — The framework for a coalition to pursue construction of a trail along the Joseph Branch was laid out by representatives from Oregon State Parks Tuesday at the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority’s monthly meeting.
Rocky Houston presented an outline of how the state parks department planned to facilitate the planning process to determine if communities along the line, stretching from Elgin to Joseph, support a trail alongside the railway and if the project is feasible.
Houston’s outline said Parks would help local stakeholders create consensus early of what the plan is, thoroughly understand it before it is shared with the public, test the plan and share it with the public.
Houston said the project scope will take the stakeholders through the equivalent of Project Management 101. The team would assess limitations, benefits, restraints and regulations and then start conducting listening posts, surveys and open houses for the public.
“Then we can write a plan,” Houston said.
The initial planning, assessments, public meetings and planning stages could take up to 22 months, Houston said.
“If the decision is favorable to WURA and the stakeholders then we will implement the following steps — invest, operate and enjoy,” Houston said.
Steve Kay of OSP said fiscal assessments of the rail corridor along with historic and cultural resources will assist with developing a planning process that the stakeholders are comfortable with.
“There’s an overarching advisory committee of a number of stakeholders from Eastern Oregon University, the state parks department other state agencies and members from the trail consortium who can help guide this process as it moves to the public meeting stage,” Kay said. “That is our role.”
Board chairman Steve McClure said he was pleased with the state parks department’s outline for the planning process.
“The first thing I like, this is in the planning stage. We have not made a commitment. We will look and listen to concerns and hear what people want,” McClure said. “State parks laid that out exactly as it should be done, to go out in the community and consider whether we are going to proceed. I think the timelines are reasonable. We are moving in the direction I would like to see us move and nothing is preordained. We are asking the community what it wants.”