RAILROAD EFFORTS NEARING END OF LINE

December 20, 2001 12:00 am

Union and Wallowa county officials are nearing the end of the tracks in their efforts to save the rail line between Joseph and Elgin. The Surface Transportation Boards recent decision that a salvage company could go ahead and pull up the tracks, combined with the price the rail lines owner is asking, means that the chance of sparing the line is growing dim. A last-ditch effort to win federal economic stimulus monies holds the one remaining glimmer of hope save for condemnation that the important rail corridor can be spared.

The rail connection between the two counties is an important one one that has been worth the time, effort and money the counties have put into trying to save the line. County officials are to be commended for doing what they could to save the line for future generations.

The lines owner, Rio Grande Railroad of Fort Worth, Texas, rejected offers of $3 million to purchase the line from Joseph to Elgin, and $8.5 million to buy the line from Joseph to La Grande. Rio Grande had already sold salvage rights for the tracks to Klamert Salvage of Montana. Wallowa County required a permit before Klamert could go ahead with its salvage operation, setting the wheels in motion for the last-ditch effort to buy the line. Months of negotiations and efforts to find money have brought the two sides closer, but not close enough, and time is running out.

Northeast Oregon needs that rail corridor for commerce as well as the chance to have an excursion line at some point in the future. At some point, probably long after the tracks are removed, people will realize just how important that rail corridor was.

At the very least, citizens and future generations can be assured that county officials are going down swinging. Even though a longshot, the line is worth the effort.

EXCEPTIONAL SHOW

Anyone who hasnt been to a La Grande High School choral concert is missing a treat. Choral director J. Michael Frasier and his choirs have established a tradition of excellence that the community can be very proud of.

Tuesdays Christmas concert demonstrated the skill and enthusiasm Frasier is able to generate among his students. The singers blend music with fun, and its easy to see that they and their director are having fun learning and perfecting their skills. The exuberance of the singers is a tribute to Frasier and his ability to get the best out of students and to have fun doing it.

The next time La Grande High announces a choir concert, or a band concert, go give a listen. Youll be glad you did. La Grande is fortunate to have music teachers like Frasier and band director Jim Howell. Their love for their work is reflected through their students.