RAILS TO TRAILS?

April 11, 2001 11:00 pm
RIVERS AND RAILS: The rails leading from Elgin to Wallowa County present views of scenic grandeur. (Observer file photo/RAY LINKER).
RIVERS AND RAILS: The rails leading from Elgin to Wallowa County present views of scenic grandeur. (Observer file photo/RAY LINKER).

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Negotiations to turn an abandoned rail line into a state park are creeping slower than a fully loaded train going uphill.

The Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation has been negotiating for about a year with the Idaho Northern and Pacific Railroad to buy about 61 miles of abandoned track from Elgin to Joseph.

The parks department has been awarded a $1.26 million grant from the Oregon Transportation Commission to purchase the rail line, but the state and the railroad have not been able to agree on conditions and price.

Weve been in discussion with the state, said the Idaho Northerns Richard Burtell from the railroads headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. Weve had an ongoing dialogue, but its still for sale.

David Wright of the state parks department said the state has completed an appraisal of the property, but he did not reveal the propertys appraised value.

Were waiting for them (the railroad) to react to the offers we have made, Wright said. We sent additional information last week and we have not heard from them.

The rail line goes from Union County through Wallowa County, ending near Joseph. Some Wallowa County landowners have objected to the sale of the right of way to the state.

The nearly 61-mile rail line was abandoned in the mid-90s, and the railroad is reportedly asking between $5 million and $8 million for the entire stretch. A combination of grant money and state funds gives state parks about $2.5 million toward the

purchase.

Union County Commissioner John Howard said that additional grants might be sought after a sales agreement is reached.