July 18, 2001 11:00 pm
LOOKING FOR A NEW HOME: The U.S. Forest Service La Grande Ranger District is looking to move from this building on Highway 30, which it has leased for 18 years. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).
LOOKING FOR A NEW HOME: The U.S. Forest Service La Grande Ranger District is looking to move from this building on Highway 30, which it has leased for 18 years. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

The Forest Service has decided to move the

La Grande Ranger Station and is looking at properties in La Grande.

For the past 18 years, the federal agency has leased six acres and buildings on Highway 30 in La Grande from Wilfred and Sandra Daggett of Joseph.

Michael Boquist, La Grandes assistant planner, said Tuesday that the Forest Service is considering two or three locations with about five acres each inside the city limits. The properties are along 26th Street behind Eagle Trucking and on Cove Avenue across from Progress Loop.

Our site is in the flood zone, Wilfred Daggett said Wednesday. We would not be able to bid in the flood zone.

He said the Forest Service notified him May 29 that the property was not suitable for future use.

Wed had no discussion til then, he said. Then I got a letter stating it was in a flood zone and unacceptable.

The Forest Service prefers to lease land and have buildings built to government specifications, said Rosemary Guttridge, a La Grande Ranger District employee who has been involved in the property search.

Proposals on property are due by Aug. 24. The final decision could be made within four weeks.

We need to be visible and easy to find, Guttridge said.

Daggett said that when the Forest Service decided to lease his property in 1983, the agency knew that the property was in the 100-year flood plain.

We bid three different sites (in 1983); one in Island City and another at the airport. They OKd the third site (the existing location) and said that was allowable, Daggett said.

County records confirm that the location is now within the 100-year plain.

Decisions on the location of Forest Service buildings are made at the regional level, said Kurt Wiedenmann, La Grande District ranger.

Wiedenmann said he did not want to comment on any details of the Forest Service property search, but he said he has ideas for long-range development.

I have a long-term interest in co-locating with the Pacific Northwest Research Station on Gekeler Lane, he said.

The Forest Service owns the buildings that sit on land owned by Eastern Oregon University, he said.

I believe it would be a benefit for La Grande for us to locate on that leased property, he said.

Because the Forest Service would own the buildings, any proposals would have to go to Congress and it would take several years for approval.

I believe the property would be available for us to locate on the site, Wiedenmann said. Were all interested, but its at least 10 years down the road.

Wiedenmann said he would like any location to lie within three miles from the center of La Grande.

The issue is access to the public, he said. Thats a primary consideration.

Daggett said the Forest Service usually agrees to a five-year lease on property and buildings, followed by two five-year options to renew, giving a total of 20 years before the agency must seek public input and review. The lease between Daggett and the Forest Service expires in 2003.

The existing building has about 12,000 square feet of office space, and the federal agency is asking for 16,000 square feet, Daggett said. The Forest Service wants to more than double the size of the warehouse, now 5,000 square feet, he said.

Daggett said by all means he would be willing to expand the buildings to suit Forest Service needs.

Daggett said he owns other properties leased by Forest Service ranger districts, and there now appears to be a trend for the federal agency to pay lower lease prices.

In Naches, (Wash.), they renewed the lease in September and reduced the lease price, he said. The Forest Service refused the lower lease and has put the lease out for bid.

Daggett said he is bidding on the Naches lease.

As for Daggetts land where the La Grande Ranger Station now sits, I havent the slightest idea what well do with the property.

Daggett said he will not present any property proposals to the Forest Service.

I do not have other property, he said. If I cant keep this, I cant afford to build.


The Forest Service wants five acres inside the city limits of La Grande. It has looked at these sites:

On 26th Street, behind Eagle Trucking

On Cove Avenue, near Progress Loop.