Visitors to Troy often drive too fast through the remote Wallowa County town

January 24, 2013 11:55 am


Troy attracts thousands of visitors each year, primarily for fishing and rafting. KATY NESBITT / The Observer

Residents ask county officials for help in getting drivers to obey speed limit signs 

By Katy Nesbitt

Some of  Wallowa County’s more out-of-the-way spots are what puts it on the map. 

Troy, far down in the Grande Ronde Canyon, is a popular destination for fishers, rafters, hunters and adventure-seekers exploring the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness.

There are at least three roads that go into Troy, none of them good, as one local said. Driving Highway 3 north from Enterprise one can turn left between mileposts 9 and 10 and go through Flora before diving down the Redmond Grade, a windy, dirt road of about 11 miles to the bottom of the canyon.

From Boggan’s Oasis along Highway 3 in Washington it’s a 16-mile drive, again on a dirt road, as is the route from a turn-off two miles west of Wallowa — a 40 mile, 1.5-hour drive on the Promise Road.

You can “get there from here,” but it’s going to take awhile. If you like steelhead, elk or rafting, the destination, not the journey, makes the slow driving well worth it.

However, winding roads make for impatient driving and when the roads straighten out and pavement breaks up the rough driving, there is a tendency to speed up faster than the 25 mph sign in downtown Troy.

Patrick Dunroven and his wife, Regina, wrote a letter to the county commissioners asking for their help. On Jan. 16, Board Chairman Mike Hayward, Commissioners Susan Roberts and Paul Castilleja, and County Public Works Director Russ McMartin met with the Dunrovens and more than 20 citizens concerned with excessive speeding.

Dunroven said, “It started mostly with shuttle drivers, but this applies to locals, too.”

Gary Rials who lives a few miles out of Troy, said he takes some of the responsibility on himself.

“I’ve confronted speeders for eight years, sometimes with a pitchfork,” said Rials who has had chickens, cats and a horse killed by vehicles in front of his home.

Rials also contacted the commissioners, but the speeding problem is two-fold. The legal limit in town is 25 mph, which gets ignored. The other problem is much trickier to solve on the dirt and gravel roads leading out of town. The state speed limit for unpaved roads is 55 mph. Despite what may seem like an unsafe speed, it’s the state’s default basic rule.

Rials said he talked to former Sheriff Fred Steen and has contacted the governor’s office. “I’ve gotten nothing done. They won’t change the speed limit.”

Hayward said to have a speed limit changed the state must conduct a study. Troy resort co-owner Kristen Yeager said with a wide variance in activity throughout the year, a study might not provide accurate information. Roberts said when she was the Enterprise mayor, the city had a speed study conducted and the state raised the speed limit until the council convinced them to reduce it below the original speed.

The speed limit of 25 mph in town is a legal limit, said Hayward, but if a driver is cited for going over posted speed limits outside of town on the gravel roads, like one that posts 15 mph, the ticket will likely get thrown out of court because of the basic rule law.

Yeager and partner Doug Mallory said they notice that when the Troy Resort is closed, people tend to drive by a lot faster than when they are open. Yaeger said their main area of concern is the hill near their RV and tent sites where people, children and dogs walk between the resort and their campsites.

“We routinely watch cars whizzing by. The only thing that slows people down is the corner leaving Troy,” said Yeager.

Without cellphone service, the resort is also where people come in an emergency to use the phone, said Yeager, so they are often involved if there is an accident or injury.

Mallory said he doesn’t like the idea of speed bumps and fears if more signs or a flashing light is installed, it will get shot. 

He also objects to the tendency of drivers to take a shortcut through the RV park. He, too, has stopped drivers and asked them to mind the speed limits, but during the high rafting season, he said speed limits are largely ignored.

Speed bumps were an unpopular option, flashing lights would get shot and speed limit signs outside of town don’t hold up in court, so Darrell Reynolds asked if stop signs on either end of town would be do-able. McMartin said yes, the county has the authority to install stop signs. 

The general consensus by the residents was to put in more stop signs. Hayward asked the people in attendance to work with McMartin on where best to put them.

Regina Dunroven said, “If we can get people to drive 25 mph through town, that’s all we want.”