Trails project moving forward

By Katy Nesbitt/The Observer May 10, 2013 11:31 am
The dream of a trail along the Joseph Branch rail line between Elgin and Joseph is getting closer to reality. 

Railroad representatives met Wednesday with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission in Baker City about a plan to build a trail along the 66-mile route, which was met with approval, said Steve McClure, Wallowa Union Railroad Authority board member.

“The purpose of Wednesday’s meeting was the  railroad and local community have had discussions and are working together so we wanted to see if (parks and recreation) are willing for us to look into designs for the trail,” McClure said.

McClure said a local group, Wallowa Union Heritage Trail Consortium, is interested in creating a trail and has been in conversation with the WURA.

“We support trails with rails. We believe very strongly that we need to keep the infrastructure,” McClure said.

The idea to build a trail along the rail line is not new, but the authority is much better positioned now to consider it.

“Before we still owed the state money, but we’ve paid it off and have no debt because of the rail car storage,” McClure said. “Now we have a new set of circumstances and the commission indicated they did have interest. The reception from them was good, but they have limited funding.”

McClure said the authority will meet again with state parks and its director, Tim Wood, in June and July to work on a plan.

This weekend the railroad gears up for its first excursion run for Mother’s Day. The new depot in Elgin will be open with its large waiting room, a gift shop and offices.

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