River trail deserves support

By Observer editorial November 22, 2013 07:12 am

In most cities, a river runs through it. Or a stream. Or at least a fair-sized irrigation ditch.

In La Grande, for the most part, the river runs around it. The Grande Ronde River emerges from the Blue Mountains and cuts a beautiful swath through the far north end of town before heading on toward Island City.

Except for Riverside Park, the river has mostly been an overlooked resource. Now, however, that is changing. The Grande Ronde River Greenway Project eventually will create a river trail linking the two cities that will be a drawing card for both locals and tourists.

La Grande has got the trail off to a glorious start, finishing a quarter-mile portion of the pathway in 2012. Now it is up to Island City to keep the ball rolling, and there is plenty of enthusiasm and momentum for the project.

Such a trail, once completed, would be a draw for tourists and give them one more reason to stay an extra day in town. The trail would even more importantly improve the quality of life for locals. It would be a great place for families to take a walk, ride a bicycle, watch birds or enjoy fall colors.

Island City is now preparing for the next step. That involves sending an application for a ConnectOregon V grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation to cover its expense of the project. The grant should be approved and the project given the green light. Even so, it could be three more years before construction can begin, and even more years before the rest of the trail opens to the public.

Patience and persistence will be required to see the Grande Ronde River Greenway Project through to its completion.

But nothing good happens overnight. River walk trails in the Tri-Cities, Wash., and Boise, Idaho, along the Columbia River in Portland and Vancouver, Wash., all required people of vision and persistence to make them happen.  

Eventually, the trail is envisioned to run from Riverside Park to the Highway 82 bridge in Island City. When that happens, it will be the result of a lot of visionary people thinking long-term and not giving up before the miracle.