WURA signs MOU with parks, university

February 28, 2014 09:36 am

ELGIN — A proposal to build a trail along the Wallowa Union railway came one step closer to reality this week with the signing of an agreement that gives the go-ahead for a feasibility study.

Members of the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority unanimously voted to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and Eastern Oregon University.

Randy Jones, who works in the state’s Northeast Oregon Regional Solutions office on the EOU campus, said Wednesday the memorandum was on its way to President Bob Davies’ office.

“I have every understanding that the president will sign it,” Jones said.

Over the years an idea was developed to build a trail for hiking and bicycling along the route. Co-chair Steve McClure said Wednesday that the board agrees that the rails will remain in place. If the study deems that a trail on the 66-mile route from Elgin to Joseph is indeed feasible, it will have to be built next to the railway.

McClure said he is pleased with the parks department’s decision to conduct the study over the course of 18 months to two years, a time frame he thinks is adequate to properly research the idea.

Co-chair Mike Hayward said he, too, likes the plan parks has mapped out. 

“It’s too soon to know if this is even going to work, but we are willing to work with parks and the stakeholders to find out,” he said. 

The Wallowa Union Historic Trail Consortium, a newly formed 501c3, is an advocate for the trail. Terry Edvalson said that it now has a board of directors, with members representing Baker, Union and Wallowa counties.