At Wednesday’s meeting, the Union County Commissioners told Karen Howton, Island City’s city recorder, they wanted to speak to the Oregon Department of Transportation about the Greenway project before committing to anything.

The Greenway project is a bike and walking trail that was started in 2012. The City of La Grande completed the first phase: the path currently begins at Riverside Park, crosses the Grande Ronde River, then continues as a paved trail about one-quarter mile east along the river. In 2016, Island City was awarded a $1.1 million grant from ODOT specifically for the next phase of the project: extending the trail to a pond in eastern Island City north of Highway 82. However, the project has stalled, mainly due to concerns from property owners along the proposed routes. If the grant money is not used for the Greenway project, Island City will have to return the funds.

The clock is ticking. The funds must be used to complete the Greenway by spring 2020. If Island City fails to comply and is forced to return the grant money, future projects may be at risk, as the state will likely be reluctant to again grant funds to the region.

Howton said she wanted to get a commitment from the commissioners that the work Island City has been investing in this project will not be in vain.

“This is a huge undertaking,” Howton told The Observer Friday morning. “We want to get the public involved with all the partners (Island City, Union County and La Grande). We want this to be a community project.”

However, Island City is going to need more than just a commitment to the process. Howton said the city does not have the money needed to fund the entire project. The favored route is estimated to cost $1 million more than the grant awarded to Island City.

See complete story in Friday's Observer