A long awaited .85-mile bike and pedestrian path from the southeast corner of College Street in Joseph to the county park at the foot of Wallowa Lake will likely be built in 2018.
The Oregon Department of Transportation unveiled the project to the public in 2015. The $2.2 million design was originally slated for 2016 construction, but issues with the Native American tribes, endangered plants, purchasing private property easement and adding additional ADA accessibility delayed the start.
ODOT media representative Tom Strandberg said the project is on firm footing and could go out for bid early in 2018.
The two-way pavement path is 10 feet wide and generally separated five feet from the highway. The path runs along the west side of the highway and features an ADA ramp at College Street and two additional ramps are slated for placement at the southwest and southeast corners of the East Street and Hwy. 82 intersection.
Changes from the original project include the removal of a retaining wall across the highway from the cemetery because of the visual impact it would have looking out from the cemetery and approaching the lake.
Two smaller retaining walls are slated for construction adjacent to the west side of the path. The walls are located between Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site parking lot and the south entrance to Iwetemlaykin. The department added the walls to the project to eliminate the need to lay back slopes, which would have extended into and required obtaining a right-of-way from Iwetemlaykin.
“Once we get a bid back, we’ll have more information about the start of construction, and we plan for it to be completed by the end of the year,” Strandberg said. “This is a first step in our efforts to get folks closer to the park.”
Joseph Mayor Dennis Sands said public support for the project is high, and he included himself among its supporters.
“I think this path will provide a safer way for walkers and people on bicycles to make a trip to the lake. People drive too fast on that stretch of highway, and that can be dangerous,” he said.
Sands also said he plans to be one of the first to use the path after its completion.
“I walk daily through town for my exercise, but there isn’t really much of an incline,” he said. “This path provides a good steady incline, and I’m looking forward to putting it to use.”
An additional proposed bike/pedestrian path to the head of the lake remains in the planning stages.