Mary Hawkins has a lot on her plate these days. She is office manager for the Wallowa Band Nez Perce Trail Interpretive Center. She has additionally volunteered to take leadership of the Wallowa Hometown Project to keep momentum after former city council member and project organizer Garrett Lowe stepped down due to health reasons.
“There is no formal structure to the Wallowa Hometown Project,” Hawkins said. “There were some good ideas there that it seemed like shouldn’t be dropped, better signage ... some of our historic buildings, downtown corridor, walking down toward the new footbridge, the possibility of getting the depot from Evans moved down there. People are interested, there’s just not really a leader. I could take on parts of that.”
Hawkins said she the Wallowa Hometown Project needs volunteers.
Wallowa Hometown Project development process is citizen-driven, the city is not formally involved until projects are brought to the council for approval. Public meetings have been held at city hall, but those do not imply the project is a city-sponsored project, Mayor Knifong said.
One project ready to move forward was the installment of a new city sign. However, a decision regarding placement of the Steve Arment-designed sign was postponed until ODOT and city maintenance were consulted and a formal presentation could be made to the city.
Switching to her Tamkaliks grounds hat, Hawkins said progress is being made on the Tamkaliks grounds outside of Wallowa as well.
The new longhouse was dedicated in August, and the 110-foot Minam steel truss bridge was installed at the site later last fall. Work has continued on connecting trails so that residents from Wallowa may access the Tamkaliks site and take walks around the area.
The Homeland Project has also hosted several events in addition to Tamkaliks Pow Wow, including two well-attended native youth gatherings.
Although the tribes do not yet have a firm policy on how the site will be used, the discussion continues, Hawkins said.
“We’re starting to see the longhouse leaders from the various reservations in that place together, and they’re getting a sense of how they’re going to use it,” she said.
No decisions have been made about how to use or restrict usage on the trails that will be accessible.
“How to educate people about the use ... it’s all about being respectful of the native presence that was here before, but we want people from family and towns to be able to use it,” Hawkins explained.
Other business included a discussion of raising building fees in the city.
Wallowa’s issue surrounding renewing the five-year lease of Back Achers, a second-hand, recycled and wholesale goods shop, has been resolved.
An earlier report in the Chieftain stated the lease paperwork on the business incubator building had been lost in Wallowa files as originally reported.
Those papers were located during the original meeting — the holdup of the process of renewing the lease is due to a request to change some of the original rulings about how the lease would be managed. It is necessary for USDA offices in Pendleton to approve. That is pending, a city spokesman said.