The Joseph Branch Trail Consortium(JBTC), a non-profit group made up of community members from Union and Wallowa counties, is moving forward with plans to build a trail alongside the railroad tracks within the six miles of publicly owned railroad right-of-way between Enterprise and Joseph.

This trail will be available to residents and visitors for walking, jogging, biking, and horseback riding.

The JBTC has worked carefully with community members, local governments, and landowners over the past five years to address concerns and develop a plan for construction and maintenance that works for everyone. Recently, JBTC submitted an application to the county for a conditional use permit that, upon approval, would allow JBTC to proceed with the development of a pilot trail segment starting at Marr Pond and ending in Joseph.

“We know our group has been pretty quiet lately,” said Penny Arentsen, JBTC president. “But, we’ve been continually working through the process to make this trail a reality and we’re excited for this next step.” Arentsen continued.

The JBTC expects the trail will benefit the community by providing:

• A safe recreation area away from cars particularly for families, children, and the elderly

• An easily accessible path for exercise, commuting, and wildlife viewing

• A connection between the towns of Joseph and Enterprise

Additionally, the community health benefits could be significant. A recent Oregon Parks and Recreation Department study found that participation in outdoor recreation saves the state $1.4 billion annually in healthcare costs, with easily accessible opportunities being key, and something this rural area lacks.

This is something Wallowa County medical professionals recognize, and have thus provided enthusiastic support for trail development. “Specifically, Wallowa County has unique challenges. Its rural nature lacks the infrastructure available in other places which facilitate regular exercise such as YMCA’s, malls, parks, and walkable neighborhoods,” states Dr. Kenneth Rose, MD, a Wallowa County physician. “As a county we must move more! Increased physical activity will help decrease the risk and incidence of cancer and many other chronic diseases,” continued Dr. Rose.

The conditional use permit application will go before the Wallowa County Planning Commission for approval in a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 26 at 7 p.m. at the Cloverleaf Hall. Anyone interested in supporting trail development is encouraged to attend or express support in writing.

For more information on the project, visit www.JosephBranchTrail.org.

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