WALLOWA — The Joseph Branch Trail Consortium, the nonprofit group that hopes to establish a trail-with-rails alongside the existing railroad tracks that run between Elgin and Joseph, will hold its annual member gathering Saturday, May 7, in Wallowa, according to a press release.

The gathering will run from 4-6 p.m. at the Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland Project and will include project updates, a short hike along the trail route in Wallowa and complimentary food and beverages.

There also will be an announcement of the winners in the group’s spring drawing. Drawing prizes include two seats on a five-day rafting trip on the Snake River, two nights lodging at the Wallowa Lake Lodge, dinner and drinks for two at the Gold Room in Joseph and an echo fly fishing rod.

A limited number of drawing tickets are available until May 7 via the website JosephBranchTrail.org.

The consortium hopes to establish a 63-mile route along the tracks from Elgin to Joseph, but objections by landowners in Wallowa County have led to the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners denying conditional use permits for the project where it runs through the county.

Wallowa County Commission Chairwoman Susan Roberts, who is co-chairwoman of the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority, said Feb. 21 she believes the project is unlikely to go through.

“It’s doubtful it’ll ever go through because people were vehemently opposed to it,” Roberts said. “Wallowa County Planning (Department) at this time is not involved because it’s not in our county.”

But Gregg Kleiner, project coordinator for the consortium, said in an email April 26 that he believes there is strong hope for the success of the project.

“Momentum is building, our membership is growing and we’re attracting major funding and support,” Kleiner said.

He added in a May 2 email that the conditional use permit was not formally denied, as it had been withdrawn upon the recusal of one commissioner.

All are welcome to join the May 7 gathering, but an RSVP is requested by sending an email to info@josephbranchtrail.org.

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