Wallowa Lake Lodge is preserved.

The organization led by local investors seeking to purchase the lodge and preserve it from development announced Wednesday (April 13) that it had closed on the purchase of the landmark property.

The transfer of ownership has been a story of whirlwind action by local investors, the former owners who took the property off the market for nearly a year to give locals a chance to raise funds, and the Nez Perce Tribe, who agreed to take over the conservation easement of the nearly 10-acre property surrounding the lodge.

Every step of the way history was made.

Firstly, Lake Wallowa Lodge LLC was created specifically to preserve a popular tourist area from excessive development while still proudly embracing the Travel Oregon 7 Wonders of Oregon designation.

Additionally, this will be the Nez Perce Tribe’s first conservation easement, established primarily for purposes of cultural resources and habitat protection and held in perpetuity.

The lodge sits on the headwaters of Wallowa Lake and in the past was an important waterway for a vibrant population of spawning steelhead.

The Nez Perce Tribe is a partner in protecting this fragile landscape from being converted into a condominium subdivision. The tribe will hold a conservation easement that precludes development on most of the open ground, including the Wallowa River wetlands and adjacent uplands.

And in a remote, rural county where environmental concerns often clash with concerns over livelihoods, the purchase of the lodge is an example of how various parties can come to an agreement if the plan is right.

“This campaign to secure the lodge and land at the head of the lake is a testament to the vision and commitment of the community,” said James Monteith, managing member of the new company. “Local residents and friends of the county rallied in an unparalleled effort. I’ve never seen people stretch together like this to solve such a difficult problem with such a perfect outcome.”

Through the combined efforts of local investors and support throughout the Pacific Northwest, the new company raised $3.1 million to purchase the lodge and cover the expenses of a nine-month campaign.

Investor Jay Graves, who helped launch this private effort after retiring as chairman of the Oregon State Parks Commission, expressed appreciation for the unique ability of investors to see the “big picture” with regard to popularity and preservation.

“We are so excited that the Wallowa Lake Lodge will continue to operate as one of the great lodges of the West and that this sacred ground of the Nez Perce will be protected,” he said. “We are eager to see the future of the lodge unfold and many more memories made through this inspiring community accomplishment.”

Connection with the past moving forward in a modern way also was expressed by former owners Marc and Nancy Zwerling, who have invested in the new company (as has the Wiggins family, who owned the lodge for 45 years before the current era).

“Nancy and I, and (late partner) Steve Larson’s family, could not be more excited,” Marc Zwerling said. “For many years we have striven to assure the lodge property and the whole south end of the lake would be preserved in its natural state for the use and enjoyment of future generations. The new community-based ownership shares our hopes and dreams, and is uniquely positioned to achieve that goal. Their efforts have earned our strong support.”

Lake Wallowa Lodge LLC has no intention of being a museum piece honoring the past alone. It will maintain the lodge as an affordable, family-friendly inn, eventually adding a modest number of rooms and cabins, establishing a retreat and conference center, and reopening the venerable Cattlemen’s Bar. This will allow the company to expand its educational and cultural offerings, lengthen shoulder seasons and increase profitability, investors say.

The new owners hope to recapture the traditional essence of the lodge as a cultural icon of the county and centerpiece of the lake community.

Approximately 650 shares in the LLC remain available, and accredited investors will be accepted through the summer season. As a result of the sale and other changed conditions, a new prospectus will soon be issued.

For a comprehensive investors packet with prospectus, call 541-398-0305 or send an email request to info@lakewallowalodge.com.

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