The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department's (OPRD) plan to open the new Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site, formerly known as the Marr Ranch property, in 2009 is moving ahead with a recent boost from Wallowa County.

An approval for conditional use of the 62-acre property south of Joseph was received from the Wallowa County Planning Commission Feb. 24. An OPRD public hearing on an Oregon Administrative Rule adoption for the site's master plan is coming next. The hearing is scheduled March 25 in Enterprise.

A full draft of the plan is on the OPRD Web site (http://egov.oregon.gov/OPRD; click on Planning, then on Marr Ranch Property under Master Draft Plans).

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission approved Iwetemlaykin (pronounced "ee weh TEMM lye kinn") State Heritage Site as the park's official name during a Jan. 29 meeting, honoring a request from the tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Nez Perce Tribe, and Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

The name, which translates to "at the edge of the lake," commemorates the traditional Indian reference to the Wallowa Lake basin area.

Regarded by the tribes as sacred ground, the park land overlooks a grassland moraine north of Wallowa Lake.

Northeast District Manager Jim Hutton said OPRD will begin work this year on an interpretive plan for the heritage site, which many historians consider the starting point of the Nee-Me-Poo National Historic Trail.

Themes in the plan will focus on the land's importance to the tribes, interpret its natural history and recognize its more recent use as a ranch under several owners.

Wallowa County and the Oregon Department of Transportation are working with OPRD on the design of trails, a trailhead, restrooms and highway access for the site. OPRD's lottery-supported Facility Investment Program is funding the $280,000 project. Construction is due to be completed by September.

"We're grateful for the interest and support of our master plan advisory committee," said

OPRD Planning Manager Kathy Schutt. "This effort has been, and will continue to be, a partnership between our department and local governments, the tribes, the National Parks Service and interested local citizens."

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