The old U.S. Forest Service compound in Wallowa is on a path to become the Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center.
Last week U.S. Senator Ron Wyden introduced legislation that would transfer the old ranger station to the city of Wallowa.
According to Wyden's office, under the Wallowa Forest Service Compound Conveyance Act, "the city will work in conjunction with a non-profit group to develop an interpretive center recognizing the important culture aspects of the community. The center will serve as a tourist designation and preserve the unique cultural heritage of the region."
"I am very excited. I feel like this is a great victory, and a necessary step on the path we are on," said Gwen Trice of Enterprise, who has spearheaded the Maxville project, Friday after she received a call from Wyden's office about the conveyance bill.
Trice's father and grandfather worked and lived in the segregated logging town of Maxville 15 miles north of Wallowa in the 1932s, and her quest for her family's roots sparked the Maxville project.
Trice was the founder of the Maxville Heritage center project, which is in the process of obtaining non-profit status, and has been looking for a site in Wallowa for an interpretive center.
Her project has gained solid support in Wallowa County and wide attention around the state. It was the subject of a PBS documentary titled "The Logger's Daughter" that first aired in February, premiering at two full-house showings in the Wallowa Community Center.
At its May meeting, the Wallowa City Council voted to used the Forest Service building for the Maxville project if it becomes the owner of the structure.
Trice notes that the Forest Service building will be perfect site for the interpretive center, because it is a historic structure in its own right and will be preserved. It was built in 1937 by a CCC group.
Trice said that the journey to preserve Maxville and related local history recently took her to the Oregon governor's mansion at a reception for the fledgling Oregon African American Museum board, where she had a chance to talk briefly about Maxville and its connection with state history.
Trice, who has received a warm reception talking about Maxville in local schools, will next speak about the project, along with a showing of the 30-minute "The Logger's Daughter," at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 2, at the Odd Fellow's Hall in Enterprise. (See separate story).
For more information about the Maxville Heritage Interpretive Center, visit www.maxvilleheritage.org.
It is described as a "developing cultural interpretive center and museum celebrating the multi-ethnic culture of the railroad and timber industry of Maxville and similar communities in the Pacific Northwest. ... The emergence of the Maxville Project reflects the local community's deep appreciation for the preservation of its oral history, photographs, historical structures and forested landscape."
In addition to Wallowa, other communities would benefit from the legislation introduced by Wyden. La Pine would receive 360 acres now under the jurisdiction of BLM to develop a rodeo grounds, and 750-acre conveyance, to Deschutes County will be used by the sewer district for more efficent wastewater management.