My View: Wallowa County newsworthy and noteworthy

My View: An appreciation of the place ... and you

In the Feb. 29th Sunday Oregonian there were two articles about Wallowa County. One was about rezoning the land south of Wallowa Lake, which is leased by Pacificorp. The other was about the World War II memorial being constructed in Washington, D.C.

Joseph and Wallowa Country may be in the absolute boondocks of eastern Oregon, but the way of life there is both newsworthy and noteworthy. Wallowa County is a place which has world-class scenery, friendly and talented citizens, and is up to its ears in land use issues centered on maintaining the unique qualities of its corner of the state.

The land-use part has significant squabbles attached to it.

The National World War II Memorial, which is to be dedicated in Washington, D.C. next Memorial Day, has also had disputes connected to it. Some groups fought hard against having the memorial constructed on the Capital Mall, saying it was too big, and was counter to the original purpose of the mall. Regardless, Valley Bronze in Joseph will be a big part of the end product, as will Joseph's Janelle Stewart of Stewart Spring, Ltd., who did drafting for the project.

According to the Oregonian article, those involved from Joseph have been highly praised by the overseers of the National World War II Memorial contract as meeting deadlines and doing excellent work. Among the parts of the memorial, which were forged at the Valley Bronze Foundry, are four thousand 4 1/2 inch bronze stars (each representing 100 Americans who died in the war between 1941 and 1945).

The Oregonian article included a picture of two Valley Bronze artisans installing the stars in the centerpiece at the Washington, D.C. site. There is much more, including a pair of 43-foot tall arches, and fifty-six seventeen-foot tall polished slabs, which are placed in a immense circle. They represent the United States and territories, which existed at the time of the war.

The article about how the park around Wallowa Lake might shrink if the 50 acres leased by Pacificorp (12 within the park itself) are rezoned and sold for commercial use is an issue, which creates very strong feelings. Since the park currently sees the heaviest visitor use of any state park in Eastern Oregon, one might wonder just how heavy park use would become with rezoning, which would allow additional lodges, motels, restaurants and condominiums. What would that mean for Wallowa Lake and the park around it? Could the reason be the park is so popular is because of its limited commercial development?

The land in question includes a picnic area, and a trailhead used by large numbers of hikers and horseback riders. The article mentioned that, if rezoned, having a performance center built might be more popular with local folks than retail shops and fast food restaurants. Regardless, if the zoning is changed, the impact will be strongly felt by those who live in the Wallowa Lake area and those who visit there, as well as the deer and wildlife who live and wander there year around. Traffic on the roads around the lake during the tourist season is already an issue; more could well be a deterrent to safety.

That's it for a little Sunday newspaper reading that hit home. If it's not one thing, it's another, some of it kudos well earned and the other pretty unsettling news.

Cynthia Hilden's column appears every other week. She can be reached at cyhilden@msn.com.

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