To the Editor:

Before moving to Wallowa County, my husband, Paul and I had the pleasure of living along a non-motorized trail for a couple years. It was 50 feet from our back door and used by community members of all ages, including us. We walked, jogged, and rode our bikes on it daily. It connected 2 communities together and provided both a safe commuting route and recreation space. Now that we have children who are learning to ride bikes, we are reminded of all the families we watched utilizing this trail. The kids were safe from cars while wobbling along on their bikes, plus their entire family got exercise. When the opportunity to develop a similar trail along the Joseph Branch Rail Line materialized in our community, I became excited, particularly for our community’s kids. We saw first-hand how the linear nature of a trail fostered community interactions. While we have amazing trails in the wilderness, this trail will be of a different nature. One easily accessible that allows all ages, particularly elderly and youth, to bike, ride horses, jog, hike, commute, and push strollers along without worrying about automobiles.

On February 9th, 2016, the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority (WURA) unanimously approved the concept design for the 63 mile Joseph Branch Rail with Trail, a design developed by Oregon State Parks, Eastern Oregon University, and the Joseph Branch Trail Consortium. WURA also approved to move forward with a pilot project between Joseph and Enterprise, a 6 mile trail segment. The Joseph Branch Trail Consortium (JBTC), the group working closely with WURA on developing this pilot project, is a 501c3 non-profit made up of volunteer citizens from both Wallowa and Union Counties, of which I am a member.

I commend WURA for moving forward with this community project. The railroad corridor is a public asset, owned by all of us. The trail will not cost the local taxpayers anything. And the access to recreation is free. Funding for the trail is being sought through grant money, money set aside for trail development. Let’s get those dollars working for our community. The JBTC is working with WURA and the landowners between Enterprise and Joseph to develop the management and maintenance plan for the trail. More information can be found at JosephBranchTrail.org. A public meeting to update the community on the trail development will be held Thursday, June 23rd at 6:30PM at the Cloverleaf Hall in Enterprise. All interested community members are encouraged to attend.

Penny Arentsen

President, Joseph Branch Trail Consortium

Joseph

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