Union County will participate in the planning process for the trail project

February 4 – LA GRANDE – The planning process for a proposed hiking, biking and horseback trail that would follow the train tracks for up to 15 miles from Elgin to the Lookingglass Creek area has received a boost from the Union County Board of Commissioners.

The Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Wednesday, February 2, to have Union County staff members assist in the planning process. The planning work will be funded by a state transportation management grant of approximately $130,000 to the City of Elgin.

Elgin and the Joseph Branch Trail Consortium, which will manage the grant-funded planning work, have requested county assistance for at least a small portion of the project.

Gregg Kleiner, project coordinator for the Joseph Branch Trail Consortium, said Elgin and the Joseph Branch Trail Consortium will hire an engineering company to do much of the trail planning work, so “it won’t be a big burden on the county”.

Kleiner said a concept plan for the trail project has been in place for years. The planning work funded by the grant will identify any trail issues, including environmental impacts that may need to be addressed if a trail is built. For example, if the trail is found to cross wetlands, steps should be taken to avoid damaging them.

He pointed out that the money from the transport management grant will be used exclusively for planning.

“Absolutely none of the grant money will be spent on construction,” Kleiner said.

The Board of Commissioners has also agreed to document the hours of service provided, as the hours of service may be counted as part of a 12% match that Elgin must provide for the grant.

“We’re really pleased the county is supporting the planning project,” Kleiner said.

The planning grant is funded by the Oregon Department of Transportation and the state Department of Conservation and Land Development. This is one of two the City of Elgin received for the trail project. The other grant, $142,000 from the Oregon State Parks Recreational Trails Program, will fund construction of the trailhead, which will also serve as a pocket park for the city. The pocket park at the trailhead will be on a city-owned parcel of land directly across from the train depot in downtown Elgin, Kleiner said.

In addition to trail information, the pocket park at the trailhead would include an electric vehicle charging station, an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant parking spot, and interpretive signs about the area’s first inhabitants. region and its more recent history.

The grant will also fund the construction of the first 0.6 mile of the trail which will be an ADA compliant path out of town along the train tracks. This first part would be part of a proposed 63-mile trail between Elgin and Joseph that would follow tracks owned by the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority.

“It will provide a wonderful way to access the natural world and enjoy nature,” Kleiner said.

Louisa R. Loomis