Joseph Branch Trail Consortium Awarded $7,500 Grant

La Grande, Oregon –February 10, 2016—The Oregon Community Foundation announced the Cycle Oregon Fund has awarded the Joseph Branch Trail Consortium $7,500 to support the second  phase of Joseph Branch Rail-with-Trail project development.
According to Penny Arentsen, Joseph Branch Trail Consortium President, “The Cycle Oregon funds will be used to work closely with the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority (WURA) to develop a trail management plan and agreements necessary for trail development.  The effort of the two organizations will focus on protecting the interests of the railroad, adjacent landowners, the Eagle Cap Excursion Train operators, the Joseph Branch Railriders owners, and the cities of Joseph and Enterprise while raising funds to develop a pilot project trail segment. “
The Railroad Authority board of directors in their February 9 meeting approved the development of the six-mile trail segment between Joseph and Enterprise as the pilot project, the next phase recommended in the Joseph Branch Rail-with-Trail Concept Plan.  The pilot project was selected based on responses to two surveys, comments made in public meetings and workshops, and comments received by e-mail and letter by the Concept Plan authors, Rocky Houston, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Trails Coordinator, and Dana Kurtz, Eastern Oregon University Student Project Coordinator. 
According to Terry Edvalson, Project Manager for the Joseph Branch Trail Consortium, the pilot project phase will deal with the on-the-ground details of project planning and include consultations with adjacent landowners and efforts to raise the $2 million required to design and construct the Joseph to Enterprise pilot project trail segment.  He noted the most immediate effort will be to work with the WURA trail committee to develop a Memorandum of Understanding with WURA to guide trail development efforts.
The Joseph Branch Trail Consortium, a tax exempt membership organization, invites everyone interested in developing what has been characterized as a potential “Internationally Acclaimed Recreational Trail” that will benefit Northeast Oregon’s economy and add to our quality of life to join the effort. 
The Concept Plan is available for review on the Internet at eou.edu/rails-with-trails/ or the La Grande, Elgin, Wallowa, Enterprise libraries and city halls.
For more information about the Joseph Branch Trail or to join in the trail development effort, consult jospehbranchtrail.org website or contact Terry Edvalson, JBTC Project Manager, by e-mail at tedvalson@eoni.com or phone at (541) 377-6355.   

EOU - PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – February 2, 2015

EOU wins Cycle Oregon grant in support of Rail-with-Trail study

LA GRANDE, Ore. – Eastern Oregon University has been awarded a $10,456 grant from the Cycle Oregon Fund at the Oregon Community Foundation.

The grant will support involvement from EOU students and the public in preparation of a Joseph Branch Rail-with-Trail feasibility study for the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority (WURA).

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Northeast Oregon Economic Development District and Joseph Branch Trail Consortium are partnering with the university on the study.

The Wallowa Union Railroad Authority has agreed to consider building a rail-with-trail project between Elgin and Joseph alongside the Joseph Branch rail line.

The feasibility study is scheduled to be completed in December 2015 and the WURA board of directors will make a decision at that time about proceeding with master planning and trail construction.

“The Joseph Branch Trail has the potential to create unique benefits for northeastern Oregon,” said Terry Edvalson, who provides project management support and is an adjunct faculty member at EOU.

“The development of the rail-with-trail could encourage additional interest in visiting the region, create new opportunities for the local economy, and enhance recreational and quality of life opportunities for local residents,” Edvalson added.

The 163 participants in public workshops held in Elgin, Wallowa and Enterprise in December 2014 provided information about concerns, constraints and opportunities along each mile of the proposed trail. This information is being used to develop a draft trail development design alternatives report.

The draft alternatives design report will be presented for review and comment in upcoming public workshops. A survey to evaluate public support for various design alternatives and gather opinions about other issues related to the trail will be conducted this spring.

Reports and other Information about the study are available at www.eou.edu/rails-with-trails and the Joseph Branch Trail Consortium website at www.josephbranchtrail.org.

Eastern Oregon University is the university that works with you! Prepare for the world beyond college with our high-quality liberal arts and professional programs. Classes are available when and where you need them – at our main campus in La Grande, online anywhere in the world or onsite at our centers across the state. Educational, cultural and economic growth is important to our region, state and nation. That’s why we are committed to providing a personal, student-centered experience in all that we do. Visit www.eou.edu.

Letter published in the La Grande Observer on January 5, 2015

Letter to Editor 
La Grande Observer

Rails w/Trails

To the Editor:

Northeast Oregon is one of the most desirable areas in Oregon for cyclists, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.  Local businesses should draw on this economic vein because Oregon's bicycle-related tourism alone contributes as much as $400 million (or about $1.2 million per day) to the state's economy.  
 
Imagine the possibilities and revenues that our local businesses and economy can dredge up simply by supporting leisure activities generated by an infrastructure such as "Rails with Trails”. 

Like a gold mine, our unique area is rich in economic resources in which local businesses can excavate and produce revenues to keep our area prosperous. Not only is there economic potential, but a local source for maintaining a fit and healthy lifestyle.
 
The Joseph Branch Trail Consortium (www.josephbranchtrail.org) has been busy exploring the probability of such a trail and rail network by working with local residents, property owners, and organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce. 

The website details the 63-mile proposed right-of-way trail, including maps, videos, links and other beneficial information. As an Elgin Chamber representative, I encourage businesses and others to check out the website to learn more about the potential benefits this trail can produce and how you can get involved. 

Being a business in Union and Wallowa County that supports such a trail will be the dredge that mines the gold.  
Don't let your economic opportunities peddle on by. 
 
Kem Brainerd
Elgin

Partners seeking public input on Rail with Trail project study

LA GRANDE, Ore. - The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) and Eastern Oregon University are seeking participation in a project to study the possibility of locating a public trail adjacent to the Joseph Branch railroad line, which will continue to be in operation.

The Wallowa Union Railroad Authority (WURA), owner and operator of the rail corridor, has requested this planning process.

During the Rail with Trail Study, EOU is contributing project management services and OPRD is providing trail-planning assistance.

Once input is gathered, a report will be prepared and presented to WURA for their consideration of the “rail with trail” concept.

During this phase, the project partners are completing an existing conditions assessment of the rail corridor. Work includes an assessment of existing facilities and services, land use analysis and stakeholder interviews.

Study findings will be reviewed with community members to identify opportunities and constraints associated with the trail concept. Public workshops will be held from 6-8:30 p.m. on the following dates:

  • Tuesday, Dec. 2 at the City of Elgin Community Center
  • Wednesday, Dec. 3 at the City of Wallowa Senior Center
  • Thursday, Dec. 4 at the City of Enterprise Senior Center

For more information call Terry Edvalson at 541-377-6355, Steve Kay at 503-986-0705 or visit the project website at www.eou.edu/rails-with-trails.

We have changed our name!

The board of directors at the 4 November meeting voted to change the organization's name to Joseph Branch Trail Consortium from the Wallowa Union Historic Trail Consortium name for multiple reasons.  First and foremost,the new name more clearly describes why the organization was formed, to support the development of a recreational along side the Joseph Branch Wallowa Union Railroad tracks from Elgin to Joseph, Oregon.  The second reason, Joseph Branch Trail Consortium is much easier to remember.

OUR VIEW - Trails with rails merits close look

Opinion

La Grande Observer 
Monday, May 13, 2013

You hear a lot about rails to trails. Not so often do you hear about trails with rails. But that is the dream—a trail along the Joseph Branch rail line between Elgin and Joseph.  It is getting closer
to reality.

Railroad representatives met Wednesday with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission in Baker City about a plan to build a trail along the 63-mile route, an area of natural beauty following the Grande Rondeand Wallowa rivers.

A local group, Wallowa Union Heritage Trail Consortium, wants to build a trail along the rails and Has been discussing the possibilities with the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority Trails with rails would preserve the infrastructure In case major shipping opportunities for lumber, Grain or other products arise in the future.

The idea to build a trail along the rail line is not new. However, since the authority has paid off its debt to the state, it is better positioned to now consider the possibility.

The big challenge, of course, will be funding the Endeavor. The authority will meet again with state Parks and its director, Tim Wood, in June and July to work on a plan.

Trails with rails would allow commerce to proceed and tourist and other trains to use the tracks while at the same time being a tourist draw to the area. Jobs would be created in construction and maintenance, and there would  be economic benefits for tourism-related businesses like bike rentals, restaurants, and lodging.  Trails with rails deserves a close look.

Northeast Oregon Trails Project Moving Forward

State parks commission OKs plan to build 669-mile trail during Wednesday meeting

La Grande Observer
Friday, May 10, 2013

By Kathy Nesbitt

The dream of a trail along the Joseph Branch rail line between Elgin and Joseph is getting closer to reality.

Railroad representatives met Wednesday with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission in Baker City about a plan to build a trail along the 66-mile route, whichhas met with approval, said Steve McClure, Wallowa Union Railroad Authority board members.
    
“The purpose of Wednesday’s meeting was the railroad and local community have had discussions and are working together so we wanted to see if (parks and recreation) are willing for us to look into designs for the trail,” McClure said.

McClure said a local group, Wallowa Union Heritage Trail Consortium, is interested in creating a trail and has been in conversation with the WURA. “We support trails with rails. We believe very strongly that we need to keep the infrastructure,” McClure said. The idea to build a trail along the rail line is not new, but the authority is much better positioned now to consider it. “Before  we still owed the state money, but we’ve paid it off and have no debt because of the rail care storage,” McClure said.  “Now we have a new set of circumstances and the commission indicated they did have interest.  The reception from them was good, but they have limited funding.”

McClure said the authority will meet again with state parks and its director, Tim Wood, in June and July to work on a plan. This weekend the railroad gears up for its first excursion run for Mother’s Day.  The new depot in Elgin will be open with its large waiting room, a gift shop and offices.

Getting it built Steve McClure said a local group, Wallowa Union Heritage Trail Consortium, is interested in creating a trail and has been in conversation with WURA.