Support the Next Step to Develop the Trail


Communicate your support to the Wallowa County Planning Commission

The next step to develop the first six miles of the trail from Joseph to Enterprise is for JBTC to secure a Conditional Use Permit from Wallowa County. There are two primary ways you can express your support for the trail to the Planning Commission: Attending the Public Hearing and/or writing a letter.

1) Attend the Wallowa County Planning Commission public hearing on Tuesday, February 26th at 7PM at Cloverleaf Hall in Enterprise. Read the JBTC Conditional Use Permit Application: Part 1 & Part 2



  • Goals 4 & 6 in the Wallowa County Transportation System Plan (2001)

    • Goal 4: Increase the use of alternative modes of transportation (walking, bicycling, and public transportation) through improved access, safety, and service is of particular interest to us.

    • Goal 6: [Although the County is no longer served by a branch railroad line], the County recognizes the railroad line and its right of way as an asset to be put to the highest and best use for the entire County.

      • Objective: A. First, pursue renewal of rail transportation into the County, second, retain the right of way intact for potential future uses, and finally, that the existing right of way be put to the highest and best use for the entire County, as referenced in Goal XII.

    • in 2001 (and still), Wallowa County has inadequate roadways to accommodate cyclists: p. 7-17: “At present, bicyclists in Wallowa County share the roadway with motorists on most of the county roads. Many of the shoulders on both the county roads and state highways are inadequate for accommodating bicyclists.”

      p. 7-15: “Multi-use paths are popular in rural areas, especially when they provide a viable alternative to a busy highway. Paths should follow the design standards of the Oregon Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan (1995). No paved separated paths are found in Wallowa County at this time; however, one project has been identified as part of the transportation plan:

       A separated path along the Idaho Northern Pacific and Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way has been suggested; however, the feasibility of such a path may be limited the cost of the right-of-way and path construction, and the concern for access across private land.” [JBTC Note: No private land will be accessed for the Joseph Branch Trail]

  • Goal 8 of the Wallowa County Comprehensive Plan:

    • To satisfy the recreation needs of visitors and citizens of the County, and State, to promote recreation as an industry, and to improve or mitigate watershed conditions through well planned development in Wallowa County.

    • 11. It is vital to County recreation and tourism industries that access to recreation and tourism areas be maintained. Access includes not only roads, but trails, cat roads, access easements, and other means of access.

  • Oregon State Planning Goal 12: Transportation:

    • (b) Encourage and support the availability of a variety of transportation choices for moving people that balance vehicular use with other transportation modes, including walking, bicycling and transit in order to avoid principal reliance upon any one mode of transportation;

    • (c) Provide for safe and convenient vehicular, transit, pedestrian, and bicycle access and circulation;


    • ODOT reviewed the JBTC application at the Wallowa County Planning Department’s request. Here is their response: SENT THIS LETTER Feb 20, 2019.

  • REDUCED HEALTH CARE COSTS: Access to recreation, particularly cycling and walking, have proven statistically to reduce health costs in the state of Oregon. The physical and mental benefits to our community will be numerous.

  • NEEDED HEALTH BENEFITS: Regular physical activity is associated with a number of positive health outcomes, such as increase in life expectancy and reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, colon and breast cancer, among others. Urban and rural trails offer the possibility for greater physical activity, not only among those who are already active, but also for those who need a safe environment to become active.

  • NOTHING LIKE IT: Currently we have no off-road bicycling or stroller walking/jogging opportunities for families with children and elderly who cannot ride single track. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that “children less than 10 years old are not mature enough to make the decisions necessary to safely ride in the street.” (


    There are over 23,000 miles of trails similar to this in the United States, traveling through rural and urban communities. Benefits to community members include:

    • A nature experience close to our urban centers, free of cars, and easy for all in our community to access,

    • Increased opportunity for physical fitness in a safe environment (e.g., bicycling free of cars),

    • Safe commuting routes between towns (via bicycle, horseback, hiking, and cross-country skiing),

    • Increased opportunity for one-on-one interactions, fostering greater community engagement,

    • Increased opportunities for community events (e.g., community fundraisers, including walkathons, runs, & bike rides),

    • An opportunity to educate visitors through interpretive signs about our community's natural and cultural history, including land stewardship (from Nez Perce to Ranching Heritage), and

    • Walking/jogging trails are one of the top 3 considerations for all age brackets, especially families, looking to relocate (The National Association of Homebuilders (2016)).

    • There will be more benefits we're sure that will be realized once the trail is constructed.

  • MANAGEMENT & MAINTENANCE OF THE TRAIL: The Joseph Branch Trail Consortium (JBTC) will manage and maintain the trail for WURA, similar to the Friends of the Joseph Branch for the Eagle Cap Excursion Train. The JBTC is a membership based organization and will manage the trail with volunteer effort and possibly a paid employee in the summer. JBTC will seek funds through membership and grants, as well as set up an endowment. Local partnerships have been developed as well to help maintain trailheads. The Enterprise trailhead will be a partnership with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) at the Marr Pond Wildlife Area. ODFW already has the funds to upgrade that trailhead location. The Joseph trailhead location will be a partnership with the Joseph Branch Railriders. The Weiser River Trail, an 83 mile long rail to trail in Idaho in existence for 21 years, has been managed by the Friends of the Weiser River Trail and mirrors the model the JBTC will be using.


    • JBTC is committed to working with neighbors to help this trail work for everyone. Read our Management, Maintenance, and Signage Plan, in 3rd draft form. This Plan has been reviewed by interested neighbors to the trail and feedback has been incorporated into this version. This document will grow and evolve as the project does.

  • The primary land use zone the trail will travel through in the county is EFU (Exclusive Farm Use). According to Oregon Land Use Law ORS 215.296, the trail must be determined not to impact adjacent farming or forest practices by:

                      (a) Forcing a significant change in accepted farm or forest practices on surrounding lands devoted to farm or forest use; or

    (b) Significantly increasing the cost of accepted farm or forest practices on surrounding lands devoted to farm or forest use.

  • How has the JBTC met this condition? JBTC provided an agricultural impact study by an agricultural scientist that concludes the trail will neither force a significant change in accepted farm or forest practices on abutting lands, nor significantly increase the costs of those practices.

    • Read the Conditional Use Permit Application: Part 1 & Part 2

  • CONCERNS/NUISANCES: During the development phase of the over 23,000 rail trails in the United States, some neighbors nation-wide have voiced concerns similar to Wallowa County, like crime, vandalism, trespass, loss of property value, loss of privacy, and littering. Yet, Post-construction, with good trail design and management, these concerns are not realized and trail use has either little or no effect (actually positive effects) for the neighbors, as shown in the research below:

    1. Rail-Trails and Community Sentiment: A Study of Opposition to Rail-Trails and Strategies for Success

    2. Evaluation of the Burke-Gilman Trail’s Effect on Property Values and Crime

    3. Indiana Trails Study: A Study of Trails in 6 Indiana Cities

    4. 2017 Indiana Trails Study: Measuring the Health, Economic, and Community Impacts of Trails in Indiana

    5. Multi-use Trails: Benefits and Concerns of Residents and Property Owners

    6. Read a letter submitted to the WC Planning Commission by a landowner who opposed an adjacent rail trail in North Carolina and later became an advocate for it.

  • To Address these concerns with adjacent landowners, the JBTC has developed Management Strategies and set forth the following conditions in our CUP Application:

    • Condition 1:    The trail shall be closed between 9pm and 5am.

    • Condition 2:    The Applicant shall cause to be established a telephone line and email address to receive reports regarding activities on the Trail. Reasonably reliable reports shall be logged and disclosed annually to the County Planning Director for no less than two (2) years from the opening of the Trail.

    • Condition 3:    No more than two (2) years after the Trail is opened to the public, the Applicant shall request a Review of Conditions from the County Planning Director, which shall be processed as an Administrative Review.  If the Director finds that no changes in the conditions of approval are necessary, the Director shall approve the Review of Conditions.  If the Director finds that a change or addition to the conditions of approval is necessary, or if the Applicant requests a change to the conditions of approval, the Planning Director shall, in consultation with the Applicant, make a recommendation to the Planning Commission, which shall consider whether the conditions should be changed as proposed by the Planning Director. At all levels of review, the scope of the Review of Conditions shall be limited to the conditions necessary for safe operation of the Trail and shall not consider whether or not the Trail should remain in operation.

    • Condition 4:    JBTC shall adopt a policy that dogs on the Trail shall be leashed at all times.

    • Condition 5:  Signs shall be posted at both ends of the trail indicating that (1) dogs are required to be leashed at all times, (2) dog owners are obligated to pick up dog waste, and (3) trail users are advised that adjacent landowners have the right to protect their property from dogs that enter land adjacent to the trail.

    • Condition 6: A combination of barbed-wire and woven wire fence no less than four (4) feet in height shall be constructed where separation between livestock and dogs is necessary and where adequate fences are not already in place.


    • Wallowa County roads allow the same uses that this trail will, minus the motorized use. The adjacent landowners are already subject to walkers, bikers, and horseback riders passing their land and they have passed without incidence, showing people out for exercise are good people.

    • Dogs are already allowed at all hours on County roads, and with the proposed conditions, JBTC has no reason to believe that dogs on the proposed trail will cause any more problems than do dogs on other County roads. However, the conditions proposed of woven wire fencing, leash law, and dog poop pick up requirements will aid in keeping the peace.

  • OVER 23,000 RAILRIDERS SINCE 2014:

    • Over 23,000 Joseph Branch Railriders (railcars) have ridden the right of way twice a day for 7 months of the year since 2014. Not one incidence has occurred for the adjacent landowners and no complaints have been received by the JB Railriders.


    • A completed rail-trail is quite different from unmanaged use in a railroad right of way. The current informal ‘benign trespass’ use shows 1) there is a need for a more formal trail and 2) has already shown the JBTC where “problem areas” exist, like dogs and livestock. A managed right of way will be better for all. Just as rules of the road exist for drivers, rules of the trail would exist for trail users.


    • Research shows that the users on these trails, people out for health benefits, are good people. And good people and good intentions drive out bad ones. Sure, there may be occasional pieces of trash, but we will all be working together as a community to keep this area clean and ‘police’ it by our presence.

  • SECURITY: Emergency vehicles will be able to access the trail. The Wallowa County Sheriff’s Department will respond to incidences on the trail like anywhere else in the county. Trails hours from 5AM-9PM, plus self-policing by our community will help keep unwanted activity down, as good people drive out bad intentions. Volunteer bike and horse patrols will be organized if issues arise and security cameras will be installed as well, but JBTC does not anticipate these being needed. As one study noted, crime is performed by people with cars who wish to get away fast, not by joggers and bicyclists. Illegal motorized traffic has been the primary '‘illegal activity” cited on rail trails and that is handled with limiting access to the trail, police intervention, and security cameras.

  • LIABILITY: Oregon has a very strong RECREATIONAL USE STATUTE: ORS 105.628 and ORS 105.688 that protects anyone allowing access for recreation (without charging a fee) to their land or lands adjacent to recreation land. While no private land will be crossed for this trail, adjacent landowners are covered by this statute, as well as Oregon Trespassing Law: ORS 164.255 and Oregon’s Right to Farm Law. Additionally, JBTC will work with adjacent landowners on farming/ranching practices that may need notification to the public, like closing the trail or posting signs when weed spraying is occurring.

2) Write a letter to the Wallowa County Planning Director, Franz Goebel. Tell him you support the trail. We have provided a sample letter and bullet points below. Please send letters either via email or snail mail. More details below.

Letter Details:

Send to Wallowa County Planning Director, Franz Goebel (Email: (Address: Wallowa County Planning Department, 101 South River Street, Room B-1, Enterprise, OR 97828)

Bullet Points for Benefits of the Trail:

  • Improve the health of our community by providing a gradually sloped, wide walk/bike path with a firm surface for wheelchair and stroller access

  • Improve safe routes for our kids & transportation safety by providing a safe, alternative route between Joseph and Enterprise for commuters and recreationists

  • Connect the towns of Joseph and Enterprise in this Phase One

  • Provide an opportunity to increase social activity, which will improve the overall health of our citizens

  • Build on already occurring recreation in the corridor to provide access for all ages and abilities