A Wallowa County celebration of Oregon Outdoor Recreation Day became a day of community service for supporters who turned out to spruce the proposed Joseph Branch Trail between Joseph and Enterprise.
The day was organized by the Joseph Branch Trail Consortium, which with the approval of the Wallowa Union Railroad Authority, is proposing this six-mile segment of the 63-mile railroad as a first step toward constructing a walking, bicycling and riding trail along the rails.
“The cleanup day exemplified what rail and trail is all about,” said Kim Metlen, who also operates the Rail Rider pedal cars. “Around 32 neighbors from Wallowa and Union counties found a surprisingly small amount of litter and mostly chatted and enjoyed and formed stronger community bonds.”
Starting from Joseph, the consortium arranged shuttles back to their cars so people could hike as much or as little as they liked.
Penny Arentsen and Emily Sheahan brought their four children.
“It was a nice morning hiking and enjoying this public corridor with folks from 3 to 83, even though the Joseph Branch Trail has not been established yet,” said Arentsen, “I enjoyed seeing a small side trail folks can use for now, same as on the East Moraine.”
Establishing a Trail Management Plan and working with Wallowa Union Railroad Authority to improve it is the most recent effort to move the project forward. The overall Joseph Branch Rail-With-Trail Concept Plan is available in area libraries. Lostine resident Terry Polk, a nurse who has experienced other trails in the country, supports the project.
“Taking this project forward from its current ‘diamond-in-the-rough’ status to a finished community trail will bring untold benefits to our citizens,” she said.
Another nurse, Jen Wing, added that she would commute by bike when possible from home in Joseph to the hospital in Enterprise using the trail.
“It would be much safer than Hurricane Creek Road, and SO cool,” she said.
People are allowed to use the existing right-of-way as long as they respect the permission to do so and act responsibly.