Public meeting, April 26, 6:30 p.m. at Toma’s Conference Room, The Business Center, 309 South River Street in Enterprise.
ENTERPRISE, Ore – The Wallowa Mountains and Hells Canyon region beckons adventurers to delve into its remote reaches, but many of the trails are under- maintained or impassable, prompting northeastern Oregon trail enthusiasts to band together.
The Wallowa Mountains Hells Canyon Trail Association was born out of the obvious backlog of maintenance for the approximately 1,184 miles of summer and wilderness trails into the mountains and the canyon as well as the historic ranch homes, barns and cabins. The new Trails Association will be an important component of a Charter Ranger District recently formed by Eastern Oregon University, Wallowa Resources and the U.S. Forest Service that seeks ways for the Forest Service to meet its mission in the face of diminishing funds.
“This is a boots-on-the-ground organization that came together to improve trails and facilities on public lands,” Rick Bombaci said, one of the Association’s organizers.
For the past six months a group has begun plotting the course of the association over lunch meetings. Bombaci said the Trails Association is registered as a nonprofit with the state of Oregon and an application has been filed to achieve 501(c)(3) nonprofit status from the IRS in hopes of attracting funding for maintenance projects.
While the Association’s paperwork is being processed, members of the planning group worked closely with the staff of the U.S. Forest Service’s Wallowa Mountains Office to clear the Lower Imnaha River Trail #1713 to Eureka Bar of brush and rock over the course of two long days in early March and April.
Nine volunteers showed up for the first venture and 15 on the second to work with three Forest Service employees. Bombaci said there are only a few yards left, but those yards, like much of the trail already cleared, are severely overgrown with Himalayan blackberries. The Association plans to finish the project on April 22 — new members are encouraged to join.
Mike Eng is helping launch the organization and was a volunteer on the Lower Imnaha Trail clearing project. “We’ve already had over 150 hours of volunteer trail clearing to date,” Eng said.
Now with the experience of a successful trail clearing project completed, the association is mapping out a list of other projects for this and future seasons. To celebrate National Trails Day on June 3, a volunteer work party will be staged at Salt Creek Summit, 20 miles northeast of Joseph. From the Salt Creek parking lot well-used trails split off in all directions – some for biking, hiking, horseback riding, skiing and snow shoeing and others for ATVs and snowmobiles.
To attract volunteers and members, a meeting will be held April 26, 6:30 p.m. at Toma’s Conference Room, The Business Center, 309 South River Street in Enterprise.
Eng said Association directors will be installed and this summer’s projects discussed. Volunteers with skills ranging from using trail clearing tools to web design are sought to help administer the Association and coordinate maintenance projects with Forest Service personnel.
Bombaci said, “As a member, for a modest fee, people can have a voice in the direction of the organization.”
Annual memberships are $10 for students, $20 for adults and $30 for families. For more information on becoming a member, volunteer or about the public meeting, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photography by Shelly Ann Tippett
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