The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department's plan to open the new Iwetemlaykin State Heritage Site in 2009 is moving ahead with a recent boost from Wallowa County. The site is the former Marr Ranch property.

Approval for conditional use of the 62-acre property south of Joseph was received from the Wallowa County Planning Commission last month. A public hearing for the site's master plan is scheduled March 25 in Enterprise.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission approved Iwetemlaykin (pronounced "ee weh TEMM lye kinn") State Heritage Site as the park's official name during a Jan. 29 meeting, honoring a request from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Nez Perce Tribe, and Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. The name, which translates to "at the edge of the lake," commemorates the traditional Indian reference to the Wallowa Lake basin area. Regarded by the tribes as sacred ground, the park land overlooks a grassland moraine north of Wallowa Lake.

Northeast District Manager Jim Hutton said OPRD will begin work this year on an interpretive plan for the heritage site, which many historians consider the starting point of the Nee-Me-Poo National Historic Trail. Themes in the plan will focus on the land's importance to the tribes, interpret its natural history and recognize its more recent use as a ranch under several owners. Construction is due to be completed by September.

- Skip Nichols

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