Oregon Trail

Contributed photo

Oregon Trail ruts can be seen in the distance on the former Umatilla Chemical Depot.

A kick in the pants to the ongoing dispute between the Columbia Development Authority and those who wish to preserve the Oregon Trail as it runs through the Umatilla Army Depot.

Arguments over cultural and historical preservation have held up the transfer process for over a year already and need to reach a conclusion sooner rather than later. As the CDA and the U.S. Army strive to conclude a transfer of the military facility to local control, the fate of the trail has become the key remaining issue. Two known strands of the trail curve through the depot area, including a 5-mile section of ruts in the southern piece of the property.

Trail supporters want to preserve all of the trails through the depot and want a permanent covenant attached to the property, requiring any future owners to continue preservation. The CDA wants to preserve essentially all of the 3½ miles across the northern part of the depot, but only 200 yards to the south. It is unfortunate that the trail runs through the majority of the land that local leaders had hoped could brings hundreds of millions of dollars in developments to Umatilla and Morrow counties. But the trail is an important element to our collective history and throwing up a few kiosks and some benches and tables to mark its existence is not enough. Destroying any piece of the ruts should be a last resort.

Many of the companies we have been told are clamoring to build on such a prime piece of real estate could likely find ways to build around the trail if required, incorporating a historic and scenic green space into their campus. All parties should step back and reflect on what is best not for development, but for saving a critical historical facet of our state.

A tip of the hat to the city of Umatilla as it works to connect its trail system into a single system. The city will host an open house on Tuesday to gather input on a preliminary master trail blueprint that includes a dozen different projects to link separate sections of the city. If you live in Umatilla and want to get involved, the Tuesday session should be highlighted on your calendar. The city is doing the right thing by gathering feedback and its vision for its trail system deserves praise.

A tip of the hat … to everyone – volunteers, officials — who is busy right now putting together the 2019 edition of the Pendleton Round-Up. An event with a national profile, the Round-Up is a few days away and will — as usual — deliver plenty of fun and excitement for not just Pendleton but the entire region.

None of that, though, would be possible without a lot of dedication and enthusiasm by a great number of people. The Round-Up is our city’s signature event and delivers a massive economic shot in the arm every year.

As we gear up for the great event we should all remember that a large group of area residents stand make it possible. They deserve a huge thank you.

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