BLM had to do it

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board December 12, 2011 06:10 pm

It points to a disappointing trend, but the BLM’s decision to close the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center three days per week this winter makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is keeping the Center open on days when just a couple dozen visitors show up.

During the past eight Januarys, for instance, the daily average has been 19 visitors.

But no matter how many people paid admission, the BLM had to make sure the Center was staffed and the snow plowed from the access road.

Center Director Sarah LeCompte estimates the BLM will save $20,000 to $30,000 by closing on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays through Feb. 12.

Not a king’s ransom, to be sure. But the savings could be important considering BLM is expecting 5-percent cuts in the Center’s budget each of the next three years.

Fortunately, the BLM will open the Center, regardless of the day, for large tour groups that pre-arrange a visit. That will help local tourism officials who are trying to attract just such groups.

Ideally, as the economy improves, visitor numbers will increase enough to justify resuming the Center’s normal, 7-days-per-week schedule.