The rocks return

Written by Baker City Herald Editorial Board February 16, 2012 11:57 am

The rocks, or some of them anyway, will return.

Now what to do with them.

This, at least, is the lesser of the two dilemmas.

The greater challenge was to bring samples of gold ore and other precious metals and minerals back to Baker County, from whence they came (geographically speaking, if not always geologically).

That task has been achieved.

Vicki McConnell, director of the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, said recently that at least some of the 40 or so rock specimens will be sent from Portland, where they've been since 2009, to Baker City.

Much of the credit goes to Gary Bloomer of Baker County.

Bloomer complained in 2009 when the geology department, after its Baker City office moved into cramped quarters in the County Courthouse, moved the samples to its Portland headquarters.

Bloomer considered that decision a breach of historical etiquette. Most of the rocks, after all, had been collected in Baker or adjacent Grant County, a region which boasts a considerably richer mining history than does Portland.

Also, this was something of a personal quest for Bloomer.

The collection includes an opal mined more than a century ago on the ranch he owns near Durkee.

We don't blame the geology department for moving the rocks initially. In 2009 it looked as though the agency's Baker City office would close altogether; the county's offer of office space in the Courthouse prevented that.

Better that the collection was accounted for than stored — and possibly forgotten — in somebody's basement.

But Baker County is where the rocks belong. And it's not as if there's a shortage of suitable places to display these tangible links to mining, the dominant business for the first half-century or so after the county was created in 1862.

The Baker Heritage Museum, which already has some nonlocal samples from the geology department, is an obvious site.

We'd also like to see some samples displayed at the Courthouse and, perhaps, at the city halls in Baker City, Sumpter and Halfway, all towns with histories in which mining figures prominently.