Plans are moving forward to create an Oregon Trail experience in Baker City during a two-year closure of the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center that starts next winter.
According to a press release, “formal negotiations” are currently underway between Baker County and the Bureau of Land Management, which operates the center five miles east of Baker City.
If an agreement is reached, the BLM would lease 2,500 square feet at the Baker Heritage Museum, 2480 Grove St. in Baker City. The leased area would include the Adler Room, located just inside the entrance, as well as the south end of the second-floor ballroom.
The temporary Oregon Trail exhibit would focus on the section of trail between Farewell Bend and the Blue Mountain Pass.
“It will be a smaller footprint, but the quality of exhibits will be equal to what we have at the center,” said Wayne Monger, incoming Vale BLM district manager.
The trail center is scheduled to close in the spring of 2022 for a “sustainability retrofit” that includes new energy-efficient siding, roofing, insulation and HVAC. Construction is slated to start March 1, 2022, and the center will be closed a month or more before that to accommodate the move.
The center will be closed to the public for about two years during the construction. Although the driveways and trail loop around the center will be restricted to construction traffic, the lower trails and Oregon Trail Ruts Access will be accessible from Highway 86.
As for the agreement, Oregon-Washington BLM State Director Barry Bushue has “authorized the submittal of a formal proposal to the BLM’s national leasing office in Denver.”
The next steps, according to the press release, are “an analysis of the proposal, including a local market assessment and potential improvement costs, among other things.”
“We see this as an opportunity to revitalize our relationship with NHOTIC and promote Eastern Oregon’s rich heritage together,” said Cammy Warner, Baker Heritage Museum Commission Chair.
Center staff would offer a regular schedule of interpretive presentations at the museum, and Baker City has agreed to allow NHOTIC to offer programs and Saturday evening performances at Geiser-Pollman Park.
The Saturday performances will begin this summer with a complete schedule to be announced soon. The press releases states that the concerts will be “a permanent summer program no matter the outcome of the co-location negotiations.”
Center hours this summer will depend on the current health guidelines.
The annual Memorial Day wagon encampment is still planned for May 29 and May 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. both days. Hank Cramer will be performing live music throughout the weekend, and be featured at the Saturday evening concert at the park.
For updates, visit the website www.oregontrail.blm.gov.