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Wallowa Forest Service Compound Conveyance Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues who have brought this legislation forward as well. Again, this, like the prior bill, it's a partnership between Senator Wyden and myself, as we've worked together to resolve some of these land issues out in Oregon.

This one's kind of interesting. In 1936, the City of Wallowa actually donated this parcel of land to the U.S. Forest Service, and what we're doing today is giving it back to the city. They had a Forest Service compound there for many years and then, at some point, probably 20, 30 years ago, quit using it for that purpose and, basically, the buildings are in horrible disrepair.

I was out there a few weeks ago and toured the compound site with Gwen Trice and some of the county officials and took a look at the facility as it is today and, literally, they've had water damage inside. One place the ceiling had caved in.

But they have this plan. They have this plan to turn this into this interpretive site to honor and teach the history about Maxville, which was a railroad logging town that existed about 15 miles north of Wallowa.

Now, what's interesting about this, the emergence of the Maxville project really reflects the local community's deep appreciation for the preservation of this unique history, and they want to use this facility and restore it to display photographs and really tell the story and bring students in to let them learn about Maxville heritage and what went on there.

Now, the interpretive center seeks to gather, catalog, preserve, and interpret this rich history of the multicultural logging community of Maxville. Maxville itself operated until the early 1930s and was unique in that it included 50-or-so African Americans and their families and was home to the only segregated school in Oregon.

Previous historic records only made small mention of these African Americans. But in the last 3 years, the Maxville heritage project has fostered a reawakening of the interest in this rich chapter of history through public lectures and school visits and Elderhostel lectures and stories that have run across the Nation now.

With the groundswell of historic artifacts and stories emerging from descendents and those with relationships to people from Maxville, a large number of video image audio programs are being put together. So what we're doing here today allows this local-grown idea, this vision that Gwen Trice and her supporters have to be able to rehabilitate this compound, restore these beautiful buildings--once beautiful--they're in pretty bad disrepair now. She's got a job ahead of her.

But it will help this small town in northeast Oregon add to its many attractions, natural and other, and tell this unique history about this special logging community that existed just north of Wallowa.

So I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for once again, in a spirit of bipartisanship, actually solving some problems around here that matter to people back home.

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