History Hangs in the Balance in Wallowa County

written by Bronte Dod | photo by Ellen Bishop


When a historic lodge was put on the market in Eastern Oregon, ten community members found a way to keep it local. Fearing that a corporate hotel chain would buy the property, a group of ten community members formed Lake Wallowa Lodge, LLC and convinced the owner to let them buy the lodge and surrounding property.

Lake Wallowa Lodge LLC has raised $1.1 million to buy the nine-acre property only yards from the shores of Wallowa Lake in Eastern Oregon but still need another $1 million to finalize the purchase.

Ellen Bishop, a member of the purchasing group, said there is a history to the lodge that is essential to the community. The lodge was a community gathering space for Wallowa County. Beyond that, the land is a vital habitat to species in the area. “The possibility of losing the lodge and the surrounding forest and riparian areas to development is something that would forever change Wallowa County,” Bishop said.

If the lodge were to be bought by a private hotel chain, its redevelopment could contribute to a loss of habitat that is essential to the community, according to Bishop.

Wallowa Lake | photo by Ellen Bishop

James Monteith, a rancher in Wallowa County and another member of the group, said that they are working with the support of the Nez Perce tribe to put a conservation easement on the property. By doing so, Monteith hopes they can protect the habitats of the bald eagles and sockeye salmon that live there.

Once they own the lodge, the group, Monteith said, would make only minor renovations to the property, including making the second floor handicap accessible.

For both Bishop and Monteith, assuring that the lodge stays in the community is about more than keeping it independent, it’s about rebuilding the community spirit of the lodge that once thrived there, and preserving its cultural and historic significance.

This winter, members of Lake Wallowa Lodge have been touring Oregon trying to raise investor interest in the lodge and property. Those interested can visit lakewallowalodge.com to learn more.

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