Letter from an Oregon Trails Archeologist


Hello Marianne,

I am writing in response to your email concerning a housing development at the Brookdale Golf Course.

While the location is a marked site on the old Oregon Trail in Washington, it is not part of the Oregon National Historic Trail (NHT) as currently designated by Congress. The NHT at present does not extend into Washington. Therefore this office, which administers the NHT for the National Park Service, cannot weigh in on the matter. You could note in your comments, though, that the Naches Trail is a study route under consideration for possible designation to the Oregon NHT. 

Your best bet for getting some attention for your historic preservation concerns is to contact the Washington State Historic Preservation Office about this Oregon Trail property. First, ask if the development project has a federal nexus of any kind that makes it a federal undertaking, subject to the National Historic Preservation Act. Second, ask if there is a state law that requires impacts of development on historic properties to be considered in the permitting or planning processes. If the answer is yes to either of these questions, tell them about the wagon ruts and ask if the property has been  professionally evaluated for eligibility to the National Register of Historic Places. Ask if there is a public review process in which you can become involved.

A second avenue is to contact the developers directly, ask if they are aware of the presence of the ruts, and ask if they might be willing to protect and interpret the ruts as green space within their development. Often, developers are willing to do that because they want to be good civic neighbors, green space can enhance the value of their property, and they are genuinely interested in protecting historic places. An organization called the Oregon-California Trails Association might be willing to work with you on this and could assist the developers with interpretation of the site.

Good luck!

Lee Kreutzer
Cultural Resources Specialist/Archeologist
National Park Service, Branch Office, National Trails Intermountain Region
324 S. State Street, Suite 200
Salt Lake City, UT  84111



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