The former Oregon Trail Mushroom plant in Vale will go on the auction block June 17 at the Malheur County Courthouse. (The Enterprise/Rachel Parsons).

VALE – The rusting hulk of the Oregon Trail Mushroom plant is hard to miss when you drive into Vale.

The abandoned facility sits on the north side of U.S. Highway 20 and personifies high ambitions crushed by economic downturns.

On June 17, the property will go on the auction block as the trustee seeks more than $650,000 to pay off a loan, city fees and unpaid county property taxes.

The owner of the facility, Western Heritage Investments, owes $626,785 on a loan, more than $70,000 to Vale and about $35,000 in county property taxes, according to county records.

Established in 1988, the plant produced more than eight million pounds of commercial onions annually, but closed abruptly in 2007.

Since then the facility dropped into foreclosure – in 2008 - and was bought and sold by two companies.

Initially, the mushroom facility was a subsidiary of Rakhra Mushroom Farm Corp. The majority owner of the plant was Baljit Nanda, a Colorado grocery store chain owner, who testified in 2013 he sold the facility. Malheur County records show the facility was not sold by Nanda, but went into foreclosure in 2008 and then was sold at a sheriff’s auction in 2011 to 17450 LLC, a Portland real estate investment firm, for $3.3 million.

In August 2013, Western Heritage Investments bought the property from 17450 LLC for an undisclosed sum and borrowed $500,000 from the National Loan Acquisition Company, a Wilsonville firm. The $500,000 loan was secured with the mushroom plant property.

Western Heritage Investments, though, failed to make monthly payments, defaulted on the loan and neglected to pay county property taxes in 2016, 2017 and 2018, according to county documents.

If no one bids for the facility June 17, National Loan Acquisition Company will retain ownership.

As the plant stayed mothballed, interest in the local mushroom industry revived in 2016 when Farmers Fresh Mushrooms, a Canadian firm, announced it was interested in building a facility in Vale. In 2017, the company bought 117 acres near the intersection of Frontier Lane and Lagoon Drive – paying $1 million with a $300,000 down payment – and announced it would begin building a facility in January 2018. The company expected to employ 200 people.

In early 2018 the company canceled plans to build in Vale and cited new tariffs, currency rates and changes in the market. The firm still owns land.

In 2017, Parvez Malik of PASM Corp. of Colorado met with Vale city officials to seek assistance to reopen the mushroom plant. In a press release, the firm said it wanted to renovate the existing structure.

Malik and PASM Corp. didn’t move ahead on those plans.

Don Hodge, Malheur County commissioner, said last week he would like to see someone take over the abandoned facility.

“To me, it is nothing but an eyesore and I’d love to see something go in there but I don’t have a clue what you could use the building for,” said Hodge.

Vale City Councilor Monty Bixby said “something needs to be done” about the facility. “That place is just sitting there and it could be used for something.”

Vale Mayor Mike McLaughlin said he would “love to see the facility open again.”

“I would be interested in the jobs and what it could do for the community,” said McLaughlin.

Have a news tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-235-1003.

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