The story never ends: Tracks & Trails Museum’s foundation

Ben Ingersoll
The Tracks & Trails Museum moved into Oak Creek’s old town hall in 2007, aided by grants and savings.
Ben Ingersoll

The Tracks & Trails Museum moved into Oak Creek’s old town hall in 2007, aided by grants and savings.
Ben Ingersoll

— When the Tracks & Trails Museum finally got a home in 2007 to house the town’s century-long history, there was a reason the Historical Society of Oak Creek and Phippsburg dedicated it to Mike Yurich.

Already sitting inside the museum that night — with hundreds of locals turning out for the grand opening — was Yurich’s wealth of research and tireless volunteer hours on display.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants and savings were spent to revamp the facility, but there is really only one true foundation, Tracks & Trails employee Nita Naugle said.

“Mike is the foundation of this museum,” Naugle said. “It started because of his interest in preserving and collecting.”

Yurich dives into Oak Creek history projects with his whole heart, Naugle said, and because of this, the small South Routt town has such an amazing collection of items for locals and visitors to marvel at.

Yurich never shoos patrons away and never complains about the hours of work his tired body pours into a job that doesn’t pay him back in anything but the reward of seeing his museum dreams fulfilled.

“He is an inspiration,” Naugle said. “He really is.”

Oak Creek Mayor and Labor Day Committee President Nikki Knoebel always turns to Yurich when planning festivities for the first Monday in September.

This past year, Knoebel and Yurich settled on dedicating the 2014 Labor Day Festival to Oak Creek’s plentiful railroad history. Any question she has, he can answer.

“He will tell you all kinds of stories,” Knoebel said. “It’s amazing we have him there and have his knowledge and history of the town. He’s definitely our official historian.”

He is irreplaceable in many ways, Knoebel said, and the town is lucky to have someone take on such projects that can go unacknowledged by many.

What comes next for Yurich and the Tracks & Trails Museum can be best characterized as a work in progress. There is always a project to be undertaken if you’re Yurich.

And for those who don’t know Yurich, Knoebel insists they’re missing out. Drop into Tracks & Trails, ask some questions, and be prepared to stay awhile, she suggested.

You just might learn something new about Oak Creek and its historian.

“I would tell anybody if they haven’t been in the museum and haven’t had a conversation with Mike, that should be on their list of things to do,” Knoebel said.

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