On August 5th, the agency that was created expressly to handle the development of the Salmonberry Trail met near the Blimp Hangers in Tillamook. This was its third meeting and the agenda was weighty enough that even those fat blimps next door would be challenged to keep the progress aloft. True to form, I came equipped with my canoe and Zoe, whom I’d promised to take for a plunge in the Wilson River. I mean really, you have to have some less serious entertainment to keep one focused on the bureaucratic issues that dominated the agenda!
Lest I lose you, let me just list some of the topics that are regulars on this “agency’s” recurring agenda:
- New bylaws (developed by the PSU-based Oregon Solutions) were approved.
- Fundraising progress – most of the initial grants are focused on “capacity building”
- Logo – one of the first grants was dedicated to the development of a logo. Seems a little like putting the cart before the horse, but why argue when they’re paying for the cart! Several early logo designs were on display. They mostly tried to convey the notion of a river coming out of a mountainous landscape. Nothing jaw dropping, but certainly they were sufficient to get the basic concept across.
- Rail ownership was a major topic, since “rail-banking” ultimately turns on the question of who will be responsible for the rail bed on which the trail will rest. Before we can get the OK from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to convert the use of this land we’ll need to agree upon the ultimate ownership of the RR alignment. Of course, the Port of Tillamook Bay (POTB) wants to be compensated for the rail alignment, but others insist that they were already compensated with FEMA monies after the flood of 2006. POTB says it has over a $ 1 million in rail-related debt that it would like to be compensated for. Undoubtedly, I’m over-simplifying…and the devil is in the details.
- A letter from the POTB to the NTSB was crafted and accepted by the STIA. This letter announcing the POTB’s intent to discontinue service starts a complicated process entailing predetermined periods of time within which public comment and agency responses establish a path to the ultimate goal of “rail-banking” the entire route.
- With respect to the ultimate transfer of ownership from the POTB to the STIA, it was decided that the POTB will bring a 3 person team to these negotiations, and the STIA will be represented by 3 different members (who don’t have obvious conflicts-of-interest).
- There was a review of the meeting in Timber which uncovered some strong local anxiety about the large numbers of thrill-seekers driving out to Cochran Pond and then walking onto the Big Baldwin Trestle. Dennis Wiley, the project manager reports upwards of 30 cars parked at Cochran Pond. “It’s gone viral”, he insisted. Conversations with hikers revealed visitors from as far away as Alberta. They were equally dismissive of any efforts to block access. “How long do you think that will last?” they retorted when it was suggested that the bridge access might be blocked off.
- A Coastal Trail Planning Advisory Committee was announced to begin delving into the knotty issues affecting the very narrow right-of-way between Wheeler and Tillamook. Four sections have been identified that may pose significant problems due to space constraints and abutting estuaries that are practically insurmountable. These sections include:
- Botts Marsh – partially zoned Estuary Development. Also steep embankments
- Wheeler to Rockaway Beach – abuts estuary shoreline. Two very difficult spots.
- Rockaway Beach to Garibaldi – abuts estuary shoreline. Two very difficult spots.
- Garibaldi to Bay City – abuts Estuary Natural Zone, and Estuary Conservation.
- There was some discussion about how to discourage hikers from trying to walk the Salmonberry Canyon at this time – prior to the repairs that are essential to make the route safe. It was concluded that the message should be:
It is not safe for people to hike or bike the Salmonberry rail line yet. Help it become a trail first, then use it!
Alternative hikes in the area include the Trail from Reehers Camp to Gales Creek, the Triple CC Trail, the Standard Grade Trail, Bloom Lake, the Four County point Trail and the Banks-Vernonia Trail. All of these trails are described on this website.
- The meeting also included some public input.
- Most of it concerned the disposition of the trail in relation to private parcels that abut the proposed trail.
- In anticipation of the announced discussion about trespassing and potential danger to thrill-seekers, the author emphasized that simply admonishing would-be visitors with a strongly worded caution about the illegality of trespassing was not enough. He suggested that signage be developed and placed at the Timber junction (US 26 and Timber Road) that redirected would-be visitors to other trails such as Reeher’s camp, the trail to Gales Creek, the triple C trail and other trails along US 26. The sooner that visitors could be cautioned and provided with alternatives the more likely it would be that they would divert from their original destination. Even at Cochran, the Standard Grade would be a suitable alternative, albeit a route that crosses private timber land. In addition, I suggested that the gravel road to Cochran be paved as far as Reeher’s camp to reduce the dust for Timber residents, and to reinforce the impression that Reeher’s Camp was the “end of the road”.