STIA makes progress:
After a bit of a slow start at the December 11th meeting, the Salmonberry Trail Inter-governmental Agency (STIA) hit the ground running at their February 5th meeting.
Two issues dominated the discussion:
- The question of how land ownership would be transferred to the STIA was revealed to be less critical than completing the “rail banking” process.
- Three Trail Segment Planning Committees that relied upon local community participation were proposed.
After swearing in the members of the newly formed Agency, the group took brief testimony from the public:
- Jim Thayer, an early proponent of this trial, encouraged the STIA to take a more proactive role in keeping the public informed of progress on this project.
- A representative from the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad (OCSR) indicated that she was representing the intersts of the OCSR to use portions of the railway – at this point extending from Tillamook to just beyond the confluence of the Salmonberry and the Nehalem River.
Ross Holloway (Oregon Department of Forestry) gave a generally encouraging assessment of the STIA’s initial fundraising efforts. Four initial requests were mentioned:
- Tillamook Transient Lodging Tax Facilities Grant – the fundraising team submitted a $100,000 grant application. The county has not yet responded, but it is expected that the strategic importance of this trail will ensure support when the county decides upon its allocation of grant support. It is expected that the Salmonberry Trail project will tap the funding from the Tillamook Transient Lodging Tax on an annual basis. The initial use for this funding would be for supplemental planning on the coastal segment of the trail in Tillamook County.
- Rails-to-Trails Conservancy – Doppelt Grant. Here the team is seeking $10,000 in “capacity building” funds. No award has been made so far.
- Oregon Forest Resources Institute’s Small Grant Program. OFRI granted a portion of our request and asked us to come back again after the start of their new fiscal year in July. The STIA is in the progress of signing an agreement with OFRI. The focus of the intended collaboration and funding is capacity building to support effective stakeholder engagement. OFRI is interested in our efforts to connect with private forest landowners, as well as show-casing Oregon’s best forestry practices. There is discussion of developing a way to connect property owners, recreational interests, community leaders, businesses into a network of information sharing and the development of engagement opportunities – essentially taking off from the groundswell of support generated by the Salmonberry Coalition.
- Finally, Ross announced that they had also requested $10,000 from the Marketing and Promotion fund that is also financed through the Tillamook Transient Lodging Tax. The intent of this discretely funded initiative would be to develop a marketing and outreach plan for the overall project. Initially it will focus on research and stakeholder engagement, but may also launch a marketing and promotion committee whose tasks would likely include the development of a logo and brand identity.
- Other sources of funding mentioned included Kaiser Permanente, Cycle Oregon, Washington County and Travel Oregon.
In all these requests totaled $150,000 out of an expected “baseline phase one” estimate of $23 million, but it is still early days and it is unlikely that these capacity building grants will lead to immediate revenue streams commensurate with our longer term goals. Doug Decker reminded the agency members that at this point the objective was more about “awareness and alignment” than about substantial financial support.
Oregon Solutions – Ownership Issues:
Oregon Solutions now presented their findings about ownership issues, as was requested at the December 11th meeting. Pete Dalke, with the PSU-based consultancy, made it clear that ownership should not be the initial concern. Instead, it should be the completion of the “rail banking” process. This process is triggered by an announcement to discontinue rail service. He cautioned that we should approach the ownership issue, “one bite at a time”, concentrating first on rail banking before undertaking a change of ownership. In addition he mentioned that the rail banking might even be split into segments, corresponding to the planning segments mentioned later.
Once the Port of Tillamook Bay (POTB) has issued a notice to discontinue service both the trail development and the change in financial ownership can proceed in parallel. The POTB can choose to whom they want to convey the ownership. They could retain the ownership and lease the rail access, or they could sell it to cover outstanding POTB debts exceeding $1 million. Ultimately, they will need a recipient that will assume responsibility for the rail line – to be eligible for federal funding sources.
Doug Decker, the Director of the Oregon Department of Forestry, likened this sequential process to navigating “stage-gates” in project management. First, we work with POTB to complete the rail banking process, then we can entertain the change of ownership, and lastly we work with POTB to invest in the land conservation work of developing and building the Salmonberry Trail.
The first order of business is to convey this collaborative process to the board of the POTB. To that end it was resolved to send them a letter and also to initiate direct contacts to convey the sequence and timing involved in this process.
Oregon Solutions – local government involvement:
Following the first Oregon Solutions response to the question of ownership, Jim Johnson briefed the STIA on the the second initiate that Oregon Solutions had been asked to complete: to survey the the communities and jurisdictions affected by this project. He reported that he got an “overall good response”, but he did not meet individually with the communities. Jim also suggested that they set up a special meeting with the POTB to complete a Declaration of Cooperation to establish a firm path for future collaboration.
Trail Segment Planning Committees:
Now, Ross Holloway presented on a proposal to establish distinct Trail Segment Planning Committees. He proposed that the STIA would be the main convener – meeting quarterly. The STIA would set up the ground-rules, but the Committees can embellish the rules to fit their needs. It was noted that “we need to be mindful of whom we include in this process”. The co-convener would be nominated by the local communities. Co-conveners would also select the Committee members. Staffing would be decided by the committees and would handle issues such as local marketing, land-use changes (e.g., Washington County) and issues unique to each segment. Each of these Trail Segment Planning Committees would report back to the STIA for final adoption of any recommendations. The three segments include:
- Tillamook to Salmonberry confluence (Coastal)
- Salmonberry River up to Cochran Pond (Canyon)
- Cochran Pond to Buxton (Valley)
Apparently, there may be another fiber optics line “coming ashore” at Tillamook. During his presentation on maintenance, Ross mentioned that the revenues from the existing fiber-optics lines owner would be used to fund maintenance on the completed trails.
April 1, 2016: Tillamook Forest Heritage Trust (45500 Wilson Rvr Hwy) 10:00 AM to 1 PM June 3, 2016: Banks Firehouse or Stub Stewart Park 10:00 AM to 1 PM