Construction on Salmonberry Trail still three to five years out, planners say, but planning coming along

COURTESY PHOTO - The Salmonberry Trail will run from Banks to the Oregon Coast when completed.Salmonberry trail leaders have entered into an agreement with heads of Port of Tillamook Bay that will allow the strip of land once used as a railroad line to be repurposed for a multi-use trail.

This piece of news, among others, was announced at the regularly scheduled every-other-month Salmonberry Trail Intergovernmental Agency (STIA) meeting last Friday, Dec. 1, in Banks.

That's an important step in creating the 84-mile trail, which will eventually run from Banks to the Oregon Coast. The agreement, known as railbanking, will preseve the right-of-way and allows the trail agency to use an out-of-use rail line for a trail until the railroad company might need it again.

But it's very unlikely the railroad company would ever want to rip out the trail and use the land for a rail line again, said Dennis Wiley, Salmonberry Trail project manager. "Railroads are abandoned in the first place because they don't make economic sense," he said.

More than 81 miles have been railbanked, essentially from Banks to Tillamook. The remaining few miles are not part of the agreement, as they're under different jurisdictions.

Railbanking was an essential step moving forward with the project because it prevents the rail line from being technically "abandoned." If abandoned, at least some of that property would revert back to the landowners, making attempts to secure it for the trail much more difficult and time-consuming.

Other updates included the news that $2 million has so far been raised for the trail project. In addition, Tillamook Forest Heritage Trust members are working on securing capacity-building grants, which will help the organization expand fundraising efforts, perhaps launching a major campaign.

The next STIA meeting will be Friday, Feb. 2, and will likely include a new study from Portland State University that details economic and social benefits of the trail.

Construction on the trail is still three to five years out and will begin with the 25-mile Willamette Valley section, which starts in Banks. Currently, trail organizers are looking at where to place trailheads in that segment.

The Salmonberry section runs 16 miles through numerous tunnels and forests. The coast section runs 26 miles from Tillamook to Wheeler on the coast. The Nehalem River section spans 17 miles from the Salmonberry and Nehalem rivers to the city of Wheeler.

By Stephanie Haugen
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times
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