Posted by Michael Andersen (News Editor) on February 20th, 2014 at 9:23 am
to Tillamook on the Oregon Coast.
(Map by Oregon State Parks & Rec)
A bill to begin planning the Salmonberry Corridor — an 86-mile rails-to-trail project that would link Washington County's Banks-Vernonia corridor to the Pacific Ocean — seems to be coasting through the state Senate, The Oregonian reports.
It's backed by one of the body's most influential members, centrist Democrat Betsy Johnson of Scappoose, who happens to be an occasional hiker and horse lover and says the path "could be a national, if not an international, draw" of tourism through her district.
As we've written over the last few months, some nature advocates see the path as a way to link both metro area and coast to each other and to some of the most beautiful country in the Coast Range. Some skeptics, however, warn that the rains that wiped out a railroad could easily wipe out a path, and others worry that a stream of people through the forest could lead to vandalism or eventually erode their right to hunt there.
But legislators seem to think the proposal is worth spending staff time on, even though there's no plan to find the money yet.
Senate Bill 1516, which gives the state Parks and Recreation Department and the State Forester direction to move forward on planning the trail, is up for a key committee vote Thursday. It already passed one committee unanimously and is now before a budget committee, which Johnson anticipates will move it to the Senate floor.
"This isn't something where we're coming back and begging for tons of money," she says.
The big money part may come later. What the bill does is direct the two agencies to work with other "stakeholders" to identify options for developing each segment of the trail and estimate the cost.
Once a detailed plan is in hand, Johnson says, the state can start decide whether and how to make it real.
A total cost estimate has not yet been determined but it would likely run in the millions. Supporters say money would be raised through grants and private donations.
The bill's next hearing is today at 1 pm before the Natural Resources subcommittee of the Senate's Committee on Ways and Means.
Correction 12:40 pm: An earlier version of this post and headline said a trail would be "paved." This isn't the only possibility. Here's the relevant passage from the feasibility study (PDF): "Asphalt will be preferred for a bicycle trail and also good for ADA access, but a mountain bike trail similar to the Gales Creek trail could also be built. When the Banks-Vernonia Trail was first built, it was gravel, with predominant use by horse and mountain bike users. When it was paved with asphalt, user numbers increased dramatically, with associated user conflicts."