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Salmonberry Trail to the coast hits milestone, begins fundraising effort

Posted by on September 30th, 2015 at 9:09 am

The Salmonberry Trail would connect Banks
to Tillamook on the Oregon Coast.
(Map by Oregon State Parks & Rec)

The proposed Salmonberry Trail, a path that would connect Washington County to the Pacific coast through the forest along a defunct rail line, has an official name and is about to get a full-time executive director.

Previously referred to as the “Salmonberry Corridor,” the trail also has an 11-member decision-making body with formal power to start raising the unknown millions that’d be required for the 86-mile proposal.

The Salmonberry Coalition will celebrate those milestones at its annual meeting next month. The public event is 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, Oct. 9, at Stub Stewart State Park.

“We’ve been having steering committee meetings about once a month,” state trails coordinator Rocky Houston said in an interview Tuesday about the coalition’s progress.

The biggest upcoming milestone for the path is likely to be the hiring of its first full-time staffer. Houston said the hiring process is underway for a two-year job to lay the groundwork for a major and ongoing search for grants, donations and other deals that could make the project possible.

Rail-with-trail (above) and rail-to-trail (below) renderings from the Salmonberry Corridor Draft Concept plan released last year. It’s not certain that all segments would be paved, especially at first.

The Salmonberry Trail would run through Washington and Tillamook counties along the route of a mostly unused rail line that has repeatedly been washed out by floods. It’d connect with the existing Banks-Vernonia Trail and the planned Council Creek Regional Trail between Hillsboro and Banks to create a continuous trail network from the Portland metro area to the Oregon coast.


Houston said the executive director will be a state parks employee and that the position will come with a budget of about “$200,000 over two years for salaries and benefits and all those things.” It’ll continue through at least the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years.

The money comes from the state Department of Forestry, from the Washington County Visitors Association, from Tillamook County, from the state Parks Department and from the nonprofit Cycle Oregon, which has been an instigating advocate for the project along with state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose.

The forestry and parks departments, along with Tillamook County and the Port of Tillamook Bay, are the four voting members on the Salmonberry Trail Authority.

That group’s official creation last week was reported Monday by the Tillamook County Pioneer.

The Authority also has seven nonvoting members: representatives for Washington County, the Washington County Visitors Association, the Tillamook Forest Heritage Trust, Cycle Oregon, the regional solutions representative from the state governor’s office, the office of the state representative for District 32 (currently Deborah Boone, D-Cannon Beach) and the office of the state senator for District 16 (currently Johnson).

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  • ethan September 30, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Are there any estimates on how long this will take to be fully completed?

    And, besides the parts that are physically impassable due to flooding and things, are there any issues with riding on the path / tracks as of right now?

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    • ethan September 30, 2015 at 9:43 am

      And by “issues,” I am mostly referring to either getting hit by a train or getting arrested for being on tracks / private property.

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      • J_R September 30, 2015 at 11:54 am

        The easternmost section of the Great Allegany Passage (GAP) trail between Frostburg and Cumberland, MD parallels the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. I don’t remember seeing any fences between the tracks and the path. The day we rode that section of the GAP there were many cyclists and the train was being pulled by a steam engine. It was lots of fun to see it.

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        • bjorn September 30, 2015 at 12:29 pm

          Agreed the GAP is great and actually rails with trails are often safer than just rails because rails with trails encourage crossing at places that are safe to do so.

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        • Mike Sanders September 30, 2015 at 7:50 pm

          That rail line next to the GaP trail also carries the Amtrak Capitol Ltd. between DC, Pittsburgh, PA, Cleveland, OH, and Chicago. They’re now experimenting with bike service on that route. A setup on the Salmonberry trail like the one on the GaP, with vegetation separating the RR line from the trail, would make sense. When my mother and I rode aboard the Capitol Ltd. a couple of years ago, I pointed out the trail to her. That trail is on its way to becoming part of the US national bike route system. It will connect DC to SF someday. She thought that idea was cool.

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      • Jon September 30, 2015 at 1:09 pm

        There is absolutely no way a train can go down the tracks now. From at least Timber and 25miles toward the coast there are many 10 foot high trees growing in between the rails. Maybe if you get closer to the coast it is a different story but anywhere near Timber the route is probably not even hike-able.

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  • 9watts September 30, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Exciting. I wonder if they are considering using something other than asphalt for the surface? With prices for asphalt having climbed very quickly for most of the past ten years and the prospect of this continuing into the future (fracking’s current price trough notwithstanding) I’m hoping they have a Plan B.

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    • Stephen Keller September 30, 2015 at 9:44 am

      Hopefully plan B will not be concrete. Eighty-plus miles of expansion joints would be a pretty unpleasant ride. Gravel or hard pack would be preferable to that.

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      • 9watts September 30, 2015 at 9:48 am

        Agreed. Both concrete and asphalt are environmental disasters; I hope we could do better here.

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        • J.E. September 30, 2015 at 10:41 am

          Not everyone is into the mountain biking experience. Is the a flat-surfaced alternative that would accommodate a street bike?

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          • 9watts September 30, 2015 at 10:44 am

            Hey man. There are mountains between here (Portland) and the Coast.

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          • Nick September 30, 2015 at 11:05 am

            A well build gravel road can be ridden comfortably on 28mm tires and less-comfortably on 25mm tires.

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            • Matt September 30, 2015 at 11:51 am

              And it would be faster to build and easier to repair by anybody.

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          • jered September 30, 2015 at 12:53 pm

            Street bike = no problem on gravel!! I ride lots of gravel on 25mm road tires with ZERO issues!

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            • B. Carfree September 30, 2015 at 5:27 pm

              I ride around five thousand miles of gravel per year, much of it on a tandem. A gravel road that is used by logging trucks has a couple of nice hard-pack tracks to ride on. A gravel road that doesn’t see truck traffic, like this proposed bike path, is a different story. Paving it would vastly increase its usefulness to the public and would help introduce the joys of longer rides to many families.

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              • 9watts September 30, 2015 at 5:29 pm

                We just need some bike-powered road rollers. I bet they’d be cheaper to operate than their fossil fueled equivalents.

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              • Brian October 1, 2015 at 1:55 pm

                In Minneapolis there were a series of rail to trails that I would frequently ride, most of them became gravel once you got far enough out, all were obviously closed to any motorized traffic. They connected to regional off road Greenways so you could easily ride 50-60 miles wiht out having to be in traffic, I kind of miss that. The gravel was about the best condition I have ever ridden, very smooth, very fine, very hard packed, drained well. About 2 weeks after the last snow fall ( usually April) they were very rideable and very fun. No gravel I have ridden in Oregon is that nice, Here I rock a 2.0in 29er tire on my gravel bike because sometimes you get to this nasty chunky rutted washboarded “roads”. A different kind of fun, for sure.

                The most popular and longest is the Luce Line, although after Winsted the gravel gets way more gnarly

                I would think it would be possible, and cheaper to build and maintain a trail like that. Also doesn’t every one know that gravel is in vogue….

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        • Todd Boulanger September 30, 2015 at 11:11 am

          You will have to consider the level of annual maintenance and use that would keep a trail without asphalt or concrete open to bike ped traffic…especially as these sections are not in the dryer environments where gravel routes have taken off in use.

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          • 9watts September 30, 2015 at 11:14 am

            Polk Co. where I’m from maintains over 80 miles of gravel roads. I am very familiar not only with the roads but with what it takes (them) to maintain them. We know the costs and someone could easily compare these with what it takes to build and maintain an asphalt road, and then make some adjustments for the absence of cars tearing up the roads to arrive at some comparable figures/mile.

            Then perhaps add in a multiplier for the anticipated inflation of the various materials going forward. Voila!

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            • Al Dimond September 30, 2015 at 5:34 pm

              I grew up near the Illinois Prairie Path in the suburbs of Chicago, with a pretty good crushed limestone surface. A few things come to mind:

              1. I had no problem with the surface, but I know some older people that didn’t do so well. Maybe they wouldn’t do any better on pavement once sinkage and root damage took hold, but… they clearly had trouble on the trail as it was.

              2. It’s not unrideable in the rain but it’s a lot worse than pavement.

              3. The dust is not great for your drivetrain.

              The Prairie Path’s various branches, and similar trails in Chicagoland, spend a lot of time in the suburbs of a large, continuous urban area, mostly in places with very little other bike infrastructure nearby. So they’re important for transportation trips and novice riders, but their transportation utility and suitability for novices degrades a lot when the surface is wet (also heavy use damages these trails more when they’re wet).

              The Salmonberry trail would spend a lot of time in the woods and these sections would be dominated by recreational use. With the hills and distances involved, this recreational use would mostly be limited to fairly fit riders. So maybe some of the long woodsy sections could use gravel, while sections closer to town where heavier use is expected, and even everyday transportation use is likely, could be paved.

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    • wsbob October 1, 2015 at 11:53 am

      Consensus here in the comments seems to be that at the least, gravel would need to be the riding surface for the trail, and maybe asphalt. Though I suppose for the anticipated use thought of for the trail, those choices have some clear advantages; relatively dry, no mud when wet, little dust when dry.

      Too bad that just packed dirt wouldn’t be sufficient, except for the hundreds and thousands of people that may come to use the trail. Big mud holes and plumes of dust kicked up in dry conditions would seem inevitable. 80 miles of asphalt is a lot though, and the stuff degrades. Stuff grows on it. It can be much quieter riding than gravel, which is very nice when riding through forests.

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    • Jeff Smith October 1, 2015 at 1:36 pm

      In the past I’ve walked the RR line from the Cochran Rd (just west of Reehers Camp) through the Salmonberry River canyon to the Lower Nehalem River Road, and for the portion through the canyon it’s hard to imagine it ever being a paved trail. The Salmonberry canyon is exceptionally steep-sided, and the (minimal) rail use ended due to winter flooding/multiple landslides a decade ago or so. There are multiple tunnels and trestles which can be fixed (for a price), but the slide-prone nature of the place will continue.

      The Coalition website has information on potential trail cross sections – see link below. Sensibly enough, they’re looking at soft-surface 5′-6′ trail in the washed-out & TBD sections. The tunnels, too, are specified as soft surface.

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      • 9watts October 1, 2015 at 1:39 pm

        That is good to hear. I am not familiar with this path/route and was only going by what was shown in the images at the top of the article.

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  • Ian Stude September 30, 2015 at 10:14 am

    This is exciting news! I sincerely hope those involved in the planning and design will consider unpaved/gravel options in order to hasten the opening of this corridor to use. The many trails in WA, particularly King County, are an excellent example of this type of design. When done right, they are nearly equal in their accessibility to bicycle riders of all abilities.

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  • 9watts September 30, 2015 at 10:28 am

    Does anyone here happen to know the distance (on this future trail) between Stub Stewart and Nehalem? By the paved roads (Hwy 26+ Hwy53) it is about 60 miles, so I’m assuming this would be considerably less.

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  • Rick September 30, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Nothing but rails-to-trails. Nothing but the best.

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  • Charley September 30, 2015 at 10:43 am

    GRAVEL GRAVEL GRAVEL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Cheaper, more environmentally sound, and fun to ride if done right!

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  • Matt F September 30, 2015 at 10:59 am

    Cool! Can’t wait til this is complete.

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  • Brad September 30, 2015 at 11:07 am

    Having biked the entire GAP / C&O Canal Trail, finely crushed limestone would be a fine surface that could be easily maintained and friendly to both novice bike handlers and road tires.

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    • Chris I October 1, 2015 at 12:28 am

      Not much limestone here. How about finely crushed basalt?

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  • Champs September 30, 2015 at 11:36 am

    The trail doesn’t need to 86 miles of asphalt. Sure, there are washout concerns where it will need pavement and culverts, but crushed rock feels right for the surroundings, and with any luck it should expedite the project. A decent pack should be no trouble for skinny tires.

    Oregon may be known for its eponymous trail to the banks of the Willamette, but its track record for building trails *since* the early 19th century doesn’t inspire much confidence. You can just imagine the draw of being able to ride all the way from The Dalles to the coast, though. Maybe in my lifetime?

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  • J_R September 30, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Five years ago we had the experience of riding the Great Allegany Passage (GAP) from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland and the C&O to Washington, DC. The GAP’s surface for most of its length was hardpack of crushed limestone. It was traversable on a loaded tandem with 28mm tires pulling a trailer. Speeds were about 2 mph lower than for an asphalt path.

    Incidentally, the GAP is maintained primarily with donations and volunteer labor.

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  • Brian E September 30, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    I’d be happy if they cleared the brush and smoothed a 18″ wide single track in the existing rock. 80% the benefit at 20% the cost.

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  • Peter R September 30, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    NH’s Northern Rail Trail is 50 miles of gravel/dirt in NH that I have ridden lots since I lived right near it.

    Done correctly dirt/gravel is easily maintainable and easy to ride with somewhat “skinny” tires. 28 is about as narrow as I would go. With snow, seasonally heavy rains (and sometimes a tropical storm or hurricane) it survives quite nicely.

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  • Olaf Sorenson September 30, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    The Banks Venonia Trail was gravel for quite a few years in the beginning. Paving can be done over time as budgets allow.

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  • dmc September 30, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    I used to dream of this trail.

    After taking the Nestucca river road from Tilllamook to Hillsboro, I no longer care if this trail becomes a reality. The River road was so amazing.

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    • Chris I October 1, 2015 at 12:29 am

      Yes, but imagine a loop option…

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  • KristenT September 30, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Decomposed granite is a great surface… smooth, too, hardpack like pavement but still a permeable surface.

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  • Edward September 30, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    The easternmost section of the Great Allegany Passage (GAP) trail between Frostburg and Cumberland, MD parallels the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.Recommended 1

    There is a physical barrier in the tunnel just outside of Cumberland, but you don’t want to, and aren’t supposed to, be in the tunnel when a train goes through. On the GAP the downside is that there is not a small amount of #4 gravel that finds its way from the rail bed to the bike trail. Additionally the ‘steam’ train trails behind it an enormous cloud of sooty black smoke. Having said that the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad is probably only adjacent to the GAP for 10 miles.

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  • B. Carfree September 30, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    Seeing as how bike paths are legally roads in Oregon (and were originally called bike trails), why is the parks department in charge of the project? I know ODOT is absolutely horrid, but parks departments at all levels have not proven themselves capable of designing roads, imo.

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  • B. Carfree September 30, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    All things considered, this is a big step up for the state. Under our previous governor, the rail line between Eugene and Florence/Coos Bay became available. Rather than convert it to rails-to-trails or rails-with-trails, Kitz gave over a hundred million dollars to the Coos Bay Port to operate a lost-cause freight rail on the tracks. This line won’t actually be profitable until/unless the port gets a substantial coal export function. It barely worked when there were still trees to ship.

    Now, I know Eugene has the awesome Smith River route to the coast (if you haven’t ridden it, you’re missing something special). However, a separate path that traverses the beautiful coast range is much needed. I’d argue that Oregon needs about six of these, plus some similar paths across the Cascades and some workable north/south routes between the semi-urban centers. There’s really so much more to cycling than short trips to work, drink and shop.

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  • martin September 30, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    I agree. This needs to be built.

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  • Lester Luallin October 2, 2015 at 10:43 am

    I vote for gravel. I rode the gravel John Wayne Trail out to Ellensburg over the summer and most of it was rideable on 25mm tires. There was one section that wasn’t all that rideable even with my 1.75″ tires because they’d just put down deep fresh gravel east of Hyak. I imagine that’ll get packed and more rideable eventually, since I would guess parks and rec trucks roll the trail at least once a week to maintain bathrooms and campsites along the trail.

    Which reminds me, when it comes to budgeting for this, prioritize composting toilets and a primitive campsite or two far above paving.

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  • Mike Sanders October 2, 2015 at 10:18 pm

    The Rails to Trails Conservacy reposted this story onto their Facebook page today (2 Oct. 2015). Sounds like they’re excited about this project!

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  • Nick October 5, 2015 at 2:45 am

    Start with a single track dirt trail. Cheap and fast to build And maintain.

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  • notrail October 14, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    You know what would be cheaper, money better spent, and better for the environment . NO trail.

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