Wine tourism train takes a step forward

Washington County, Sherwood and several Yamhill County communities will fund a feasibility study
by: Submitted, The tourism train that ran from Portland to Astoria as part of the Lewis and Clark bicentennial celebration has been named as a potential candidate to carry passengers on the Willamette Valley wine tourism train.

Sherwood will contribute $5,000 to a feasibility study for a tourism train that could position the city as the gateway to the Willamette Valley's wine country.

The Sherwood Urban Renewal Planning Advisory Committee authorized the payment at its meeting in late February.

Assistant City Manager Jim Patterson said the study will span the area from Sherwood to Grande Ronde, and nearly all of the communities in between have contributed, including Newberg, Dundee, McMinnville and other. Five private donors also offered up a portion of the $35,000 study cost.

While the wine train is still only a concept, there has been a slow and steady groundswell of support as local and state politicians and industry has voiced support. The current vision is a tourism train that would run from Sherwood, on existing track, possibly as far as the Grande Ronde area, home of the Spirit Mountain Casino. Local leaders hope it would position Sherwood as the "gateway to wine country."

Sherwood City Manager Jim Patterson said that positioning a train stop in Old Town Sherwood could eventually make the city eligible for state or federal funds to build a parking structure. Businesses have lamented a lack of parking there for years, even before the relative growth in the nine-block Old Town area.

There are a host of details that would need to be worked out - for starters, there's no train, and Portland and Western owns the tracks - but Patterson said the small investment now could prove advantageous for Sherwood in the future. He told SURPAC that if the train comes to fruition, there could be state money involved for improvements around what would become a Sherwood stop along the tracks.