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Salmonberry Trail group assesses links, including Columbia County connections

Long-term regional connections between Scappoose and Portland likely

by: FILE PHOTO - A bridge spans the Salmonberry River not far from the confluence with the Nehalem River. The rail line, which has not been in use since it suffered extensive damage in the storm of December 2007, is being eyed for trail development.The Salmonberry Corridor Coalition will hold two public meetings next week to present findings of assessments it conducted as part of the master planning process for its proposed trail. One of those assessments involves how the Salmonberry Trail could connect to neighboring trails, ultimately stretching from the Oregon Coast to Scappoose and, eventually, Portland.

“The assessments are looking at abiotic and biotic elements, natural resource assessments and regional connections with other recreation trails,” said Rocky Houston, the state trail coordinator.

The Salmonberry Corridor would encompass 86 miles of scenic coastal forestland along the Port of Tillamook Bay Railway. The trail would use a rail corridor completed in 1911 that once connected the Willamette Valley to the Oregon Coast. Houston said he thinks the “likelihood is good” the Salmonberry, Banks-Vernonia, and Crown Zellerbach trails will connect, leading to a recreational trail connecting Scappoose to the coast.

“We’re still in the early stages. We have plans to make connections,” Houston said. “The long-term regional connections to Scappoose and Portland seem very likely.”

“The Port of Tillamook Bay rail line starts out just south of Banks, then runs parallel to the Banks-Vernonia Trail for five to six miles, then splits,” Houston said. “So definitely there’s a clear connection between the two routes. Around [Stub Stewart State Park] to Manning would be the connection, then the Banks -Vernonia to Crown Zellerbach and to the [Multnomah] Channel. Those regional connections are being looked at.”

Developing the trail represents a unique opportunity to connect eight cities from Banks to Tillamook, as well as build a network of existing recreational trails, facilities and educational and historical sites, Houston said. The master plan for the trail is a long-term plan designed to guide future resource management and recreational uses of the corridor.

“The meeting will be a review of our assessments, as well as reviewing the draft goals and objectives for the master plan, and we’ll start looking at trail treatments,” Houston said.

Before the master plan is adopted — possibly in November of this year — the coalition will bring it to the public for input, then work through fund-raising and trail advocate groups to begin work on the corridor.

“You need a recipe, you need a shopping list, you need to go to a store and find items,” Houston said. “The master plan will give us a shopping list and recipe.”

While the coalition is making strides toward developing the trail and its subsequent connections to other trails, Houston said the trail-building process is known to move slowly.

“The Banks-Vernonia Trail was acquired in the early ‘70s and we didn’t complete it until 2010,” Houston said. “So it’s multiple decades, given the scale of the project.”

The first of next week’s meetings will be held Tuesday, Feb. 18, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Port of Tillamook Bay Officer’s Mess Hall meeting room, located at 4000 Blimp Blvd. in Tillamook. The second meeting will be held Wednesday, Feb. 19, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Banks Fire Hall, located at 300 Main St. in Banks.

The coalition will seek input from community members to assist in identifying priorities and strategies to better guide the master planning and design process for the corridor.

For more information about the meetings or the Salmonberry Corridor, contact Rocky Houston, state trails coordinator, at 503-986-0750 or email him at rocky.houston@oregon.gov.

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