How Salmonberry Trail leads the direction in Oregon

Salmonberry Trail, described as Oregon's most ambitious rail-trail project.

In late July I had the opportunity to attend an Oregon Recreation Trails Advisory Council meeting, which was regionally held in Tillamook. These quarterly meetings are designed to highlight and network current trail work throughout the state as well as designate state significant trails to highlight the best urban and scenic trails in Oregon.

The meeting in Tillamook highlighted important work on equestrian trails and some significant work underway at the Siuslaw National Forest, south of Tillamook. But the highlight of the meeting was the update on the Salmonberry Trail, provided by Dennis Wiley.

Wiley, an employee of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, is managing the Salmonberry Trail Project and if you haven’t heard of this amazing work, please allow me to explain.

The Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad is a 101 mile stretch of rail that spans from Tillamook to Hillsboro. For nearly 100 years, the line was an important aspect of life in Tillamook County as the railroad transported the important agricultural products of those communities — timber and agricultural yields — to the Portland area.

But in 2007, the Great Coastal Gale of 2007 changed the rail line and many of the communities along it in an ominous and unpredictable fashion. Damage to multiple stretches of the line was extensive and it was expected to cost more than $20 million to repair initially, only to have those costs increase to $80 million upon full surveillance of the damage.

The decision was made to not repair the rail line and while you cannot fault the decision makers due to the steep costs, the passage no longer could play an important role in connecting both goods and Oregonians with the natural resources that are so abundant in this state.

But as you’ve probably come to expect, a silver lining emerged in the aftermath of 2007. A talented and dedicated set of volunteers and staff from many government and nonprofit agencies blended their voice to begin the process of converting what once was a productive railroad line into an 86-mile, mixed-use, nonmotorized path that stretches from Banks to Tillamook.

While the trail still has significant work ahead, including finding a way for users to traverse many of the canyons whose bridges were destroyed by the storm, the work is progressing rapidly, and some sections of the trail are already at or near completion.

I was deeply moved by the work of the individuals involved with this project and will closely monitor and participate in the next steps. As I’ve stated previously, we live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world and this trail would highlight much of what our region has to offer as it winds from the rich fertile Willamette Valley through the majestic Tillamook Forest partly along the Nehalem River and concludes along the scenic stretch of Highway 101 from Wheeler to Tillamook.

The Salmonberry Trail would also offer connections from the greater Portland area to the coast for outdoor enthusiasts and provide a safer option than navigating the current highways for travelers not in a vehicle.

While we have abundant outdoor recreation opportunities available in our region, the Salmonberry Trail has the potential to be transcendent in its benefits to all Oregonians and visitors.

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