A busy year for the Salmonberry Trail Intergovernmental Agency

SALEM – The Salmonberry Trail Intergovernmental Agency (STIA) compiled a report to show their achievements and actions, as well as those of the Tillamook Forest Heritage Trust, taken since October 2017 through 2018.

While many of the items in the report deal in legal work and agreements necessary to running a governing body, some are more tangible, representing, for the first time, the more physical aspects of building a trail.

The full report can be read here.

Prominent in the report is planning of the Valley segment of the trail, which was completed in August of 2018. Stretching for 25 miles from the north end of Banks to Cochran Pond a few miles west of Timber, this section has long been viewed by STIA members as an early opportunity to build a trail and other projects.

It’s one of four portions identified in planning documents. Moving west from the Valley segment, the Salmonberry Corridor moves on to the Canyon segment at Cochran Pond, diving into the most storm-damaged portion of the rail in the Salmonberry Canyon before the Salmonberry empties into the Nehelem River east of the remote Enright community.

Cochran Pond in February 2019. Photo: Paula Rene Grimes

At this point, planning for the trail is known as the River segment, largely following the Nehalem River as it heads mostly west to the city of Wheeler.

From here, the section that ends at the Tillamook Air Museum is called the Coast segment, with planning completed for this section in 2017.

According to the Valley Segment Final Plan Report developed by Parametrix, a Portland-based consulting firm that has worked with STIA, the Valley section of the trail was planned with the assistance of the Valley Segment Planning Advisory Committee, a group of community members and interested stakeholders, including Chief Rodney Linz of Banks Fire District 13, Jolynn Becker, Banks city manager, and Trinity Herr, a prominent Timber community leader, among others.

Funding to plan the Valley segment was secured by the Tillamook Forest Heritage Trust (TFHT) in the form of a $200,000 grant from the Washington County Visitor’s Association, $150,000 of which was used to pay for the planning process. The other $50,000 supported an Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) Project Manager position.

Still in the Valley segment, some of the other highlighted activities of STIA and the TFHT include a $100,000 grant, also funded by the Washington County Visitor’s Association, to expand the Manning Trailhead on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail. The trailhead is planned to double as a trailhead for the Salmonberry as well.

Another $50,000 was given by OPRD in the form of work and materials for the expansion project.

In another Valley project, the TFHT worked with a number of agencies to develop information for a planned loop, which, if completed, would start at the Manning Trailhead, follow the Salmonberry route for 3.5 miles, and then an additional mile of trail would be built to link the Salmonberry to the Banks-Vernonia State Trail in Stub Stewart State Park. The end result would be a nine-mile loop starting at the Manning Trailhead.

At this time, funding does not exist to build this proposal, though a communications firm, Portland-based Metropolitan Group has been hired to develop what the TFHT calls a “capital campaign action plan” to fund this project.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the coast range in Tillamook, STIA members were able to visit the first completed portion of the trail at a project spearheaded and funded by the city of Tillamook.

Part of Tillamook’s “Crosstown Connection,” one mile of trail has been paved.

Members of STIA walk the first completed portion of the Salmonberry Trail while visitors pass by. Photo: Chas Hundley

But the actual construction of trail couldn’t have been completed without two key actions done by STIA: The signing of a lease agreement with the Port of Tillamook Bay, who own the rail line, and the railbanking of the rail right of way, a legal step that allows for a trail to be built – but also leaves a route open for rail use in the future. In 2017, 81.07 miles of the Port of Tillamook Bay’s railroad was approved by the federal government for railbanking.

Rounding out the list were a handful of studies to look at economic benefits of the trail, elections to STIA board and changes to their bylaws, funding through grants and agency coffers, and the creation of a use agreement process to define how use agreements in the right of way would impact the trail and more.