Tillamook County Community Health is hosting an open house for the public to learn about, and participate in, the Salmonberry Trail Brownfields Assessment Project from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at Twin Rocks Friends Camp in Rockaway Beach, located at 18705 Hwy. 101 North, on Sept. 28.
By Ann Powers
“The Project Management Team is actively seeking community input into this process and the public’s voice matters,” said Jennifer Purcell, of the Oregon Department Of Environmental Quality. “The open house is really for the Brownfields Assessment Project.”
Trail History and Proposed Future
The Salmonberry Trail is a recreation corridor starting in the City of Banks, runs through the Coast Range, the Salmonberry Canyon and ends in Tillamook. This scenic rural route was once home to the Pacific Railway and Navigation rail lines dating back to 1911, according salmolnberrytrail.org.
Reports state in 2007, the active railroad was severely damaged by catastrophic winter storms and the repairs were too costly to make it functional for trains again. Hence, the trail came to be.
County officials said the proposed redevelopment calls for enhancing physical connections between communities with a new 86-mile mixed-use, non-motorized path.
It will connect eight cities and two counties, passing by the Oregon coastline, fisheries, farm fields and the rugged Coast Range.
Many expect the Salmonberry Trail will bring in a significant influx of visitors worldwide. In addition to the tourism boost, County Commissioner and Year of Wellness Task Force Chair Bill Baertlein said there is also a health boost.
“From a health benefit it just makes sense,” he explained. “It’s a great opportunity for families and seniors to walk down to the Creamery for ice-cream or students to hop on their bikes and ride to school. It’s easy and accessible exercise to do.”
Baertlein said the project’s completion date has yet to be determined.
“Maybe sometime in my grandchildren’s lives,” he quipped.
Baertlein noted while the proposal has gained much support from state, national and even international key figures, a downside could be its total costs – also yet to be determined.. He said engineers working on the design and development of the trail are expected to provide budget estimates soon.
Nevertheless, according to salmolnberrytrail.org, the return on the project’s investment is too good to pass up. The website reports the trail will benefit all Oregonians by:
- Supporting local economies by encouraging new business opportunities through tourism, recreation and related activities;
- Connecting Oregonians to heritage and nature by educating urban and rural communities with the past, present and future of the region;
- Providing access for multiple users by improving and increasing access to public lands for a wide range of uses—including walking, biking, hunting, fishing and equestrian—and different ages and skill levels;
- Creating a world-class recreational attraction drawing people to the region and fortify Oregon’s standing as an unparalleled and diverse tourist destination;
- Bolstering Oregon’s business sector by improving the quality of life – often cited as a competitive edge in recruiting and retaining top employees;
- Increasing safety for bikers and motorists by moving bikes off the highways and onto a safe non-motorized trail system; and
- Maintaining and improving the environment by restoring and cleaning up sensitive river, forest and coastal environments.
Some of the project’s funding has already been established. In December 2014, the county was awarded a $400,000, three-year grant to assess brownfields along 62 miles of the Port of Tillamook Bay railroad to support plans to develop the trail.
State officials said the money will pay for the development of an inventory and assessment of brownfield sites along the proposed trail – which is what the Sept. 28 open house will focus on.
Brownfields are properties not being used to their full potential because of actual or perceived environmental pollution – like abandoned gas stations, dry cleaners or other industrial sites. They often sit unused because of concerns about the liability and expense associated with cleaning them up.
Purcell said thirty sites have been selected for Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs). A Phase I ESA involves the review of existing records to identify recognized environmental conditions of a property.
Experts said if further investigation is needed, a Phase II ESA includes environmental sampling and analysis. With assistance of a Community Advisory Committee, the project is in the process of prioritizing six sites for Phase II assessments. These assessments determine how underutilized properties along the trail corridor can be put back into productive use.
From these assessments, two sites will be chosen for cleanup planning.
Purcell said the upcoming open house will feature representatives to answer questions about the Salmonberry Trail, brownfields and redevelopment from:
- Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
- Oregon State Parks
- Forest Heritage Trust
- Friends of the Banks-Vernonia Trail
- Visit Tillamook Coast
- Tillamook County’s Small Business Development Center
- Year of Wellness
- Parametrix Consulting
- Port of Tillamook Bay
- Salmonberry Trail Intergovernmental Agency
David Rabbino, a well-known land use attorney, will also be on-hand to provide information and answer questions related to the liabilities, risks and opportunities associated with repurposing contaminated property.
Officials cautioned the Salmonberry Railroad, site of the proposed Salmonberry Trail, is currently considered dangerous and remote, and is closed to public use. The tunnels, trestles and rails damaged in 2007, and have not been repaired or maintained.
The Port of Tillamook Bay, which owns the rail corridor, has posted no trespassing signs, and violators could be cited.
Open house organizers said the event will also include informative kiosks and presentations that will repeat throughout the evening. Refreshments will be provided and ample parking is available. The meeting will take place in the camp’s dining facility.
For more information about the open house, contact Environmental Program Manager Annette Pampush for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org, 503-842-3902 or POB 489, Tillamook, Or 97141.