Project will turn abandoned railroad into trail that connects co - KPTV - FOX 12

Project will turn abandoned railroad into trail that connects coast to Portland suburbs

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BANKS, OR (KPTV) -

An abandoned railroad could soon become a hiking trail that connects the coast to the suburbs of Portland. The Salmonberry Trail doesn't exist yet, but it just got one step closer to becoming a reality.

The idea of turning old railroads into hiking trails is one that's not so novel. Though, there's no other rail-to-trail project in the state quite like the project Dennis Wiley and Doug Decker are taking on.

"It's the most challenging, interesting, compelling, yeah, I'm pretty excited about it," said Wiley, the Salmonberry Trail Project Manager.

Wiley, an Oregon Parks and Recreation employee and Doug Decker, a retired director of the Oregon Department of Forestry are among a growing group of outdoor enthusiasts pushing to build the Salmonberry Trail.

A project said to be the most ambitious of its kind.

The trail is not yet open to the public, but the two offered to show FOX 12 portions of the proposed 86-mile route that runs from the town of Banks to the city of Tillamook.

The Salmonberry Trail follows the old rail line destroyed by the rainstorms of 2007 and runs through places like Garibaldi, Rockaway Beach, Timber and Manning.

"It's a trail connecting people to the outdoors and communities," said Decker the Development Director for the Salmonberry Trail. "The rail connection across the coast range has been down since 2007. By creating a place for people to rebuild that connection, while being outside and learning, what a tremendous opportunity."

Beyond connecting communities, the two are about preserving history and a way of life. One they plan to integrate along the trail by incorporating old pieces of the line.

"You just look at the layers of history here and the stories of people who built this thing by land, by steam, by horse, there are towns that grew up and fell down over time around rail line," said Decker. "It's an important part of Oregon history."

The Salmonberry Trail is considered an official state project and has its own intergovernmental agency in charge of feasibility studies and concept plans.

Right now, the trail is split up into four major segments: The Coast, the Nehalem River, the Salmonberry River and the Valley. It's all to help organize phases of project, but there's still a lot to be considered.

"Much of the trail will travel along the footprint of the former rail line, there's 16 miles of chaos in middle of the line that's heavily effected from land movement," said Decker. "There's a lot of bridges down, there are boulders size of Volkswagens that have rolled into tunnels, there's tunnels out there from a structural integrity standpoint that we're not sure about."

Besides the physical obstacles, there's major financial obstacles standing in the way of making the trail a reality. Though, a new grant from the National Rails-to-Trails Conservancy will help. The group just shelled out $30,000 to support the project.

"They give out six grants this year, so we're one of six, that's big, and the $30,000 will help us do more homework we need to do," said Decker.

Still, it's likely the trail will cost tens of millions of dollars when all is said and done and will likely be developed in pieces.

"It's exciting to be a part of process now, there's something so intriguing and compelling to connect this urban growth area through rural communities and the coast, it's a really exciting idea," said Wiley.

An idea they hope to one day bring to life.

"The most beautiful and scenic areas I think are in the heart of canyon, it's called Salmonberry River. The railroad ran right next to the river and it's a roadless area." said Wiley. "Once you're in there, you're far away from anything. The idea of getting folks there on the trail system is really very exciting."

The two stress the public is not allowed to go out on the tracks right now, mainly for safety reasons, but also because it's not an official trail.

To learn more about the Salmonberry Trail visit: http://salmonberrytrail.org/

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