Banks-Vernonia Trail 25 miles northwest of Portland.
A proposed 86-mile rail-to-trail project that would link Washington County to the Pacific Coast is the subject of two public meetings next month at either end of the future route.
The trail, whose cost would run into the tens of millions, has attracted early attention from touring organization Cycle Oregon and important legislators like state Sen. Betsey Johnson (D-Scappoose), who said in an interview last year that a trail through the Salmonberry River Valley would open up “some of the most beautiful land anywhere” to personal travel.
“I used to go up there before I was a legislator, when I had a life,” Johnson said.
The route would connect to the popular Banks-Vernonia trail and probably replace a handful of highways as the best way to reach the coast by bike, foot or horse.
“If I were a bicycle rider, and I’m not, but if I were a bicycle rider I would not want to be watching somebody else’s rear end along a narrow rocky shoulder,” Johnson said. “I’d rather be out in the magnificence of the coast range next to a roaring river.”
The trail would replace a remote railroad that has been shut down by multiple bouts of flooding. Backers aim to have a master plan in place by 2014, at which point they can start piecing together funding for the trail.
“The Vernonia trail was a cakewalk compared to this,” Tillamook County Commissioner Mark Labhart, who also supports the project, said last year.
The hearings are:
— Sept. 11, from 6 to 8 p.m., in Tillamook at the Oregon Department of Forestry, 500 3rd Street.
— Sept. 12, from 6 to 8 p.m., in Banks at Banks Fire Hall, 300 Main Street.
They’re the first of a series of planned meetings to advance the route and its design. You can learn more at the project’s website.