In the 1800s, we in the United States were experiencing a train craze like no other. Trains could move people and products across vast distances. Transcontinental railways could get you all the way from St. Louis to California in a matter of days! It was a simpler time.
Of course, this was before anyone truly understood the power of the bicycle like we do at Portland Pedal Power (If you ask me, “Portland Train Power” just doesn’t have the same ring to it).
Now that the automobile reigns supreme across the country (something we aim to change) we have a lot of older railway systems without much of a purpose. Coal mines ran out of coal, lumber mills ran out of logs, and rail lines come and go, leaving behind miles of unusable rail systems. Miles of long, flat stretches of land without much of a gradient. Miles of… well, you get the picture. So you can only imagine someone came up with the bright idea: Why not change the rail system… into a trail system?
Rails to Trails is a non-profit organization bent on “creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.” The movement has successfully created more than 20,000 miles of trails across the country, and has more than 9,000 miles more in the pipeline. A local example of Rails to Trails can be found just 50 minutes outside of Portland at the Banks-Vernonia Trail. You may be familiar with the trail, a 21 mile excursion across 12 bridges and leading from Banks to (you guessed it) Vernonia.
Now, Rails to Trails is setting its sights on Oregon once more, creating a brand new trail system through the state’s northern coast range. The rail system being considered used to link the town of Banks to Tillamook but was washed out in 1991 (and then again in 2007) becoming unusable. The proposed “Salmonberry Trail” will be open to pedestrians, cyclists and even horseback riders.
Now people residing in the metropolitan area of Portland will be able to to get to the Oregon Coast while avoiding the typically congested roadways. Once completed, it would be the longest pedestrian trail in the state, spanning 86 miles and taking you through Nehalem and Garibaldi along the way.
One of the more fascinating things about this trail is the support its getting from both sides of the aisle in Salem. As the Oregonian reported, Senate Bill 1516, giving Parks and Rec. directions to move forward on planning the trail, was passed unanimously. It’s a long term project, but it’s slowly gaining traction. If you would like more updates regarding the “Salmonberry Corridor Coalition,” check out their blog to find out when the next public meeting will be held.