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Take long view on Banks to Tillamook trail

I suspect many who have shown an interest in the “rails to trails” idea and the other grandiose plans circulating for the railroad corridor between Banks and Tillamook simply want to be a part of some greater cause or conquest. The notion of obtaining something you currently don't possess is built into the human psyche — especially for men. That is why we use words and phrases like "the catch," "the hunt," or "a notch in the belt," which in many instances refer to the pursuit for the sheer pleasure of conquest.

In this context, I believe the reasons given by those involved in the Salmonberry Coalition — who want to move forward with a trail from Banks to Tillamook — are flawed.

As someone who has had a passion for the Salmonberry River Canyon for more than three decades, I believe I have a voice in the current discussion. My love for the Tillamook Forest, and in particular the railroad, is evidenced by the fact that I went so far as to write a book about its construction. A second book is in the works. I have spent literally thousands of hours over the last 30 years exploring and documenting the fascinating history of this great watershed. I was blessed with hundreds of hunting and fishing trips on motorcycles and ATVs before restrictions banned their use in many areas.

The railroad was here long before any of us now living had the notion that the Salmonberry Canyon was a great place to visit. The Salmonberry Canyon was and is a great destination because of its remoteness, and the railroad is the undisputed reason the canyon has remained remote all these years. The development of trails and roads was limited because of the ruggedness of the canyon and because the railroad and its right of way occupied the most accessible locations in the bottom of the canyon.

There is a reason why salmon and steelhead have flourished in the Salmonberry River. Again, to a large part, it's because the railroad hampered access and development.

Yes, the railroad washed out — that is an understatement! This, however, does not mean we should throw out the baby with the bath water. If you look through the historical record, you discover that washouts and weather events have occurred throughout the 100-year history of the railroad. Still, the rail line survived and flourished. There were logs and lumber products as well as dairy and farm implements to deliver; there were fish from canneries on Nehalem Bay and Tillamook Bay; and every other conceivable product that could be transported made its way along this railroad line.

The cost of human life in building the railroad, the blood and sweat that kept it going all these years and the financial impact it has played across multiple county lines is in itself reason to keep the right of way intact.

There was a time when I could hike up and down the canyons without so much as a thought about doing it. Those were wonderful days, and I thank God for all of them. I'm 50 years old now, and due to health problems I can no longer do the hiking and biking I once loved. But I can take a ride on one of the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad excursions up to the mouth of the Salmonberry, see the beauty and relive some of the treks and memories gone by.

There are other canyons of similar beauty, but this is the only one in Oregon's northern Coast Range that you can access and view from the vantage of a rail car. I am concerned that some would construct a strategy that would forever eliminate the railroad from going back into service. I think this is not only extremely short-sighted, but selfish as well. The railroad is an asset.

Forest Grove resident Paul Clock, a former commercial fisherman and school teacher, is author of the book, “Punk, Rotten & Nasty: The Saga of the Pacific Railway & Navigation Company.”




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