The Yamhill County Trails Collective made some progress in discussing its plan to build three arterial trails at its latest meeting Feb. 1, but a bigger development may have come earlier in the day at the Economic Vitality Summit in McMinnville.
It was at that meeting that Chehalem Park and Recreation District Superintendent Don Clements met with representatives from the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments (COG), which has agreed to become involved and support the project moving forward.
"This has been an effort from a diverse multitude of local agencies, but to have an overarching, cohesive force like COG is significant," CPRD Public Information Coordinator Kat Ricker said. "It is energizing."
CPRD, which has taken a lead role in the trails group, has created a model resolution of support that member jurisdictions can use to more formally align with the effort. It declares an agency's intent to support or join the coordinated effort and to appoint members as representatives, but does not include any financial commitments.
The Mid-Willamette COG has agreed to perform GIS mapping services for the project and may dedicate some staff to lend organizational and structural support moving forward. It is expected to introduce its resolution at the local governments dinner Feb. 23 at the Chehalem Cultural Center.
Clements asked representatives at the trails meeting Feb. 1 to adapt the resolution for their own agencies, but a timeline for adopting them has not been established.
"COG has a great ethos with it," Ricker said. "It would matter to people at the agency level, but also at the legislative level. As we look forward to applying for federal grants, COG can bring some appeal to the people who are considering our application. That's why it's a resolution of advocacy, so we can ask everyone for the equivalent of a letter of support."
The trails group once again discussed applying for a federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan, which could fund as much as half of the project, and the potential for other grant funding.
In the short-term, CPRD is bearing the cost of a contract with lobbyist Michelle Giguerre of Summit Strategies to pursue federal grant and loan opportunities, but stated that it will need the other agencies to contribute funding for the approximately $350,000 contract proposed by project consultant Environmental Science Association (ESA).
In order to receive a TIFIA loan that could exceed $10 million and, according to federal guidelines, would pay for up to half of the project, Clements has stated that the favorable terms would allow the loan to be repaid from system development charges (SDCs), but he has not yet created a formal plan in that regard.
The trails collective would still have to front the other 50 percent of the project cost and it is not yet clear how members would generate that funding.
Clements noted that more detailed funding discussions might not be possible until after the various agencies officially adopt resolutions to be involved in the effort.
Yamhill County Commissioner Mary Starrett expressed concerns about how the proposed trails might impact participating land owners, especially farmers given upcoming changes to EPA regulations that could mean the trails would inhibit their operations.
Clements and Paul Agrimis, the lead ESA consultant, said potential issues like that need to be addressed during the planning stages, but noted that seasonal closures of the trail could be adequate mitigation.
The route of the Dundee-to-Carlton trail is basically undetermined at this point, which spurred a conversation about when the group should begin presenting information to and soliciting feedback from the public.
CPRD board president Peter Siderius stressed that the group needs to establish some benchmarks that would signal the group is ready to reach out to the community. There seemed to be agreement that the group was not yet at that point.
Siderius suggested that having the trails routes mapped, garnering resolutions of support from member entities and identifying funding mechanisms would be important milestones to reach in that regard.
Although the next meeting has been scheduled for 3 p.m. March 8, the potential of scheduling future ones in the evening to allow for more transparency and public participation also received support.