‘Cut our losses’: Yamhill County withdraws multi-use trail plans

Oregon

Motion to withdraw trail plans came from Commissioner Lindsay Berschauer, the board's newest member

Farmers rallied in Yamhill County against a multi-use trail, May 21, 2020 (KOIN)

CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. (KOIN) — Yamhill County will end its pursuit of a multi-use trail that has pitted farmers against outdoor enthusiasts, and could have to pay back millions of dollars in grants it received for the project.

The Yamhill County Board of Commissioners voted 2-1 Thursday to withdraw its land use application to build a three-mile trail between Carlton and Yamhill along abandoned railroad property the county purchased back in 2017. Supporters of the Yamhelas-Westsider trail envisioned a multi-use path stretching all the way to Gaston, possibly farther if additional lands were acquired.

Local farmers have been driving the opposition, claiming a trail would put their livelihood in jeopardy by increasing the risk of crop contamination and destruction by humans and animals.

Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals blocked the project numerous times, most recently finding that the county did not adequately study the trail’s potential impact on agriculture.

The motion to withdraw the land use application came from newly-elected Commissioner Lindsay Berschauer, who previously told KOIN 6 News she opposed the trail from its inception. Berschauer replaced former Commissioner Rick Olson, who had been in favor of the trail.

Commissioner Mary Starrett voted with Berschauer, calling the whole ordeal “regrettable.”

“I believe that it would be in our best interests to cut our losses and to not to continue to fund something that apparently is going to require ongoing litigation,” Starrett said.

Commissioner Casey Kulla cast the sole vote against withdrawing the application.

The county will likely need to repay a $1 million state grant for project components that were underway, including a bridge on which construction had already begun, as well as $1.7 million it used to purchase railroad right of way for the trail, according to Kulla.

One section of land in Carlton where Yamhill County and trail enthusiasts previously planned to build a multi-use trail (Wayne Wiebke)

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