The Yamhelas Westsider Trail has wide-spread support from Yamhill County residents and the local communities along its route. Like all trails, our project will undergo four main phases:
1. Acquisition of the property
2. Planning of the trail
3. Construction of the trail
4. On-going Maintenance.
Here are the facts that we know to date:
1. The proposed Yamhelas Westsider Trail is approximately 17 miles long, from Gun Club Road north of McMinnville to Gaston. There is a potential further extension into McMinnville. Yamhill County purchased 12.48 miles of abandoned railroad right-of-way from Union Pacific Railroad in 2017, running from Gun Club Road to just south of Gaston. There are also three small parcels that are privately owned, two in Carlton and one in Gaston. The Carlton property owners have granted easements for the trail to the County, and there is a potential work-around on federal property for the Gaston area parcel. The remaining three miles on the north end of the proposed trail are in Washington County, and FYWT is working with Washington County to promote their purchase of this segment.
2. Yamhill County and the City of Carlton have included the Yamhelas Westsider Trail in their Master Transportation Plans.
3. A public opinion survey of Yamhill County residents conducted by Nelson Research in 2021 showed strong public support for the trail throughout the County. 64% of respondents said they support development of the trail, and that number increased to 70% when people learned more about it.
4, Grants from federal and state governments, foundations and interested user groups are available to county and local governments for trail development, construction and maintenance. The Friends of the Yamhelas Westsider Trail will support these efforts by supplying volunteers and financial support. As a 501 (c) 3, we can apply for private grants for which the county may not be eligible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will private property rights be infringed upon?
No. The 17-mile railroad line from Gun Club Road to the Henry Hagg Lake junction has been owned by railroads since the 1870’s, most recently by the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR). It was abandoned for active rail transportation many years ago. Yamhill County purchased the corridor from the UPRR, except for three parcels that are now in private ownership. For two of these three parcels, the owners have agreed to allow trail access in various forms, such as by donation to the County or granting an easement. There is a potential work-around through the Wapato National Wildlife Refuge for the third privately owned property. The boundaries of the entire corridor were surveyed as a requirement for obtaining a grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) for acquisition funding. Concerns identified by adjacent property owners will be addressed in the master planning process.
Is this rail line being rail banked?
No. This was a purchase of the railroad corridor from a willing seller, the Union Pacific Railroad.
Will the development of the trail affect my farming practices?
No. Many trails just like this one have been developed adjacent to working farms with no adverse effects either to trail users or to the farmers' ability to manage their farms. The plan for the Yamhelas Westsider Trail will address agriculture uses. Other trails successfully manage this with fencing, signage, gates, and sometimes trail closures during spraying of herbicides and pesticides.
What if I must cross the trail to access my property?
All current easements across the right-of-way will be honored and maintained as part of the trail design. If someone is currently crossing the right-of-way and doesn’t have an easement/agreement, it is important to know that it is not a legal crossing. However, the trail planning team wants to work with those who need access to develop a legally recognized crossing so that the trail can be crossed safely for continued access to property when necessary. (Alternately, it is worth noting, if a private investment firm were to buy this rail line, they would most likely charge handsomely for a crossing.)
Will there be an increase in trespass, littering, vandalism, homeless camping and other illegal activities?
Actually, the vast majority of trails have experienced a decrease in unwanted activities such as those listed above. The reason is that people tend to perform illegal activities in places where there are no reputable citizens frequenting the area. In trail after trail, people have seen the rail corridor transformed from a place that is unkempt and rife with litter to one that becomes an amenity for the area that showcases its natural beauty and heritage. It is also important to note the difference between urban trails in cities with existing homeless and crime issues, versus rural trails far away from city services. Regulations and trail monitoring by volunteers and trail managers can keep the trail safe and clean.
How will the trail manage and enhance public safety?
At present, State Highway 47 is not a safe route for pedestrians and bicyclists. The trail will provide a safer transportation corridor along the same general route. This will be especially important between the cities of Carlton and Yamhill, which share the same school facilities. Also, it will be necessary for the trail to cross some paved and unpaved roads, and this situation will be no different than all of the other rail to trails in the country that are being used safely. Appropriate trail design will guide motorists and trail users to use appropriate caution at these crossings.
What about emergency services and fire response?
A nice benefit from developing a multi-use recreational trail is that emergency services actually have better access to the corridor than they ever have had. The trail has a nice flat and wide surface so that a police car, fire truck, or ambulance can drive right down the corridor with ease. This allows for faster response times and increased protection for residents along the corridor.
The trail surface and bridges can be designed to withstand emergency vehicles including water tanker trucks used by local fire departments.
Who will construct and maintain the trail?
Options for construction and maintenance will be analyzed in the trail planning process. One of these is the creation of a public/private partnership. Monies for construction will most likely come through state, federal and private funding sources (grants). The Friends of the Yamhelas Westsider Trail, a 501c3 non-profit organization, will provide volunteers and raise funds to support trail maintenance.
Who is involved in the planning of the project?
The Friends of the Yamhelas Westsider Trail continues to advocate for the trail’s development, and partners with entities that share that goal and can help move the process forward. This has historically included county and city governments, downtown/business associations, park and recreation districts, user affinity groups and other trail organizations.
Yamhill County owns the majority of the trail right-of-way. Currently an anti-trail majority on the Yamhill County Commission has stopped all development work on the trail. The Chehalem Park and Recreation District is exploring the possibility of including the Yamhelas Westsider Trail as part of their trails system future plan.
Approximately three miles of the right-of-way is in Washington County and is currently still owned by Union Pacific Railway. The Friends of the Yamhelas Westsider Trail is working with Washington County to promote purchase and development of that end of the trail.
Has the Oregon Land Use Board (LUBA) made a final ruling against building a trail?
No. When Yamhill County’s conditional use permit for the trail was appealed to LUBA in 2019, LUBA came back to the County with some favorable rulings and some unfavorable rulings. With each unfavorable ruling, the County either took corrective action or submitted the further information that was required. As of 2021 all but two rulings of LUBA had been resolved. Before all the LUBA rulings could be addressed, the County Board of Commissioners voted 2021 to withdraw from the land use process. LUBA did not permanently shut down the trail, nor did they say the trail was illegal. In fact in their last ruling, LUBA denied a request to nullify the conditional use permit, and said that the trail is not legally prohibited.