Rail-to-trail

Opponents of Yamhill County’s plan for a rail-to-trail project through farmland gather in McMinnville, Ore., in 2019. Even after being rejected three times by the state Land Use Board of Appeals, the county is still trying to push through the trail project.

The Yamhill County Commission has again been sent back to the drawing board over its ill-conceived plan to convert about three miles of an abandoned rail line into a recreational trail.

The county has been a regular visitor to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals as it tried to ignore the concerns of farmers whose property borders the old rail line. So far, the county is 0 for 3, as LUBA has sided with the farmers.

The county still has not acknowledged that having a recreational trail dividing farmland will have a profound impact on the farmers and their livelihoods.

Many a farmer knows what happens when walkers and bicyclists begin wandering around on their property. Some uninvited visitors use the farms as outdoor toilets. Others help themselves to the land as a picnic spot, leaving garbage behind. Others are shocked to discover that farms occasionally spray pesticides to keep insects and plant diseases at bay. Still others help themselves to crops and let their kids run near dangerous farm equipment and livestock.

Another consideration: Setbacks required for pesticide applications will cost those farmers time and money.

In a sentence, a recreational trail is incompatible with working farmland.

Consider also that the county is close to the Portland Metro area. That means a sunny summer day during the growing season could attract crowds of walkers, bicyclists and others.

The county has pursued the trail project backwards. The first thing it should have done is meet with local farmers to understand the impacts such a project would have on them.

Then the county should have addressed those impacts. If they couldn’t be addressed to the satisfaction of the farmers, who live there and depend on that land to make a living, the whole trail idea should have been dropped.

That’s what an editorial in this newspaper said last June.

It was correct then, and it’s correct now.

Yamhill County must stop trying to railroad those farmers.

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