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County withdraws trail through farmland proposal

February 5, 2021 GMT

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Yamhill County will stop pursuing a rail-to-trail project that’s encountered repeated land use issues and objections from farmers along the route southwest of Portland.

The county’s board of commissioners voted 2-1 to withdraw its land use application to build the three-mile recreational trail between the towns of Carlton and Yamhill on Thursday, the Capital Press reported. The project southwest of Portland is along a longer 12-mile portion of rail property bought by the county for $1.4 million.

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Farmers opposed to the project argued the Yamhelas-Westsider trail would restrict pesticide spraying, invite trespassers and endanger food safety, among other issues.

Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals blocked the project’s approval three times, most recently finding that Yamhill County didn’t sufficiently analyze the trail’s impacts on agricultural practices.

Although abandoning the project will likely mean repaying a $1 million state grant for a nearly-completed bridge and other project components, commissioners Mary Starrett and Lindsay Berschauer said they didn’t want to continue spending money on litigation over the project.

Commissioner Casey Kulla voted against withdrawing the land use application for the trail, arguing the county should continue with a “master planning” process that could resolve legal questions posed by LUBA.

Berschauer said continuing with the master plan wouldn’t be a responsible use of taxpayer money and would disregard serious problems with the project.