By editorial board • 

Trail warrants shot to succeed, but farm concerns need vetting

Despite expressions of concern from area farmers, some legitimate and some over-animated, we continue supporting creation of the Yamheles Westsider Trail and urge all parties to collaborate on outstanding issues.

It’s been nearly five years since a nonprofit incorporated to mount a private drive to create a 17-mile rail-to-trail recreation path from Hagg Lake to a point just north of McMinnville. The county has acted as a partnering entity, amending its transportation plan and seeking grants to help purchase the right-of-way.
But the owners of abutting properties have raised often vehement objections.

Predictably, some neighbors have conjured up lurid scenarios of theft, vandalism, littering and squatting. If it happened in urban Portland, it could happen in rural Yamhill County, they argue.

Not likely. Actually, statistics show rail-to-trail paths typically serve to deter crime.

But opponents have also raised valid concerns that need addressing, particularly potential impacts on farming practices.

We sympathize with food providers caught up in this large private-public endeavor through no fault of their own. They have plenty on their minds already regarding their continued ability to practice their vital occupation.

For example, changes in the federal agricultural workers protection standard, discussed by Commissioner Mary Starrett at a trail meeting last week, could become a major pain in the hide for farmers needing to apply pesticides.

The law requires a 100-foot “application exclusion zone” between any person and application of pesticides by air blast, smoke, mist or fog technique, and the burden rests with the farmer. If he sees a person nearby while spraying, it is up to him to determine if the zone could be breached, taking into account factors like wind conditions.

Locating a foot and bike path along the rail right-of-way would not prevent spraying, but could well make it more difficult. And that’s just one of many such issues that must be considered in the planning process.

The trail is important to the region for both economic and quality of life reasons. We want to see it succeed.

Reporter Nicole Montesano said it well in a Letter to Readers published Tuesday:

“Yamhill County officials have promised to address farmers’ concerns, and it may be that with a combination of good fences, thick hedges, sensitive regulations and, especially, a lot of consultation and cooperation, mutually satisfactory agreements can be reached. I hope the human beings involved on both sides will embrace that approach.”

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