By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

County planners to hold hearing on farm impacts of Yamhelas Trail

County planners to hold hearing on farm impacts of Yamhelas Trail

By NICOLE MONTESANO

Of the News-Register

The Yamhill County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Thursday evening about the county's findings on impacts to farms of the proposed Yamhelas Westsider Trail.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Kent Taylor Civic Hall, 200 N.E. Second Street, in McMinnville.

Planners will consider whether to amend the county's transportation system plan to acknowledge the county's purchase last year of 12 miles of former railroad corridor, to develop the trail.

The county's amendment notes that the the state Department of Land Conservation and Development argues that trails in exclusive farm use zones are required to prepare farm impact statements, however the county disagrees.

Nonetheless, it says, it is offering its farm impact analysis “in the way of explanation.”

It notes that “The county and its Board of Commissioners have indicated an intent to identify all potential conflicts between use of the corridor as a trail, and all nearby property owners and uses, including potential impacts to the costs of farming or to farm practices.”

The amendment states that the county considered “all farm operations wholly or partially within 750 feet of the (generally) 60-foot wide transportation corridor,” along the expected route about 750 feet north of Highway 240 to the northern city limits of Carlton.

It concluded that the primary crops in the area “typically include hazelnut and fruit orchards, grass seed, hay, pasture, clover, Christmas trees and row crops. No livestock operations were identified, but horses appear to be stabled or grazed on some farms in the area,” it states.

“Other crops that might be present because they are common in Yamhill County include sweet corn, raspberries, marion berries, beans, cherries, arborvitae (nursery stock) and other crops as identified by persons testifying.”

It noted that farm practices include plowing, burning, application of herbicides and pesticides, disking of orchards and machine harvesting.

“Farm machinery is routinely transferred from field to field in the area and in some cases must routinely cross the corridor. (The county has indicated its intent to honor existing easements and to accommodate other farmers and farm operations that would benefit from a legal arrangement allowing them to cross the corridor for farming purposes),” it notes.

“No commercial forestry has bee identified in the area, although forest and small woodlot uses accessory to agricultural uses likely take place.”

The amendment notes that several farmers have raised fears that, under new rules being proposed by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration, farmers won't be able to spray hazelnut trees within 150 feet of the trail or Highway 47, and that their costs will significantly increase as a result.

However, the amendment states, “county staff recommended that this claim be rejected, for the following reasons. First, state and federal law currently prohibit the spraying of pesticides ... or other substances potentially harmful to human health on people or on property other than” the actual farm. “Pesticide labels, generally, indicate that they should not be sprayed on workers or others, on livestock or other animals, or applied in a manner likely to cause them to 'drift' off-site.”

It notes that farmers and spray operators who do allow pesticide drift can already be held legally liable, and that “actions for trespass and negligence are currently not foreclosed by right-to-farm laws, even as those laws provide limited protection to farm operators for pesticide use that is done 'in a reasonable and prudent manner.'”

One farmer who grows hazelnuts in another part of the county has suggested that farmers along the trail should be given indemnity by the county against any potential claims by trail users of being harmed by pesticide drift.

The county is not proposing to do so.

“Under existing spray regulations, it is possible that reasonable and prudent precautions can be taken, at little cost, to minimize potential conflicts” between farmers and trail users, it states, and suggests that

those might include spraying in the early morning or other times when trail use is likely to be light, posting signs warning trail users of spraying ahead and putting up temporary barriers.

However, it notes, under existing law, “off-site pesticide drift is not allowed. The county, or other trail operator is capable of cooperating fully with neighboring farm operations to ensure that reasonable and prudent steps are taken by all parties to avoid accidental poisoning of trail users.”
The amendment also notes that many farmers have testified about their fears that “homeless people and clueless tourists will wander onto their land trampling crops, littering, doing drugs, interrupting spray operations, stealing, committing acts of vandalism, or setting up makeshift camps.”

However, it argues, “hiking, biking and riding horses are activities that attract law abiding citizens and families, the presence of which has been found to be a natural deterrent to crime along other, developed trails.”

Signs and fences can help to prevent or at least hinder trespassing, it argues, and the trail should be designed in a way that will “minimize the potential for trespass and to improve the ability of law enforcement to respond quickly.”

“Farm uses have, for the most part, peacefully co-existed with nonfarm uses and existing transportation corridors in Yamhill County and throughout the state and nation for many years,” it states. “The same methods used to protect existing users of existing roads are available to protect trail users, and should not be significantly more expensive or impactful when protecting persons walking, on bicycles or horses, than those on bikes, in cars or on motorcycles on the county's many roads, with a smaller buffer area than is potentially available with the proposed use.”

 

Comments

Yupjoe

I have livestock on both sides of this section and the county is ignoring my requests for getting water to the other side, and a safe way to cross my animals back and forth, and says they will only put up "farm fencing" in un-specified areas, despite my request for a dog-proof fence on both sides of the bike road for dog-protection. The Banks-Vernonia bike path received numerous 911 calls from owners who lost their dogs. I am concerned and feel ignored.

Jim

Yupjoe the county will revisit your request after somebody’s prize pet gets shot in a herd of sheep or cattle where they didn’t belong in the first place. I totally agree that a trail through farm country is a bad idea because City Slickers can’t help themselves by doing something that they shouldn’t on private ground. I’m sure that the signs that you will have to buy with your own money will keep them away.

Mac Native 66

Oh brother. More whining from the naysayers. I say put the railroad tracks back in and call it good. Maybe then, the whiners will shut the f*** up.

Larry Phipps should of been fired for taking out the tracks when, Bob Melbo was on vacation. Bob, could see that the tracks where/are needed for mas-transit. The trail will be useless and a bigger waste of money. The money needs to be spent on reinstalling the track.

A New Generation

And how interesting due to the deadlock that this will be 'kicked upstairs' to the current Commissioners. (Holding yet another hearing on Election Day May 15th). IF only they had handled this better, in a less divisive way, addressing all parties at the same table. Oh, the irony. This is a shining example of what true transparency should have looked like, and much earlier on, before the land was purchased. Vote May 15th, before or after you attend this important land use milestone.

Lulu

True transparency cannot exist in Yamhill County, except long after the fact.