Montgomery County photo/Flickr Creative Commons. ##
Montgomery County photo/Flickr Creative Commons. ##

Linda Watkins: Trail can tell story of the land it inhabits


Last month’s marathon Yamhill County Commission hearing on the Yamhelas Westsider Trail, focused on response to a Land Use Board of Appeals decision on specific legal issues, covered much ground. So it might have, despite all these years of discussions, hearings and meetings, brought up some previously unmentioned points for or against the trail.

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No such luck. The proponents made the same assurances, repeating the same information, and promising the identical mitigation procedures. The opponents voiced the same concerns, without acknowledging any offers or assurances made by trail advocates.

That’s what “falling on deaf ears” is all about.

But something did come into focus for me at the hearing: The fear expressed by trail opponents of change, the unknown and additional loss of their familiar world. That and the frustration that comes with feeling nobody is hearing what you’re actually saying — nobody is listening, nobody is recognizing or appreciating what you are and do.

Somewhere in the push to create the trail, several of our farmers, especially, became convinced users are going to wander through with no respect or appreciation for the products of those farming land bordering the right of way.

As I left the hearing, I wondered: What if the farmers, instead, focused on the exposure their operations would get from trail users that worked to their advantage? What if they took the opportunity to tell the story of their own farms and crops to those passing by on the trail?

I love the depth of Yamhill County’s agricultural roots. My favorite time of year is harvest season.

The people who actually do the work are most likely just focused on getting their crops harvested and delivered.

Those of us not working the fields have the opportunity to watch in admiration, even awe, as harvesters trundle through fields six in a row, threshing, raking and baling.

When those great golden blocks are stacked, whether straw or hay, they take on a unique beauty under the sun’s warm glow.

Driving Westside Road during harvest season is dangerous for me, because I become so caught up in watching all the activity I forget to watch the road.

Growing up in farm country, I moved irrigation pipes in the early morning, while getting chewed up by mosquitoes, or hot afternoons, while fending off swarms of gnats. I also helped load bales, and cook meals for the loading and stacking crews, as this was several decades before the advent of today’s automation.

It was hot, dirty work. But at the end of the day, we could stand back and admire a job well done. We knew it would see us through another year.

So why shouldn’t we help farmers teach others how special those times were and are? Why can’t we help them use the trail to share their stories?

Tell the visitors who walk that trail about the fields it borders.

Tell them what they are looking at isn’t just a piece of ground with some plants growing out of it, rather a multi-generation farm of much deeper meaning. Tell them how many generations have worked that land — how and when they came to this country and county, and from where.

Tell them what is growing in those fields and where it will end up.

Grass seed? Is this seed they may be buying next year when they prepare to put in a new lawn? Will it end up creating the sod for the new city park?

Our country has been losing the connection between producers and consumers. As a consumer, I may go to the store and buy a bag of grass seed. But I don’t give a lot of thought to where it came from or how it ended up in that bag.

This is a chance to help bring together grower and consumer, to help us all appreciate some of the people who helped us build what we have.

So I suggest to farmers of the Yamhelas area: Share a little bit of your world with your guests. That signage the trail organizers have mentioned? Use it to tell visitors about your life and farm.

Tell them which generation is still farming, while also letting them know why they need to stay out of the fields. Explain the damage an unfamiliar visitor could inflict on your crop or his person.

People generally don’t mean to be rude or harmful, they just don’t know how their actions might impact your crops. The point is to educate the visitors who will walk, bike or ride past your fields, teach them to love and respect your land and appreciate and respect what you do.

Creating the Yamhelas Westsider Trail, and telling visitors our stories, can start us down the path to recognizing we’re actually all in this together. That we all need to honor one another as hardworking human beings who just want to be respected and appreciated. That each of us is a unique human being who really has no desire to do anything but provide a safe and loving environment for our families.

Changes like this don’t happen in a day. Real change takes many steps over time.

But things do change. And this change could be for the good if we come to know one another a little better.



I think that you wanted to say "inhabits."


Farmers should plant arborvitaes on both sides of the trail and use lots of pig manure and turkey manure to spread on their fields. This boondoggle will end up just like trails in Portland lots of vagrants lots of trash and needle boxes. YAMHILL County has become nothing more than an annex of Metro. Sad!


In reading this article I realize how frustrated the farmers must be - as it is obvious this writer was not listening either.

Did you know that despite the LUBA decision and before the hearing you spoke of a farmer came in to the formal commissioners meeting with a bucket of metal pieces that could have killed his cows? Metal pieces left by our good ol County who was busy fencing anyways?

If farmers were wealthy enough to stop farming to give lessons to the trail walkers I doubt they would be working such long hours.

I heard what they said and know how they feel. Our County has no dog control proposed for this area on their current budget, campers costing our police and fire way to much time... roads that are in disrepair and we are stupid enough to think this trail is "free". The money we have spent to date outside the grant $ is adding up quickly but is nothing ... NOTHING compared to what it will cost us in the future.

I heard you.


So the guest writer is from California - fell in love with the area in '85 and vowed to return someday and now sits on Carlton's City Counsel trying hard to change what she fell in love with 34 years ago. Priceless....


Californians have destroyed this county.


Well, I’m a native of Oregon and I say it’s well past time to build the trail.

It’s been debated and argued over for long enough.

Anti-trail folks have lost, and perpetually whining about it is pointless.

Build it and ignore the Scrooge’s and haters, for the greater good of the community.

My family can’t wait!



Isn’t it nice that the county can waste outrageous sums of money for a useless bike trail but can’t even properly take care of the burgeoning homeless population. That trail will end up just like spring water trail, especially when the county is broke and can’t afford upkeep and police to chase off the campers !



When it looks like Springwater Trail and the campers relocate there you might not feel like a "winner" 👌



It’s typical of progressives shaking the mythical free money tree in the sky. My prediction is extremely over budget and the thing won’t even open or it will open and the very problems we well know will happen quickly. It’s a train wreck in the making !


So, if I understand it correctly, farmers are supposed to drop everything in order to shoot the breeze with the trail crowd, tell their "stories," maybe haul out the old family tree, share their lives, explain the destination of a specific crop? They are working, Ms. Watkins, earning a living in a tough job few people can do. They are not actors in a cultural anthropology diorama.
Has everyone gone mad?


Hopefully folks like looking at arborvitae hedgerows.


Guess what? The trail will be built, used, enjoyed. Life will go on. Bikes won't shed metal pieces that kill cows, homeless people won't leave the services they have in Mac and farmers will farm their land.

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