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It has taken years of effort and numerous partners to improve Tillamook’s Hoquarton Trail, which plays a role in the Salmonberry Trail project as well. The Tillamook Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting a party to celebrate the local trail’s completion

There will be activities and booths along the entire length of the trail from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 4, going from Sue H. Elmore Park (the kayak launch park on Front Street, west of the new bridge) through Goodspeed Park and into Werner’s Beef & Brew. You can find out more event details by searching for the Waterfront Walk on Facebook.

The improved trail is about a half mile from start to finish, flat – perfect for running, walking and biking. Strollers are easy to push along the trail, although there is a short section that is packed gravel rather than asphalt. Shuttles will be available for those who walk from one end to the other and would prefer a ride back.

The event culminates the highway realignment project liaison partnership between the City of Tillamook and the Tillamook Area Chamber of Commerce. The project aimed to improve the flow of highway traffic while revamping downtown’s appearance and expanding its footprint.

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Hoquarton Landing.

The newly restored trail is the first fully completed section of the Salmonberry Trail project, the goal of which is to enhance physical connections between communities with a new 86-mile mixed-use, non-motorized path. The scenic rural route was home to the Pacific Railway and Navigation rail line, connecting Tillamook County with Portland and the northern Willamette Valley.

According to the Salmonberry Trail website, the rail line has moved people and goods through the heart of Northwest Oregon's most remote country and rich timberland since 1911. From the early logging camps to the monumental efforts to reforest the area devastated by the Tillamook Burn, and the development of vibrant dairy and wine industries in Tillamook and Washington counties, the passage connects Oregonians with the natural resources of the state.

Getting to this point required teamwork, bringing together the Salmonberry Trail Intergovernmental Agency (STIA), consisting of the Port of Tillamook Bay, Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, and Tillamook County. Also involved were the Tillamook Forest Heritage Trust, the Salmonberry Trail Foundation, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, the state’s Regional Solutions team, Washington County, Washington County Visitor Association as well as legislators.

“This was truly the first mile of the Salmonberry being built,” said Alana Kambury, director, Salmonberry Trail Foundation. She said the first section was completed using a model of local leadership to spearhead the project, and that model will be repeated throughout.

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Sierra Lauder, director of events and downtown development for the Tillamook Area Chamber of Commerce, described the project as definitive of Oregon’s character – protecting and managing natural resources, providing a place for recreation that is safe for alternative transportation, and drawing in tourists and locals with the historic great outdoors.

“This is a hugely significant trail for the history of Oregon,” Lauder said. “This railroad unlocked the timber industry that made everything boom – this put Oregon on the map.”

The project took shape in the wake of a 2007 storm in which the Port of Tillamook Bay lost its freight railroad. In 2009, the Port’s board of directors decided the rail line would not be rebuilt, using disaster relief funds to pursue alternative projects. By 2011, there was clear path to move forward with the trail project, and in 2015 STIA was formed.

Most recently, a lease was signed with the Port in 2018, and also the Salmonberry Trail Foundation was created. Kambury said the conversations around the trail now indicate that donors are in place, capacity is being built, and ground could be broken in the coming year.

“The excitement from the coast – from Rockaway, Garibaldi, Tillamook – means that the foundation needs to catch up,” Kambury said. “We need to get in a place to support their fundraising efforts.”

Safety is a big attraction for the Salmonberry Trail project. In the summertime, cyclists and hikers can be seen all along local highways. Sharing the road can be a nerve-racking experience for all involved. Who wouldn’t prefer a quiet, pristine trail rather than a white-knuckle ride in the margins of the highway?

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When the trail is complete, it will feature diverse areas that are unique to each locality, sort of a patchwork of trails running through woods, wetlands, parks, information centers and to businesses.

“What’s great about this trail no two sections are going to be the same,” Kambury said. A native Oregonian, Kambury said she values how great of a span the stakeholder group is for this project. She is glad to see such a diverse number of people who will be positively affected by the trail, having been involved in discussion to bring marginalized groups to the table, making sure the trail has something for everybody.

Michele Bradley, general manager for the Port of Tillamook Bay, said the trail project is a unique opportunity for adaptive reuse of a rail line that is still active, but has the opportunity to do so much more in terms of connectivity for coastal communities. Bradley has been Port manager since 2008 and has seen the heavy lifting required to get this far with the Salmonberry Trail project.

“There have been some significant challenges,” Bradley said. “It’s taken a lot of people, and there has been a lot of initial opposition, but there’s been some working through to just educate people that it’s not a bad thing.”

Lauder emphasized that the rail line is still active in some places. She said it’s important to understand the historic nature of the path. Recognizing the natural resource-driven economic history of Oregon to which the railroad was critical in developing is an important aspect of the Salmonberry Trail project.

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Bradley said it would be easier to simply pull up the rail lines and build the trail over the top, but the Port board has made it clear that the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad is crucial to the history and culture of the state.

Thus far, state agencies, the Washington County Visitors Association, and transient lodging tax dollars from Tillamook County have largely funded the project. Grants have also played an important part, particularly a $400,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant for a brownfield study early on, and a transportation grant that helped cities incorporate the trial into their plans.

“The sausage making has already happened, a lot of people don’t realize that,” Bradley said.

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-Kayak Tillamook County will have boats and equipment at Sue H. Elmore Park for folks to check out and see how the kayak facility works

-Pelican Brewing - Tillamook will be set up and serving their special house root beer at Sue H Elmore Park, where the City of Tillamook, Oregon will be having an official ribbon cutting at 11:30. Pacific Restaurant will be offering cake (because what it a party without cake?)

-Live marimba music! Tillamarimba will be performing at Sue H. Elmore Park

- Tillamook Estuaries Partnership (TEP) will be hosting a family activity station highlighting the Tillamook County Water Trail project, the Explore Nature Tillamook Coast activity series, and their restoration and water quality programs.

-Art, Accelerated _ Blink, You Miss It will have an art station set up

- Tillamook County Historical Society will be on the trail and highlighting the progress on the Hoquarton Interpretive House- a great spot to check out

-Tillamook Rotary Club will have a table set up talking about their community efforts and welcoming folks to learn more

- Tillamook County Family YMCA and the Tillamook County Wellness group will be there with family focused activities

-Tillamook Bay Watershed Council will have a driftwood boat building station, where families can use found materials to test the tide, building for speed and buoyancy

-Tillamook School of Dance will be on stage at Werner Beef & Brew- with an outdoor stage and rockin' music, the east end of the trail will be as much of a party as the west end

-Beaver sighting? Clair Thomas and his science wagon will be on the trail as well- talking critters. The Hoquarton waterfront is a diverse ecosystem, and there are plenty of birds and animals that make their home there

-Oregon Coast Railriders are gearing up for another season on the rail, and they are planning on short demos starting at the railroad access at Goodspeed Park. Always wanted to see how those train-bikes work? This is a chance to check it out and maybe schedule an excursion for this summer

- Tillamook People's Utility District will be on the trail with demonstrations of electric vehicles, green power details and more. Be sure to stop by their booth for fun stuff

Questions about the Waterfront Walk or interested in finding out how you can participate? Call Sierra 503-354-4400.

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