Chugga chugga, choose choose: What next for abandoned rail line?

Chugga chugga, choose choose: What next for abandoned rail line? »Play Video
A stretch of the Bailey Branch rail line right of way

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Benton County has an 18-mile long question on its hands: What to do with the abandoned Bailey Branch rail line?

Trains stopped rolling about 7 years ago.

The old rail "right of way" runs from south of Corvallis to Monroe, and west to Dawson.

In a split vote last year, Benton County Commissioners bought this right of way for $486,000.

“You know we haven't made a decision at all as to what the county is going to do. This is an open process,” said Jeff Powers, Benton County Director of Natural Areas and Parks.

Farmers are fuming that they're being railroaded into living next to a public trail system, one of the 5 options on the table.

Trails would lead to problems, farmers contend.

“Yeah, vandalism, theft, eco-terrorism,” said Monroe area farmer Frank Nusbaum.

“We're not opposed to a bike path; we're just opposed to the location that it would be on this abandoned line,” said Jeff Goracke, who also farms near the right of way.

A new wrinkle in this debate comes from the farmers: They're getting their numbers together to make a proposal to Benton County to purchase this disputed piece of right of way.

A bid matching what the county paid for it would save the county the high costs for insurance and trail construction, farmers argue.

The county insists A trail is just one of 5 options for the property.

"There's been no preconceived determination about that at all," Powers said.

But farmers are determined their bid won't get derailed.

"We're not going to stop," Nusbaum said. "We're going to explore every option we have."

The county is holding meetings July 8 in Monroe and July 10 in Corvallis to get more public input.