CANYON CITY – One week after voicing support, the Grant County Court rebuffed a proposal for a gravel biking route that would loop through Logan Valley on a decommissioned railroad grade and Forest Service roads.
The route’s proponent says the Court jumped to a wrong conclusion – that the route would cross private lands – but that the flipflop has effectively killed the project.
The Court’s withdrawal of support came Dec. 17, after several citizens raised red flags, and one landowner pledged to fight the project.
The bike route’s fate looked good on Dec. 10 when the Court heard a presentation from Mike Cosgrove, the local cycling advocate who proposed it as a way to bolster the tourist economies of local communities.
Cosgrove intended to submit the proposal to the state’s Scenic Bikeways Advisory Committee in March. Currently nine communities across the state are looking at submitting proposals, and the panel is expected to advance three for further exploration and possible funding.
Cosgrove told the Court the path would be largely on Forest Service land, with a small stretch on tribal lands. He said he was working to secure support from the Paiute Tribe and several local cities, and he also needed the Court’s blessing.
Court members decided to send a support letter, but they delayed signing it because of the absence of Commissioner Boyd Britton.
Opposition cropped up at the Dec. 17 meeting. Local real estate broker Jim Sproul, who voiced qualified support at the first meeting, questioned the impact on private lands, and Logan Valley landowner Shannon Voigt told the Court he would oppose use of the railroad grade for a bike trail.
“The right of way goes right through my private ground, and I will fight it,” Voigt said.
Bob Phillips, president of the Grant County Snowballers, said the snowmobiler group also had concerns. They worried the route might be exclusively for cyclists, not allowing other uses, and he questioned the involvement of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The agency, one of several involved in creating the bikeways initiative, is charged with development and implementation of trails including bikeways.
“We don’t trust this whole thing,” he said.
The Court voted not to send a support letter.
Cosgrove, contacted last week, was frustrated. He didn’t attend the Dec. 17 meeting, feeling assured by the previous indication of support. He said Court members didn’t tell him they would be reconsidering, nor did they raise any concerns or ask him for clarification before voting not to support the project.
He said the concerns were off-base – that the route was never proposed for private land. He said where the rail grade runs onto private property, the intent all along has been to divert onto nearby Forest Service roads. He also said the route would be multi-use – for bicyclists, hikers, horse riders, and snowmobilers.
“I would have told them all of that, if they had informed me they would be meeting again on this,” he said.
Cosgrove said he has sought support letters that specifically note the trail would not negatively impact lumber of ranching in the valley, and would not involve closing any roads.
“I really thought this would be an easy sell, because it was taking bicycles off the main roads,” he said, noting traffic conflicts have been a concern for the paved highways.
However, Voigt had broader concerns. He said he has trouble with cyclists who use forest roads that run near his land.
“I’ve watched people jump the fence and do their business on my property, and just leave the mess,” he said. “I’ve watched bicyclists pee in my irrigation ditch.”
Voigt said he and other ranchers face increasing scrutiny over water quality, and that kind of thing could cause trouble for him, he said.
He said there already are plenty of Forest Service roads that cyclists can – and do – use in the valley.
Court members said they felt Cosgrove could proceed with his proposal without their letter of support.
However, Cosgrove said that’s not the case. He said the state panel won’t consider any projects that don’t have strong local support.
“To move forward, it would need to have every conceivable kind of support letter,” Cosgrove said.
Without the county, he said, “it’s dead in the water.”
He said the bike route could have been a boon to local businesses, and he faults the Court for scuttling the project.
“They’ve shown me they will encourage opposition, and they’ve gone out of the way to invite people in to oppose it,” he said.