Making Sense of the 16 Miles of Chaos

Making Sense of the 16 Miles of Chaos

Maybe you’ve heard the middle section of the Salmonberry Trail referred to as the “16 miles of chaos.” That’s a pretty good description, given how much damage that stretch experienced from the 2007 superstorm.

The 2007 Great Coastal Gale damaged or destroyed bridges, tunnels, and miles of railroad grade in this stretch. Figuring out how and where to get a trail through this remote stretch near the top of the Coast Range is going to take some careful and serious planning and engineering.

Last year, planning teams—working with local advisory committees—completed the Coast Segment Study, and planning work on the Valley Segment Study on the east side is now underway. Soon, it will be time to turn our planning attention to the needs of the most complex of the trail segments, the Salmonberry Canyon.

The terrain in this segment is steep and remote, with few ways to access the area by road. Washed out bridges, huge landslides and encroaching vegetation make even hiking into remote areas difficult. Major sections of fill, the foundation for the rail bed, have washed into the river which may require the proposed trail alignment to at times leave the railroad right of way. Plus, we’re fully sensitive to the natural and cultural resources in this canyon stretch, including an iconic fishery.

With these factors in mind, project staff realized a higher magnitude of effort is going to be needed for developing a base inventory report, alignment planning and forecasting environmental permitting and trail building needs. A wide range of specialties will be needed including geotechnical engineering, culvert design, tunnel engineers, plus hydrologists and fishery experts as well.

The work scope template used for the Coast and Valley plans will simply not give us the information needed to complete the Canyon Segment study. So project staff is hard at work developing a unique scope of work for the Salmonberry Canyon section, including an understanding of the likely cost of that planning work. Having a clear scope of work—essentially the key questions we need to have addressed by the segment plan—is crucial to creating an effective plan, combined with advisory committee input, that can guide future trail development.

The planning team hopes to have a scope of work ready this spring. Once funds are secured, the team can move forward with soliciting proposals for the Salmonberry Trail Canyon Study. Like building a railroad, laying the track piece by piece to eventually make the trail a reality.