Friday, March 25, 2011/lk
It has happened before, and it will probably happen again. And right or wrong, fair or unfair, a clash of fundamental rights is at issue.
The bottom of the extremely popular biking, riding and hiking trails at Post Canyon Road is private property. More specifically, 1.5 miles of the Seven Streams trail, from the start where the road turns to gravel to the kiosk and official trailhead up the road, runs through several parcels of private property.
For at least a couple years three highly visible "No Trespassing" signs have greeted users at the entrance of the trial, which, regardless of the signage, is one of the most popular trails in the county when the weather permits.
Within the last couple of weeks someone - presumably the landowner - blocked the entrance of the trail with metal fence stakes and wire stretched between. It didn't last long, however, and less than two weeks later someone - presumably not the landowner - removed the barrier. And this was not the first time a barrier in the same location has been erected, and removed.
"This is the third time that I know of," said Henry Buckalew, Hood River County Forestry. "The first mile and a half of that trail is on private property. I think most people assume it's owned by the county or the forest service; but it's not. That area is owned by seven different landowners."
Buckalew said he placed bright pink ribbon on the posts and wire because it was a pretty clear hazard for anyone coming downhill with speed. After the weekend, however, the posts, wire and ribbon were nowhere to be seen.
"It's unfortunate that we aren't allowed to manage that section of the trail," he said. "But as it is, it's private property and people should respect that. We encourage everyone to use the gravel road to access the trail at the staging area. That's the right thing to do; and I think if people do that now we will have a better chance of coming to an agreement with landowners in the future."
About five years ago county forestry attempted to contact the seven landowners in the area to try to come up with a trails management agreement. Only three responded, however, and no contact has been made since.
"We're hoping to go back to the landowners again soon," Buckalew said. "We've made a lot of headway up there since we tried the first time. That should make a difference."
Buckalew also said he thinks liability is a major concern for the landowners; but that unless they are charging people to ride through their property, they are protected.
Perhaps it's only a matter of liability that the landowner has placed signs and barriers over the years. Or, perhaps the landowner lives out of town and doesn't see the property often enough to notice changes. According to Hood River County's online parcel viewer, the property where the trail was blocked is owned by a man with a Portland address.
Another possibility is the owner walked the property and saw the evolving spiderweb of trails on weaving up and down his hillside.
"There has been unsanctioned work in that area," Buckalew said. "Most of it looks like good, fairly professional trail building; but it's not part of the official county system, and that's what we have been trying to stop."
Not far up the hill, the county is working with on incorporating the county's trail system with Forest Service, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and State of Oregon lands.
Once that is farther along, Buckalew says the county plans to approach the landowners again and hopefully come up with an agreement to allow the county to manage and officially sanction the trails that run to the bottom of Post Canyon