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by Jim Sconyers, Chapter Chair | 2010

Victory for the Blackwater Canyon Rail Trail

The Forest Service has decided NOT to allow Allegheny Wood Products (AWP) to use the premier Blackwater Canyon Rail Trail as a timber haul road. After literally years of input, research, and deliberation, the decision was issued in late July.

AWP owns land on one side of the trail and half of the trail itself. The Forest Service owns the land on the other side of the trail and the other half of the trail. AWP wanted to upgrade the trail to haul-road capability and use it to haul timber. Acting clearly in the interests of the environmental and recreation community, the Forest Service gave a resounding “No!”

The actual decision is conditional in a sense. Emphatically, the trail cannot by any means be used for timber hauling. However, if AWP is willing, they and the Forest Service can sign an easement allowing some limited drainage repairs to protect historic structures, and opening the full trail to non-motorized recreation use — but not logging traffic.

The decision removes the threat to the potential uses — hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing — of this outstanding and well-used recreational and scenic trail.

Now the ball is in AWP’s court to see if the tangled ownership situation can finally be resolved to open the entire trail to the public. Removing the small-minded threat of trespass prosecution that the company has used against hikers who step over the center “line” of the trail would be a step in the right direction.

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