January 23, 2012

Mt Democrat
January 08, 2012 | Posted by Chris Daley
No. 10 Trails and/or rails?

TRAIN TRACKS, here located behind Walmart, will share the right of way with a hiking trail. Democrat photo by Pat Dollins

It was a bit of a banner year for the “rails/trails” issue. Advocates of one or the other or both turned out en masse on several occasions at the county supervisors chambers to pitch a particular perspective which often included one group and excluded another.  The board voted to adopt what became known as the Shingle Compromise or the Shingle Plan. That device grants seven or so miles between Missouri Flat Road in Diamond Springs and Shingle Springs to multi-use status, thus allowing train operations and trail activities within the Sacramento-Placerville Transportation Corridor. Prior to the Shingle Plan, rail use was technically limited to a couple of miles between Mother Lode Drive south of El Dorado and Missouri Flat.

By year’s end, the county had designated the 17 miles from Shingle Springs to the Sacramento County line as mixed use, including hiking, biking and equestrian. Rail use is proscribed, according to the board’s resolutions. Whether the county has the authority to dismantle rails, ties and train infrastructure as precursor to constructing a proposed Class I trail on that stretch of the right of way has not yet been resolved.  Early response from the Joint Powers Authority that administers the right of way indicated that El Dorado County does not have such authority, however, the county is looking into an appeal of that perspective.  The issue was last discussed at the Board’s Sept. 27 meeting wherein John Knight provided an update which included the JPA’s initial action and his letter asking that the decision be reconsidered.
As reported by the Mountain Democrat at that time, “the Shingle Plan Compromise enacted in March effectively ended the larger discussion of extending an excursion train capability from Shingle Springs to the county line. The newer issue for at least four of the five supervisors has moved on to determining what if any financial benefit can be realized by salvage and sale of  the rails and ties. As Knight’s letter suggests, proceeds would be used to fund further trail construction.”

As usual when rails and trails are on the agenda, the board room was packed that day with “trail people” and “train guys,” as the groups often refer to each other.  Knight, with some exasperation, told the audience that the matter at hand “was not to rediscuss the merits of rails versus trails, rather it was to inform the board of the JPA’s recent action.”  “This is not about whether or not to take out the rails,” Knight exclaimed. “Read my letter… The letter is out and we’re waiting for a response.”
Supervisor Jack Sweeney has remained adamant about keeping the Sacramento-Placerville Transportation Corridor’s railroad infrastructure in place pending results of exploring other alternatives for location of the trail.  “I believe there are alternatives for the trail that are cheaper and won’t require removal of the rails and ties,” Sweeney said. “People don’t want to go 10 miles to get on a trail, so it needs to be in an appropriate place. Don’t get rid of the bird in the hand.”  Sweeney’s mention of an “appropriate place” for the trail refers to the fact that, because of steep terrain, the railbed loops several miles south and east away from residential areas in the western part of the county.
Without a doubt, “rails and trails” are again likely to attract a good deal of attention from the public and from county government in 2012.
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Posted by Chris Daley on Jan 8 2012. Filed under 2011's Top Stories, Diamond Springs, Placerville, Shingle Springs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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No. 10 Trails and/or rails? | Mountain Democrat | Programmer Solution
January 8, 2012 - 11:30 am
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Jim Harville
January 18, 2012 - 4:33 pm

It is good to see the railroad back in the paper again, but I must point out several glaring inaccuracies in the article above…
The article states that “Prior to the Shingle Plan, rail use was technically limited to a couple of miles…”. In reality, several thousand riders have enjoyed riding virtually ALL the rails in El Dorado County over the course of the last eighteen months, with full approval by the county. The two miles mentioned are simply the section previously approved for the development of the Railroad Park Demonstration Train, a joint venture between the County Museum and the El Dorado Western Railway Foundation. Rail use has not been “proscribed”, i.e. prohibited or forbidden, on ANY portion of the rail corridor.
The description of the March 28th, 2011 Board action is also largely in error. While it did state that the County’s “priority” between Shingle Springs and the county line was the development of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, it also called for staff to explore the “legality and feasability” of removing the rails, and to look at alternatives to rail removal. This process is ongoing, but is not looking real positive for proponents of the “Shingle Plan”.
As a strong supporter of a Rails WITH Trails program for the corridor, in which ALL parties win, I look forward to the Board of Supervisors taking up this issue again in the near future.
January 18, 2012 - 5:20 pm

How does one go about riding the trains? I agree that the railway should be multi-use,