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Public Hearing Coming

No one talking; result of Klickitat trail meeting secret until Nov. 6

Whatever was decided at last week's private meeting between several local legislators and opponents of the proposed Klickitat Rail-Trail will remain secret until at least Nov. 6.

Those involved declined to offer any details about what was discussed in the meeting.

"Washington State Parks will release a letter before Nov. 10," explained State Sen. Jim Honeyford, (R-Sunnyside).

"We will review the whole picture and make a decision, probably on Wednesday, Nov. 6," said Virginia Painter, public affairs administrative officer for State Parks. "There's quite a bit of detail that needs to be worked out. We will have an announcement on Wednesday."

Washington State Parks is the "underlying land owner" of most of the former railroad corridor, which at one time stretched from Lyle to Goldendale.

Painter said the agency was reviewing its "role in holding that [trail] property."

Mike Ferris, public affairs officer for the Forest Service in Hood River, said he was surprised his office had not been notified of the meeting, since the Forest Service has been expected to manage the trail corridor once it is officially established.

"This is interesting," said Ferris. "We've been working on a new work plan for presentation early next year, and we've planned to look at development of the first 11 miles of the trail, from Lyle to Pitt. It's within the Wild & Scenic River corridor."

Ferris expressed disappointment with the continued controversy over creation of a trail in the area.

"It's too bad -- this would offer economic potential for a really depressed area," Ferris explained.

Larry Fairleigh, assistant director of Washington State Parks (and an attendee at the Oct. 30 meeting), was asked whether State Parks was on the verge of walking away from the trail project under pressure from legislators, but he declined to answer.

"We're going to announce something from State Parks on Nov. 6," Fairleigh said.

According to Fairleigh, Sen. Honeyford called for the meeting.

"We met at the request of Sen. Honeyford to answer questions and concerns he had over tensions he perceived building up around the trail," Fairleigh said on Monday.

According to Honeyford, the meeting -- held at the Public Utility District office in Goldendale -- lasted about two and a half hours.

Honeyford said the Oct. 30 meeting was designed to find a way to "calm down" tensions generated by increased use of the trail corridor. That use in turn has led to confrontation between trail users and some of the private property owners who live along the corridor.

"There was information presented most of us didn't know," Honeyford said, but he declined to comment further.

Legislators attending the private Goldendale meeting included State Sen. Honeyford, State Rep. Barb Lisk, State Rep. Bruce Chandler, a representative from U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings' office, and Dan Newhouse, a candidate for state representative.

Bill Koss of Washington State Parks added that he didn't know why the meeting was kept private.

"We were guests, not hosts," Koss said.

Fairleigh said a public meeting regarding the trail will be held on either Nov. 18 or Nov. 19, probably in either Lyle or Klickitat, to discuss developments regarding the corridor. State Parks will finalize a date and location and make that information public soon.

Klickitat County Planning Department Director Curt Dreyer, who also was at the meeting, said the county was concerned about the proposed trail for several reasons.

"It is land use issues the county is concerned with, related directly to public health and safety," said Dreyer.

As examples, he mentioned trail users venturing off the trail, littering, smoking cigarettes, and bringing dogs on hikes.

Dreyer added that no trail proponents were invited to talk with the legislators because "that was not the purpose of the meeting."

Lori Zoller, one of the private property owners at the meeting, also declined to comment on the outcome of the private session.

She explained that State Parks Director Rex Derr had requested she not say anything for now.

"He asked me to wait," Zoller said. "Like everyone else, I'm waiting for the news brief to be released."

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