Oregon lawmakers have advanced a measure that would fund an engineering study meant to fill in the missing gaps of the Oregon Coast Trail.
As its name suggests, the trail extends the length of the Oregon coast. It’s been under development since the early 1970′s.
But according to the Oregon State Parks Department, about one-quarter of the trail is on highway shoulders, including U.S. 101, as well as sections of county roads and city streets. And roughly 10% of the trail is “disconnected, inconvenient, unsafe, or inaccessible,” according to the agency.
The Senate Committee on Natural Resources approved a measure that would dedicate $250,000 to help plan for ways to bridge those gaps.
Completion of the trail is a high priority for lawmakers who represent the Oregon Coast, said Sen. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, prior to a committee vote on Monday.
“It really would drive the opportunity for economic development along the coast, and have a beautiful trail to boot,” he said.
Brock Smith said the money in Senate Bill 679 is a preliminary request that would likely be followed up with a larger request during the 2025 session.
The measure now heads to the legislature’s budget committee, where it will compete with other funding proposals.
“We’re not in a position to weigh (this bill) against other needs that the state has,” cautioned committee chair Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Ashland. “Passing this bill is an expression that it’s a good idea and we hope that it gets serious consideration in the weighing of various needs.”
This isn’t the first time Oregon lawmakers have weighed in on the Oregon Coast Trail. In 2017, lawmakers approved a bill that required the State Parks Department to develop an “action plan” for closing gaps on the trail, but the measure included no funding.
“It passed easily because it had no money attached,” testified noted Oregon outdoors author William Sullivan in written testimony in support of SB 679. “Now it is time to attach a little money so that we can really finish the Oregon Coast Trail.”