A dozen farmers oppose construction of the Albany-Corvallis Bike Trail, and they may be able to block it. They can keep fighting a conditional use permit Benton County is seeking for the path, and if that fails they can decline to sell any needed easements. The question is whether they really want to kill a project with benefits for the mid-valley for generations to come.
The farmers base their opposition on fears that the path would interfere with farming. Exactly how? The assertions heard so far make little sense.
Farmers might be sued if their machinery hurts a passing cyclist? How often would a combine or tractor have to cross that path, where? And if crossings are necessary, how about looking right and left before proceeding?
Path users might object to getting sprayed with fertilizer? Well, unless cyclists are blind, they would see any spraying going on ahead of them. Being prudent, they would take care to avoid it.
Farm vehicles would track mud on the path, leading to complaints? They track mud on roads already, and there are no complaints because winter rains soon wash he mud away.
Cyclists would throw trash into the fields? Not likely, as people on bikes don’t usually carry enough stuff to throw away.
Vagrants would use the path and cause problems? Maybe, but they can walk along the Union Pacific tracks and cause problems now.
For most of its 5.5 miles between northeast Corvallis and Scenic Drive in North Albany, the path would not “cross” farm fields at all. It would be squeezed in between the railroad and the fields on the north side of the tracks. Judging by the planned location of the path and the habits of its likely users, a reasonable person would conclude that conflicts are very unlikely, and if problems do arise they can be solved.
The opponents’ lawyer is Ed Schultz of Albany, an expert on land-use law who at the second of two public hearings this week raised technical and legal objections to the conditional use permit. If he and his clients want, they can kill the project by delaying it indefinitely with lawsuits and appeals. I hope they don’t.
I hope they take another look and can be persuaded that this project — in the public interest because of greater highway safety and the environmental and health benefits from encouraging non-motorized travel between Albany and Corvallis — is in their interest as well. (hh)