The city of Banks has begun planning an expansion of the Banks-Vernonia trailhead parking lot on the north end of town where Banks Road meets Main Street.
The lot currently has spaces for 24 cars and little room for anything else. In an attempt to make room for more cars the city has permission from the county to point visitors toward the gravel lot across the street, which is used as overflow parking.
Visitors can also park at Five Star Builders (13981 NW Main Street) through an agreement with the company after hours Monday to Friday, 5 pm – dusk and Saturday, Sunday, and state holidays, 7 am to dusk.
Despite the overflow parking, problems persist.
The Banks-Vernonia State Trail itself is a 21-mile stretch of asphalt trail between Banks and Vernonia and in some places includes a gravel trail for horses. It was the first rails to trails project completed in Oregon.
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Rails to trails programs convert old railways into walking, biking, and equestrian trails. The Banks-Vernonia Trail was built on the raised embankments, trestles and bridges of an abandoned railroad that was first built in the early 1900’s.
The Banks-Vernonia Trail has quickly grown in popularity among locals and out of towners alike. According to City Counselor Marsha Kirk, the trail has more than 250,000 visitors each year.
Needless to say, the 24 car lot and gravel spaces across the street struggle to support the traffic. The parking situation will get even more difficult with the construction of a new traffic light at the intersection of Banks Road and Main Street. During this time the gravel overflow lot will no longer be available for use by trail goers.
According to city manager Jolynn Becker, the plans are currently 30% completed and show the lot growing enough to fit between 70 and 80 cars total.
Becker said it is necessary to have some sort of planning when applying for grants and other types of funding. Which brings the city to its next step in the process, securing funding.
The 30% plan puts the city in a good place to jump on funding when it becomes available.
According to County Commissioner Jerry Willey, the expansion will cost roughly $3.2 million.
Willey said there are Washington County transportation funds that can be used, but that more funding is still necessary.
This is only one part of planned improvements to the Banks-Vernonia Trail. Currently Commissioner Wiley and the Salmonberry Trail Foundation are working to secure support and funding for the creation of the Salmonberry Trail, including a 3.2 mile loop between the Manning Trailhead of the Banks-Vernonia Trail and Stub Stewart State Park.
Ultimately, the Salmonberry Trail would be another rail to trail project similar to the Banks-Vernonia trail, but it would stretch from Banks, through Manning, Buxton, and Timber and over the mountains to Tillamook, more than four times the length of the Banks-Vernonia.
More information on the Banks-Vernonia State Trail can be found online.
Information on the development of the Salmonberry Trail can be found at salmonberrytrail.org.