Thursday, June 5, 2008

Private Land Owners Cutting off Public Treasures

Perhaps I should be totally grateful that the Cape Horn Trail even has a chance to become an official reality. Sure, the U.S. Forest Service wants to water the experience down by rerouting the trail away from the Cape Horn waterfall among other choices. The reason of course is that it passes by a Peregrine Falcon nest just adjacent to the falls themselves; a bird that nests under bridges in the City of Portland.

By far, the most disappointing realization was that private landowners are selfishly keeping the rest of the world from special places. Having traveled modestly, this is probably a common problem, but having grown up in Oregon where special places are uniquely public, the climate here in Washington uniquely supports the landowner.

The most striking example that I have found is a location where the Skykomish River drops its full flow over about a 40 foot waterfall near Index. All access to view the spectacle is on private land.

Such is the case at the base of Cape Horn on the Columbia River. A fantastic basalt rock formation lies at the bottom of the cliff. As it happens, the railroad tracks exit a tunnel and not too long ago, railroad enthusiasts could access the east portal for an amazing photograph.

Photo by Ted Curphy (used with permission)

No longer. A gate blockades the public from the river’s shore and barely allows access to the Cape Horn Trail. It seems that one mistake and the total use of the Cape Horn Trail could be derailed by this landowner.

It seems to me that the even the sign that is posted at the trailhead is illegal. Sure, they could block use of the 50 yard portion of the trail that is on private land. I can even live with the request not to park along the side of cape Horn Road, but to say that nobody can drive to the trailhead on a public road and pick up or drop off a passenger at the trailhead is outrageous.

I wish you guys could have seen the look on my son's face when our plans to eat our packed lunch within view of the tracks and the river so that we could watch a train exit the fabled Cape Horn Tunnel. Instead, we had to settle for lunch on a public road just outside of the private gates that block our access to a very famous portion of a scenic Columbia River. It seemed like a less than fitting protest for such an unjust exclusion.

1 comment:

EcoRover said...

You are totally right that private property rights nut cases (primarily aggies) dominate politics in the West.

Montana's former US senator, the moron Bush crony Conrad Burns, even introduced a bill to sell off all federal land in Montana.

Fortunately Montana also has a very activist environmental/public access community. Using the Public Trust Doctrine, they won the Stream Access battle some years ago, guaranteeing the public the right to use all streams & rivers between the high water marks.

Unfortunately 8 years of neo-con Bush & company resulted in many Montana enviro groups "collaborating" with aggies in hopes of small gains. I think selling out was a bad idea.

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