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Trail users at odds over historic track

Rails vs trails
By: Penne Usher, Telegraph Correspondent
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Once again the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors has backed a plan that could convert miles of train tracks to trails stretching from Shingle Springs to the west county line. “Friends of El Dorado Trail are excited that county supervisors have supported the Shingle Plan with a second majority vote,” said trail-booster President Mike Kenison. “We look forward to the new joint-use section of the (Sacramento Placerville Transportation Corridor), and are very pleased that the train groups will finally have a home and track to call their own.” He said for the time being the tracks will remain, however, in the future they may be pulled to accommodate a hiking and biking trail. The trails group has been at odds with train enthusiasts for years over the use of the tracks that run from Folsom to Placerville. Under the Shingle Plan Compromise, first adopted last year, an 18-mile stretch from Shingle Springs to Folsom would be a multi-use trail for hiking, biking and equestrian use. The track from Shingle Springs to Placerville would remain for use by rail enthusiasts. Neither side believes the other’s plan is financially feasible. Kenison said “trains are a financial disaster.” “They have a hard time making a go of it. They aren’t making money. These are hobbyists using an old line. They will have to update the track and the ties.” He said preserving the track is preserving history, but it is not “economically significant.” Building a trail system, free to the public, could bring revenue to the county. Kenison cited the roughly $40 million in economic benefits seen by the use of the American River Trail system. “Take into account the trail users and what they purchase in the area and how often they spend money in the area.” Folsom Mayor Kerri Howell stands on the side of the rail users. “The trails people believe any train track out there is a bad thing,” she said. “As a civil engineer, I can estimate the cost (to construct a bike trail) at (roughly) $3.6 million for an 18-mile stretch.” She said after pulling the rails and ties, the gravel base that remains would not be sufficient for walking or biking. “The grade of rail bed does not qualify as a trail. It’s not good for walking or biking. It’s fairly good sized gravel,” she said. Howell believes the tracks should remain and a trail system could be built alongside in an easement space. “We’d love to have trails built within the easement,” she said. “(The trail proponents) claim to want to connect to Folsom trails. They think it costs almost nothing if they remove the rails.” Biking trails in Folsom are built adjacent to existing track, she said. Philip Rose heads up the Placerville and Sacramento Valley Railroad, a non-profit excursion line that has been running a one-car passenger train along a five mile stretch from Folsom. Rose has said that he would like to extend his train service up the hill into the Placerville area. “By the time they’ve pulled the track up and paid for prevailing wages, there won’t be much left,” he said in a previous interview. “And once they’re removed and the first winter comes, they’ll degrade and become unusable.”