Trail and rail users at odds over proposed plans

Some groups want railroad tracks removed in favor of hiking/biking trails
By: Brad Smith Telegraph Correspondent
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When it comes to the issue of putting bike and hiking trails alongside historic railroad tracks, Bo Grebitus wants the best of both worlds. “Yes, I do want it all,” the Sacramento resident said. “But I want something that’ll appeal to everyone and make them happy.” An avid cyclist, Grebitus loves using the all the trails in the Folsom/Sacramento area — and likes the possibilities that new trails in Folsom and the surrounding area offer. He refers to the more-than-50-mile-long stretch of rail corridor, also known as the Placerville Branch, purchased from the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1996 and now owned by the Sacramento-Placerville Transportation Corridor Joint Powers Authority. Grebitus hopes that the JPA will do something beneficial for everyone. “I look at it this way,” he said. “That rail corridor was purchased with public money and I think that public should have access to it. And I do mean everybody.” Grebitus is aware of some people who would like to see the rails removed and have the area turned into a path for cyclists. “I hope that doesn’t happen,” he said. “Look at San Diego. Bike trails exist alongside the old historic railroad tracks and it works for everyone. Compromises are possible and do work when people work together.” Grebitus would like to see a similar compromise with the JPA’s rail corridor. “I know that there might be some parts along the trail where cycling might be a challenge,” he said. “But it doesn’t make it impossible.” His concern is that special interests groups will hijack the rail corridor and use it for their own agenda. “An example is a cyclist-only group sways the JPA — who don’t have a master plan drafted — into removing the rails,” he said. “Makes it nice for cyclists, sure. But, what about what other folks and what they want?” Bill Anderson, president of the Folsom, El Dorado & Sacramento Historical Railroad Association, said that his group is wanting to preserve the rails — not remove them. “The rails are a part of our history,” Anderson said. “Removing the tracks is nothing short of erasing that history. It’d be a shame to do that.” Anderson said his organization has been working with the JPA on creating an excursion train that combines both recreational and educational elements. “We’re (interested in) running a train from the Old Town depot to Placerville,” Anderson said. “It’s something both locals and tourists can enjoy. And, I believe it’s something other communities near the corridor might try as well.” He said that the rail group would like to work with other groups to further the development along the corridor. “Yes, I want the rails to remain where they are,” Anderson said. “However, at the same time, it’s possible that, through cooperation and compromise, other projects can be added to the corridor. I’d welcome something like that.” Cooperation and compromise. Those are two words Grebitus welcomes. “‘Public’ means ‘open to all,’” he said. “I hope that’s a mind-set that I hope people will keep in mind when they consider the (Placerville Branch) rail corridor. It has the potential to offer many things to many different people.” The next installment will focus on the JPA, the Friends of the El Dorado Trail and other groups hoping to use the rail corridor.