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Letter to the Editor - July 19

July 19, 2012

Callaham: Here’s what I was thinking regarding rail trail

To the editor:

“What were you thinking?” Apply whatever preface and tone of voice you like to arguably the most penetrating question asked in the recent rail trail debate. 

In response, Tim Rowland’s July 15 column gave me reason to offer public explanation of my thought process.

Many who receive email from my commissioner’s mailbox might note the inclusion of the word “peace” in the signature block. The quote I use relates to the Episcopal liturgy, “Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart.” 

For me the spiritual reference to “you” in that passage translates to all people, regardless of political affiliation or point of view. That’s what I was thinking.

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From the outset, I was thinking we could find compromise, a position that would preserve the rights of property for all land owners and for community use of the land wherever possible. 

Just maybe, to quote Rowland, “… this particular rail trail would seem to lend itself to flexibility … the bike path could be woven from the rail bed where it doesn’t interfere with private homes and the county road where it does …” The property owners as well as the rail trail advocates have legitimate concerns that can be addressed through calm, civil, fact-based conversation.

In voting not to take the state’s feasibility study money, I was thinking that it is time to take a breath, set aside the passion associated with that which divides us and focus on the common bond: The strong belief that our land in Washington County is our most valuable asset for so many reasons.

Whether you are a lifelong resident or you just arrived, we all know Washington County to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. There will be another time for feasibility studies to map a compromise trail route, after we work together through the most significant piece of the puzzle — property rights.  

Trail proponents and opponents can sit together peaceably to forge a plan via the legal process for the court system to determine just what the Department of Natural Resources does and does not own.

I was thinking that our children will have to face this issue again at some future time if we do not resolve it now.

Ruth Anne Callaham
Washington County Board of Commissioners

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