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Major Sequim Bay trail gap filled

Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM -- Clallam County will pay a higher price to take a lower road across Melvin Baker's land. County commissioners Tuesday approved spending $60,000 for an easement across his 40 acres between West Sequim Bay Road and U.S. Highway 101.

The easement will carry the Olympic Discovery Trail on the abandoned grade of the old Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railway that much of the trail follows east of Port Angeles.

The county appraised the land at slightly more than $22,000, using a July 2005 evaluation.

It originally had offered to pay Baker $33,000 for it but increased its offer by $27,000 to avoid rerouting the trail along the highway.

``They raised the ante,'' the 83-year-old Baker said after commissioners signed the agreement.

Neither he nor the county liked the alternative route, by which the hiking/biking trail would have to climb 60 feet up a steep bank to cross Baker's property, then drop again to rejoin the railroad grade.

Baker had offered to give the county the higher easement for free, but he decided it wasn't acceptable after he saw the county's engineering plans.

``It was a choice of destroying some timber up by the road, and I didn't like that,'' he said.

The American Land Rights Association became interested in the case when members learned that the county was considering eminent domain to secure a right of way along the railroad grade.

The association called for mass e-mailing by its members to convince the county not to go to court, but commissioners received only about 20 messages, said Commissioner Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, whose district includes Baker's land.

Only two of the 20 came from Clallam County, he said.

Property uses

Baker bought the property in 1941 before entering the Army, serving in the Philippines and earning the Purple Heart for wounds from a Japanese artillery shell.

After the war, he cut timber and milled on the site. He also raises beef cattle on the land.

The county's agreement will fence the east side of the easement with five-strand barbed wire on heavy posts and a 10-foot-wide gate for Baker to move his cattle.

Despite the increased cost of the land, the county will spend less than it would to switchback the trail up and down the bank.



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