The Great Redwood Trail overcame a major hurdle late Thursday afternoon, when a federal regulator turned down the Skunk Train’s offer to buy 13 miles of track north of Willits. The Great Redwood Trail Agency, which owns the track, had asked the Surface Transportation Board, which regulates railroads, to allow it to abandon the track so it could start the process of converting it into a trail. The Board approved the abandonment, effective on June 19, unless it received a formal notice from an entity intending to buy part or all of the line. The Skunk Train, also known as Mendocino Railway, did so. Last Saturday, it filed its bid, known as an Offer of Financial Assistance, which the Board rejected within the five-day legal timeframe. The Board also lifted the hold on its authorization to abandon the line, which means that as of Tuesday, October 25, the entire 176 miles of track from Willits to just outside Eureka is officially an abandoned railway.

The Board agreed that Mendocino Railway “has not demonstrated financial responsibility.” Meanwhile, the Great Redwood Trail Agency has released its “Feasibility, Governance, and Railbanking Report,” which McGuire refers to as the “Master Plan.” He anticipates it will take two to three years to get through the details of construction, fire safety, and community engagement before trail building begins. There will be a virtual town hall about the master plan on Monday night at 6:30 p.m.

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