Portland Vancouver Junction Railroad, the operator of the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad, has restricted the railroad tracks required for an annual holiday tree drive organized by a local nonprofit group over a legal dispute with the county.
The tree drive is run by Chelatchie Prairie Railroad BYCX, a volunteer group that operates trains on a stretch of the rail line in north county near Yacolt. The county owns the railroad and Portland Vancouver Junction Railroad holds the lease to operate it.
“It is with a heavy heart that the Portland Vancouver Junction Railroad finds itself in the position of being forced to cancel the beloved Christmas Tree trains this weekend,” reads a press release from the company. The press release called Clark County “the Grinch who stole Christmas” and urged people to call the county council to resolve the issue.
The press release references a recent dispute over the validity of the lease as the county has sought to revive the railroad using a change to state land-use law. It states that county attorneys have suggested the lease is void, “which would mean the indemnification language which allowed BYCX to operate is also void.”
According to the press release, the company has spent the last week unsuccessfully asking the county council to reinstate the lease and its indemnification language to “protect our small business, and the owner’s family, should something tragic occur.”
“Because of this inaction, we have no choice but to cancel this weekend’s trains at this time,” reads the press release.
The county also sent out a press release stating that the county’s position has been that Portland Vancouver Junction Railroad and Chelatchie Prairie Railroad BYCX can continue to operate the railroad until a legal “a legal authority determines otherwise.”
“Clark County will continue to diligently pursue resolution with PVJR,” reads the release. “The county will continue to be supportive of the volunteer Chelatchie Prairie Railroad organization.”