Raymond Rendleman November 14, 2021

Derailment of 15 cars between Canby and Oregon City spurs railroad foundation to grant funds

COURTESY PHOTO: RIVERS OF LIFE – Neil Nedelisky of Eagle Landing, top left, joins Aaron Hunt of Union Pacific as the railroad presents an award  to Rivers of Life Center representatives, from left on bottom row: Timothy Miller, Jerry Miller, Cody Hinze and Jerry Herrmann. 

Q: How can a train derailment between Canby and Oregon City lead to new trails in Happy Valley?

COURTESY PHOTO: CCSO – Remnants of a derailed train north of Canby are pictured in the middle of the night Wednesday, Jan. 6.

A: When the state senator who lives in the neighborhood of the accident thinks that the damaged lumber being refined into fuel for industrial boilers might have a higher purpose.

On Jan. 6, 15 train cars left the tracks along Highway 99E near South End Road, according to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office. Canby Fire Division Chief Matt English said he had not seen a derailment that large in this area before.

As he watched the railroad company refine the damaged lumber, State Sen. Bill Kennemer, R-Canby, made a call to Aaron Hunt, Union Pacific’s regional public affairs director.

“(Kennemer) contacted Union Pacific and suggested these refined materials could possibly be used in trail enhancements and other projects that Rivers of Life Center was working on in local watersheds,” Hunt said.

2021 COURTESY PHOTO – Last January, Eagle Scout worker Cody Hinze, 20, prepared a donated log from the September wildfires in Clackamas County for trail edging near Mt. Scott.

Rivers of Life Center, a nonprofit education and training organization serving Clackamas County, annually employs nearly 100 at-risk youth in teams to work with cities and agencies of the region to build and restore environments while developing the skills and educational experiences. The Union Pacific Foundation on Oct. 25 presented a $10,000 check to Rivers of Life to support work on watersheds and stream riparian areas in Clackamas County.

COURTESY PHOTO: CCSO – In total, 15 rail cars left the tracks in the incident Wednesday, Jan 6.

At Eagle Landing Golf Course in Happy Valley, Rivers of Life helped establish 2 miles of trails and wildlife habitat adjoining Mt. Scott Creek. The derailment’s nearly 200 cubic yards of material, representing several rail cars worth of damaged lumber, became the nucleus for trails and enhancements on Mt. Scott and its various creeks and tributaries.

“We were so impressed with how Union Pacific helped us make 2 miles of trails possible that we asked if the Union Pacific Foundation could help us in other areas and projects,” said Jerry Herrmann, Rivers of Life president.

Rivers of Life will be performing additional work along the Clackamas River to create animal denning sites and new trails and access for fisherman and families.

Kennemer said that he was happy that what could have been a tragedy worked out for everyone.

“We see the railroads at work, but we don’t have any idea of how much effort they put into building our communities. This is an example,” he said.

The train engineer complained of pain after the derailment, but no one else was injured, police said.

Initial investigation revealed that the derailment likely occurred at the bridge over Parrott Creek, per the sheriff’s office. None of the debris or rail cars blocked the highway, and no hazardous materials were on the train that had largely been carrying lumber.