Railroad segment topic of meeting

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By LENORE

RUTHERFORD

The former Sierra Railroad track between Tuolumne and Standard or at least part of it will be the subject of a special Tuolumne Park and Recreation District Board of Directors meeting tonight.

The directors will meet in closed session at 7 p.m. at 18433 Chestnut Ave. for an update on property negotiations for sale of the train track.

They will come out of closed session only to disclose any action taken during the session.

The easement has been the subject of controversy since the 1986 board of directors bought the 6.2-mile right of way for the historic track for $85,000 from Charles Crocker, former president of Sierra Railroad. His grandfather and great-uncle established the railroad in the late 1800s.

Since then, the issue of whether the district should be in the railroad business has been controversial: A recall campaign was even started at one point but ended when directors stopped negotiating to buy two railroad engines. All of the directors involved in those railroad deals were defeated in the following election.

The portion of the 100-foot-wide swath of land on the 300-acre-plus former West Side Lumber Company land in Tuolumne is no longer an easement. It became the sole property of Tuolumne Park and Recreation District during negotiations in 1997 for what later became a failed housing development and golf course.

Four parties have publicly expressed interest in negotiating with the Tuolumne Park and Recreation District to buy all or parts of the 6.2-mile track, including the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk, which owns the former West Side Lumber Company.

In July, the board of directors appointed directors Jon Kellogg and Tony Krieg and District Manager Ruth Bartholomew as a negotiation team to "explore all options" regarding the easement.

Friends of Sierra Railroad has threatened to sue the district if it sells the easement for any purpose other than a railroad, and property owners along the route have said they will to go to court, if necessary, to prove the easement has already been abandoned and title should revert to them.

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