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Boardwalk closes gap on Waterhouse Trail system

Project provides wetlands experience on way to creating 10-mile trail system


by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tucker Spooner and Avik Bordack wait for a friend while checking out the view from the new bridge across Bronson Creek in Bethany.The unofficial opening of a new 570-foot boardwalk to carry pedestrians and bicyclists across a wetlands area along Southwest Joscelyn Street brings the burgeoning 10-mile Waterhouse-Westside Trail system 1 mile closer to completion.

The boardwalk spans the Bronson Creek Greenway, a 35-acre wetland and riparian corridor just south of Joscelyn Street, completing a 1-mile link through a power line corridor to a trailhead at Bronson Road. The latest Waterhouse Trail link north of Highway 26 makes more than 2 miles of new pathway available to the public and brings the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District closer to completing its goal of a continuous 10-mile backbone trail from its northern to southern boundaries.

“The beauty of this is that the (boardwalk) really unifies the neighborhood by providing a direct trail connection between the northern and southern sides of Bronson Creek,” said Bob Wayt, the district’s communications director. “Neighbors previously could only get from one side to the other by using streets in a roundabout way. The new boardwalk provides excellent scenic value and crosses a wetland, which provides trail users with wildlife viewing opportunities.”

The boardwalk, which cost about $350,000, is part of a three-segment, $3.7 million Waterhouse Trail expansion funded by a $100 million bond measure that district voters approved in 2008. Work began in July 2013 on the expansion, whose completion puts the district two gaps away from creating a continuous 10-mile north-south “backbone trail” through the district from Portland Community College’s Rock Creek Campus area to Barrows Road south of Scholls Ferry Road.

District officials aim to complete the network by 2016.

The 12-foot-wide, railing-lined boardwalk leads from Joscelyn Street to the 10-foot-wide asphalt-paved Waterhouse Trail with 1-foot gravel shoulders. The pathway winds its way up an incline in the grassy power line corridor on its way toward Bronson Road, Sunset Highway, entering the Tualatin Hills Nature Park about 3 miles from Joscelyn Street at Southeast 170th Avenue.

The boardwalk, which was completed in December, required the district to work closely with public agencies including Clean Water Services and the Oregon Department of Environmental Protection to protect water, plants and wildlife habitat both during and after construction. Plantings and other mitigation efforts were required to offset shade the boardwalk’s presence brings to the wetlands.

Efforts to keep pedestrians and bicyclists from traversing it until a pedestrian crosswalk signal is installed at Jenkins Road has proved a challenge.

“It’s so hard with trail projects,” noted Tim Bonnin, park district project manager. “There’s no way to totally cut people off. It shows that people are more than ready to have this available.”

The boardwalk decking and handrails are constructed with structural plastic lumber material that’s built to last.

“It never rots,” Bonnin said. “It’s very durable material. It doesn’t wear or get as slippery as other surfaces. It won’t allow moss (and organic material) to grow. For us, it’s just easier to maintain.”

In addition to the boardwalk section, Waterhouse Trail expansion segments include:

  • Merlo Road to Baseline Road, a 0.6-mile link connecting the Merlo Road MAX light-rail station to Baseline Road, with signalized crossings at Jenkins Road and Baseline Road, and

  • Stoller Creek Greenway, a 0.55-mile-long “West Spur” trail connects Waterhouse Trail to Rock Creek Trail between the Waterhouse and Rock Creek trails as a community trail following a tributary stream to Rock Creek. It includes a boardwalk along the stream within the link between Laidlaw Road and the Rock Creek Trail.
  • The two gaps left in the Waterhouse Trail the district seeks to complete include:

  • a 0.73-mile connection from Springville Road to the future North Bethany trail system, the northernmost section of the Waterhouse Trail, which will likely be built as development occurs in North Bethany, and

  • a 0.18-mile segment south of Cornell Road at Bethany Boulevard, for which the district is pursuing ConnectOregon V grant funding.
  • Created by the Oregon Legislature in 2005, ConnectOregon is designed to invest proceeds of lottery-backed bonds in grants and loans to non-highway transportation projects promoting economic development. A fifth, $42 million infusion approved last summer expands project eligibility to bicycle and pedestrian improvements for which state highway funds aren’t available.

    Letters of support can be sent to Chris Cummings of the Oregon Department of Transportation, 555 13th Street N.E., Salem 97301. Letters will be accepted until June 30.

    For more information, visit thprd.org or call 503-645-6433.by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - A cyclist rides on the new Bronson Creek Bridge in Bethany. The crossing helps complete one of the final segments in the 5.5-mile Waterhouse Trail.

    Park district projects jibe with county road improvements

  • The Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District’s work to complete the latest Waterhouse Trail expansion was supplemented by other recent projects along the trail corridor, including Washington County’s expansion of the Bethany Boulevard overpass across Sunset Highway. That project’s widened sidewalks along the west side of the boulevard and the north side of Bronson Road serve as on-street trail portions and connect with the Bronson-to-Joscelyn segment.

  • The district also worked with Central Bethany Development to close a critical 16-mile gap in the trail between West Union and Laidlaw roads. The project, which included two bridges, connects the Bethany Town Center with the Waterhouse Trail and Rock Creek Greenway Trail.

  • “These improvements help pedestrians and bicyclists connect more directly to their destinations while traveling on a safe, attractive route,” said Aisha Willits, the district’s deputy director of planning. “The boardwalk over Bronson Creek is scenic and has brought together neighborhoods north and south of the creek, which they’ve wanted for a long time.”

  • A crossing of West Union Road, she noted, was well received.

    “Not only were we able to make the connection from John Marty Park to West Union Road, (but) we’ve now provided trail users with a highly visible, safe crossing of that busy road,” she said.