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A Citizens View by SWTrails PDX's Glenn Bridger and Don Baack

Pedestrian connectivity is key to allowing residents to move about our community.

SWTrails is in the process of working with the City of Portland to identify key pedestrian connections around all of Southwest Portland. We are working with your neighborhood associations to identify existing rights of way, many heavily used, that could be improved to be better pedestrian or pedestrian and bicycle trails.

Unimproved existing rights of way are promises of connections that have never been fulfilled. They are presently a no-man's land, open for public access, but in many cases not easily traversable by kids headed for school or residents wanting to walk for exercise.

There have been questions of liability for adjacent owners when these public lands are used. Recent state legislation has taken aim at the liability issue when trails are improved or maintained by a nonprofit organization such as SWTrails. To bring the relief intended by the legislation regarding trail use, City Council approval of that use must be provided.

SWTrails is working with the City as it begins a project called SWIM, "S.W. In Motion," a funded effort to identify, price out and set general priorities within categories of all the active transportation projects across Southwest Portland.

The SWTrails effort is to identify the hundreds of existing trail connections, most of which are already in use by our S.W. residents, put them on a map and/or a list, obtain public comment and then get the Portland City Council to approve the list and map. This action will formalize more of these trails we rely upon as an active transportation network in our community.

Once the list is approved, SWTrails or other nonprofit organizations can easily work with the adjacent land owners, the community, neighbors and others to build and/or maintain the connections as time and resources permit. SWTrails is in the process of requesting funds be included in the PBOT budget to maintain our 40-plus miles of Southwest urban trails, and that the routes be marked with a brown sign with a number, an arrow and a white walker symbol.

Will adjacent owners still have liability for actions on these public lands next to their lots? They should secure direct legal advice on that issue.

As we work to build and maintain an active transportation trail network with the community, we will be asking for City resources for materials, a very nominal sum. Our SWTrails volunteers get no compensation. Join us at our next work party. See SWTrails.org to sign up for monthly updates.

Glenn Bridger and Don Baack work for SWTrails PDX, a non-profit that advocates for more hiking and biking options in the region and organizes monthly hikes. It also co-ordinates with volunteers to maintain trails in S.W. Portland.

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