See plans for Gateway Green at community open house
When it comes to public process, Portland does not have a good record of balancing the interests of people recreating on foot and by bike, with wildlife habitat issues in mind.
You might recall the huge protest by cyclists of the city's decision on the River View Natural Area, or the frustration over the cantankerous process to consider allowing mountain bike access at Forest Park. Both public processes were criticized by players and observers — but maybe, for Portland, the third time's the charm.
Gateway Green, the brand-new Portland Parks & Recreation area in East Portland (between the I-205 and I-84 freeways, near the Gateway Transit Center), will hold its second of five community open house gatherings on Feb. 24.
The 24-acre park, accessible via a three-quarter-mile footpath, was imagined as a world-class off-road cycling destiation and brought to life by supporters' grassroots efforts over the past 12 years.
The park has been open since last summer, with its first phase including a bike skills area — a series of jumps, bumps, twists and turns modeled after the nearby Lumberyard Indoor Bike Park's design — built for both beginners and experienced riders of all ages.
There's also an all-weather concrete pump track, and about 1.5 miles of singletrack trail through the woods.
The park has been heavily used by cyclists and others, parks officials say, and now it's time for the next phase — to design it for all users, for the future.
"It's a chance to step in and take a look at the draft design," says Barbara Hart, a parks community engagement coordinator.
"We want to hear from (the public) about what they think about the various elements — how to improve and strengthen those as well."
The draft design, which will be unveiled at the Feb. 24 open house, was developed by the 15-member advisory group to Gateway Green.
It includes key players in the park's development: the Northwest Trails Alliance, nearby neighborhood associations, the Community Cycling Center, three students, the Oregon Department of Transportation, Portland Bureau of Transportation, TriMet and others.
The draft design includes a multi-use path that will be a soft-surface trail for runners, walkers and hikers; restrooms; artwork; natural play areas; and entry plazas.
It also would expand the singletrack trails throughout the park, in a way that's balanced with other uses.
An estimated 250,000 walkers and bikers come through the corridor each year.
"How can we put together compatible uses, bring them together in a park so it makes sense and works for everyone?" Hart says. "We'll be trying new things out, like intersections. We need to think about how close is too close, what works for people. We'll ask the public to get this right."
After the design process, construction is slated to start later this year, with a total budget of $3 million — $1 million from Metro and $2 million from Portland Parks & Recreation's systems development charges, which come from construction revenue, not from the general fund.
The Metro funds will focus on the natural play areas and habitat restoration. "The wooded area is a lovely respite," Hart says. "We want to make sure it's an inviting space for people to stroll, walk through the trees, see views of Rocky Butte. It's an important corridor for wildlife."
The SDC funds will focus on the other improvements, which will face a challenge due to the unique nature of the site — bordered on all sides by transportation, accessible only by a 3/4-mile walking path, and built through public-private and grassroots efforts, led by the Friends of Gateway Green and Northwest Trails Alliance.
"Typically, we build the park and then we open it and invite everyone in," Hart says. "For this one, we're embracing all the people we want to use it and improving it with access to the site, and seeing how people move through the site."
Ross Swanson, the parks project manager for Gateway Green, says the "beta test" for the site has provided a great start.
"We knew we had a target audience with offroad cyclists and found it's been quite a success, getting steady use," he says. "Now what we see is families with small kids who are going to ride for an hour, and a teenager going to ride for a couple of hours. We realize it's time to diversify the park so we can have a successful experience out there."
Check it out:
Gateway Green Community Gathering and Open House
• Saturday, Feb. 24
• 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
• Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), 10301 N.E. Glisan St.
• For more: portlandoregon.gov/parks/gg
More upcoming meetings:
• March 5, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
• April 10, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
• April 28, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.