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Trail Watch group changes name to Friends of the Trolley Trail to be more positive

For a long time, Clackamas County Sheriff's Office Crime Prevention Officer Sara McClurg has had her finger on the pulse of important issues regarding Oak Grove/Jennings Lodge neighborhoods.

PHOTO BY: MADISON DALLING-RAISNER - Clackamas County Sheriff's Office Crime Prevention Officer Sara McClurg on the Trolley Trail, which has been much safer than residents feared.A topic that comes up routinely is the safety of the Trolley Trail, the 6-mile community trail that connects schools, neighborhoods and parks.

When it debuted in 2012, community members were concerned the Trolley Trail would become dangerous. They feared people using drugs along the trail, criminal activity, graffiti, gang activity, illegal camping and disposed needles.

Beginning last summer, the group that called themselves the Trolley Trail Watch started meeting on a monthly basis to discuss issues, concerns and ideas to make the trail a better place for everyone. One topic discussed was that the group's name — Trolley Trail Watch — didn't sound very positive, so it was changed to Friends of the Trolley Trail. The group hoped the name change would encourage positive use of the trail.

PHOTO BY: MADISON DALLING-RAISNER - Groups of Oak Lodge residents work together to come up with a list of priorities at a recent town-hall meeting."If you bring positive users to a site, it really helps to drive out any negative use," McClurg said.

The group formed before the path even existed, seeing potential in the old railroad line that later would become a big part of the community.

Friends of the Trolley Trail's goal is to make everyone who uses the route feel safe.

"We want to encourage people to report the negative issues that are happening on the trail so we can eliminate them as much as possible and keep it safe for everybody who wants to use the trail, because that's what it was built for," McClurg said.

Trail captains who live along the route split it up into eight segments. These members frequently use the trail and are familiar with it so they can act as resources for community members or a main point of contact if any community member has concerns.

McClurg also has been helping with the Neighborhood Livability Project since its beginning. Three years ago, "flop houses" surfaced in the Oak Grove/Jennings Lodge area, where houses that had been foreclosed during the recession were taken over largely by substance abusers, alarming neighbors.

McClurg helps gather information from the public about potential problem houses and shares it with a multi-agency team that includes law enforcement, the DA's office, code enforcement, county counsel, social workers, veterans, parole and probation officers, mental health specialists and substance abuse specialists. McClurg contributes the tips gathered from the public to bring to the Neighborhood Livability Group so they can look at a house, identify the main issues and devise a solution.

"We're coming together as a multidiscipline, and it's been a much more efficient way to use our limited resources and actually get something done," McClurg said.

PHOTO BY: MADISON DALLING-RAISNER - During the April town-hall meeting, Oak Lodge community members put stickers on issues they strongly feel need to be improved.Mail and package theft was a primary focus during the April town-hall meeting at Riverside Elementary School.

It is an underreported crime since many victims don't ever report it.

Identity theft often is born out of mail theft, which can take months, if not years, to recover from, McClurg said. There are many ways you can prevent mail theft including: Retreiving your mail daily, keeping credit cards in a safe place, never giving out personal information over the phone, shredding important documents, using a locking mailbox, and always reporting mail theft to a local authority.

Celebrate the Trolley Trail

What: The Trolley Trail Festival

When: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18

Where: The corner of Rupert Drive and Oak Grove Boulevard.

Details: Friends of the Trolley Trail will have a booth set up to share information and encourage membership. They also will work with the Oak Lodge History Detectives to offer history walks along the trail during the event.

There will be other informational booths from county and local representatives and other agencies. There will be music, food and activities for kids. Because last year's festival was such a success, this is now an annual event.

Online: Visit facebook.com/FriendsoftheTrolleyTrail

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