Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



Ronelle Coburn: Many thoughtful and intelligent citizens gave their time to make Monroe Greenway safe

Destruction of a public park does not just happen by mistake. Developers know when they've got a piece of public land adjacent to their project. And surely it's someone's fault when a developer cuts down trees, at the corner of Southeast Monroe Street and 37th Avenue in Milwaukie, on public parkland.

At the end of the day, isn't it our city's responsibility to protect our public spaces and to walk their talk over the preservation of our city's trees?

On Nov. 17, in this newspaper's cover story "Milwaukie fines developer," the city's apparent failure was made even worse by Mayor Mark Gamba's blame of the citizens for the trees being bulldozed and makes the further implication that the redesigned bikeway (the Monroe Greenway) was the result of a few neighbors who were disgruntled with the building of the apartment project. Neither are true.

To begin: The vast majority of neighbors are fine with the apartment development itself. Valid concerns predominantly had to do with the complex traffic patterns and extreme constraints around the site due to so few outlets to Highway 224, intersections with the railroad line and multiple complex intersections surrounding the site, not with the apartment complex itself.

To continue: Many stakeholders were included in the reevaluation process for the bikeway, including the planning department, city staff, neighbors, residents who will be affected along the entire Greenway network, Neighborhood Association leaders, Bike Milwaukie, original members of the Monroe Greenway Action Committee and an expert consulting firm that redesigned the path to wrap around the apartment complex.

Many thoughtful and intelligent citizens gave their time to make the proposed Monroe Greenway safe for the widest variety of users, both in terms of traffic safety and personal security.Ronelle Coburn

For its own security concerns, the developer would not open the path up to the apartment development and planned to completely fence the path on both sides, along the railroad line, with no way out for the entire length of the Milwaukie Marketplace. This was an outcome the community and citizen planning committee could not have possibly foreseen years before any developer came along, much less such a large-scale project.

The personal security issue was first brought to the attention of the Planning Department by me, while others brought up traffic safety issues.

At first, they were not in agreement, but after some consideration, city planning staff did some community outreach, heard more citizens' concerns and decided changes needed to be made.

They hired respected transportation experts Alta Planning+Design for assessment of the traffic safety and personal security issues and had them present an alternative solution that was then widely approved by the community.

In addition to the mitigation of the safety and security problems, the proposed alternate route went further and met other city proclaimed goals for "vibrant streets."

Public testimony to the City Council signed by many community leaders noted that the revised route will "make both sides of Monroe Street between Oak and 37th more lively and active, attractive and all future Central Milwaukie projects more marketable to residents who live an active lifestyle. This proposal has been well received by community members who have seen it, including residents who were previously opposed to the Monroe Greenway."

At another City Council meeting, I gave supportive public testimony that, like many women, I would never put myself in a situation where I'm trapped. If the fenced path were built, where would users be left if someone decided to attack or rob them?

Fortunately, my concerns also are those of the majority of our community whose grassroots efforts conceived of and promoted the entire Milwaukie Greenway network in the first place. Thanks to caring, active and vocal Milwaukie residents, our city soon will have a world-class section of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure that we can be proud of.

Of course, everyone who bicycles would prefer a more direct and level route, myself included. But never at the sacrifice of personal security and traffic safety.

What is the point in building a piece of infrastructure that is underused because it is unsafe? And shouldn't we, as a society, strive to provide public facilities that are as safe as possible for everyone?

Unfortunately, Mayor Gamba seems to be another one of those men who cannot put himself into others' shoes, and who turns around and blames those of us who do speak up to make sure everyone's needs are met in the conception and construction of our public facilities.

He also has used our most devoted citizens who volunteer literally countless hours, weeks and years to the betterment of our city for everyone who lives here, as a scapegoat for the city's failure to protect public infrastructure.

As a citizen who has been consistently involved in city processes for 3.5 years, the even larger disheartening picture is that the blaming of citizens for the tree removal (via the bikeway) is just another example of the bait-and-switch game constantly played by Milwaukie's city bodies to discount their citizens for wanting anything that doesn't go along with what they deem best for us.

Ronelle Coburn is a resident of Milwaukie's Ardenwald neighborhood and co-founder of MilwaukieRIP.

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