FONT & AUDIO
Bemis joins opposition to Troutdale Trail
Neighbors vow to resist Springwater Corridor extension linking Gresham and Troutdale.
UPDATE: A Metro spokeswoman says planners at Gresham City Hall have stopped all work on the trail extension. A meeting to discuss the trail on Jan. 19 has been indefinitely postponed.
For now, the project appears dead in the water.
Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis has publicly rejected a proposed foot-and-pedal path linking Troutdale with Portland and the rest of East Multnomah County.
"While I have always been a fan of recreational amenities and I enjoy running regularly on the trail, I cannot in good conscience support this proposal at this point in time," he wrote on Facebook. "There are far too many chronic issues currently extending along the entire trail alignment."
Planners with Metro, the regional government agency, are coordinating blueprints for more than six miles of paved footpath here. The proposed path would link the Springwater Corridor Trail with a newly-built section of the 40 Mile Loop underneath the Interstate 84 bridge on the west side of the Sandy River in Troutdale. Trailheads for the Sandy River Delta Park begin on the east bank.
The tri-county government is staking out routes as part of a broader mandate to manage regional growth and natural areas. But Metro doesn't build or maintain the greenways it designs, said Robert Spurlock, a senior regional planner.
That means city councils in Gresham and Troutdale can nix, approve or punt on plans. Mayor Bemis may have declared his opposition, but the decision is still in the hands of full councils in both cities.
So far, three suggested trail alignments in Gresham's Powell Valley neighborhood have generated the most push back from residents, with vocal "pathivists" vowing to resist the hiker-biker network.
"(I'm concerned) because of a lack of maintenance, supervision and enforcement," said retiree and Powell Valley resident Barry Heard during a Metro-led walking tour of one of three alignments on Tuesday, Jan. 10. "The reality of it is, I don't think that those mechanisms will be put into place, despite what our city leaders say."
Heard, Spurlock and about 20 other citizens dodged raindrops and morning commuters during the trudge up and down Williams Road, one possibility for the trail. Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick, Gresham City Councilor Kirk French and a representative from the city's transportation subcommittee also attended.
The proposed Williams track starts where Woodland Drive meets 282nd Avenue, not far from the Kelly Creek Headwaters natural area. It travels west along Powell Valley Road, snakes north along Williams before hitting Division Street.
A second option starts the same, then wends north along Scott Drive, bypassing Division but overlapping with the first route on Centurion Drive, Hacienda Avenue and 17th Street. The final path option snakes along Troutdale Road, outside city limits.
All three routes terminate at the South Beaver Creek Greenway.
Spurlock, the regional planner, argues that vagrancy on the Springwater Corridor stemmed from an "unprecedented" directive by former Portland mayor Charlie Hales to leave tents unmolested from sundown to sunup.
At the time, many residents said Hales' Safe Sleep Guidelines gave campers carte blanche to establish semi-permanent encampments. About 500 people were swept from the path last September.
Spurlock said residents reported to Metro that no homeless camps appeared east of Gresham's Main City Park, which links to the greenway. And while the Springwater Corridor often abuts grassy thickets and borders on neighborhoods and businesses, Spurlock said the Troutdale shared-use path would be directly adjacent to existing roadways. High-level visibility would deter illegal camping and other criminal behavior.
"The crime rate on trails reflects the crime rate in the neighborhood that the trail is in," Spurlock said. "If there's already crime here, then I'm not seeing the correlation."
There is crime here — and that's the problem, retorted Powell Valley Neighborhood Association President Susan Ainsworth Smith.
Smith reported finding drug paraphernalia and homeless outposts at East Gresham Park, an undeveloped plot of city-owned land on Williams Road. Heard said he had removed everything from pale ales to hard liquor bottles during his daily walks on the street.
"I don't want to tell people it's a bad idea, but I also don't want to cheer it on," said Smith, who helped found a neighborhood watch group two years ago. "We like our area. We'd like to try keeping it a little quieter."
The Troutdale trail would likely be 10 to 12 feet wide, with occasional wayfinding markers and signposting. The path would be sited on only one side of the street, and no groundbreaking could occur without the OK of local governments.
Cities generally target federal transportation stipends to fund trail improvements, and the pathway would be built concurrently with other street upgrades, like new sidewalks or parking shoulders.
"(This) is part of time marching on as our city changes," Spurlock said. "Things don't stay the same forever."
Spurlock reminded the crowd that Metro is only finalizing a master planning document for the route. All say-so rests with the city councils.
But it's more than a line in the sand, said Roy Asbahr, a semi-retired real estate property manager who has lived in Gresham since 1966. Once the alignment is set, property owners will be prohibited from developing on the right of way.
"That line on the map just might as well be the trail today," he said.
A neighborhood workshop will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, at Gordon Russell Middle School Library to discuss Gresham's portion of the trail. A similar meeting in Troutdale is scheduled for February.
NOTE: A previous version of this story stated that the proposed trail would link the Springwater Corridor with the Sandy River Delta Park. The trail ends on the other side of the river.
A previous version of this story also stated that Spurlock saw no homeless camps east of Gresham's Main City Park. He was only conveying information reported to Metro by residents.