Link to loop a passage to progress
You can't blame someone biking, jogging, walking, or riding a scooter eastbound along the 40 Mile Loop Trail system toward the Troutdale Airport for eagerly anticipating what lies up ahead: the beaches along the Sandy River; the shops, restaurants, bars and galleries of scenic downtown Troutdale; inviting parks like Glenn Otto, Lewis & Clark, and Dabney; and of course the western portal to the mighty Columbia River Gorge.
Right now, though, as the directionally flummoxed service station attendant used to say, you just can't get there from here.
The paved, 12-foot-wide trail comes to an unceremonious end just beyond Blue Lake Regional Park in Fairview. You can still get to Troutdale and the Sandy River, of course, but only by joining vehicular traffic in the congested commercial-industrial district.
If voters approve a $475 million Metro regional government bond renewal in November, that situation could begin to change. By applying for applicable funds from Metro, the city of Troutdale could complete an approximately quarter-mile segment connecting the trail from Depot Park on the Historic Columbia River Highway to another planned segment off Harlow Road that goes under the recently renovated Interstate 84 twin bridges.
The trail would anchor a long-proposed promenade park along the north end of the Sandy River. It would serve as an attractive recreational complement to a now mostly clear Urban Renewal parcel north of downtown that's inching ever closer to being development ready.
Of the $475 million in the Metro bond, $40 million is set aside for regional trail improvements.
"You can see the vision," said Troutdale City Councilor Glenn White during a recent tour of the trail right of way near the downtown railroad trestle. "Right now, (no one's) getting a glimpse of what's here, but this property's going to really transform. The more unknowns we can get rid of, the better."
The 40 Mile Loop concept, which has grown to now cover closer to 140 miles, is a regional trail network that will eventually link Portland's Forest Park with the Columbia River Gorge via the Springwater Trail on Gresham's southern edge and Marine Drive — including Fairview, Wood Village and Troutdale — to the north.
Depending on funding and timing, the city of Troutdale's section could dovetail with the Port of Portland's and Oregon Department of Transportation's plans to extend the trail east from Blue Lake Park to the I-84 underpass.
"The regional funds, if the bond passes, are available for the city to apply for funding," explained Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick. "That missing section of the 40 Mile Loop Trail is a high-priority trail in the Metro bond measure.
"The goal is to complete some of the missing sections, and eventually to connect to Springwater Trail," she added, "but that route hasn't been identified."
The trail could represent more than just a path for strolling or biking along a river.
"Particularly in the Urban Renewal area, trail construction could be a catalyst to encourage other developers to come in," Craddick said. "A lot of times those public amenities are the first to get built, providing the incentive and interest for developers to come in and (transform) the area."
With the demolition this summer of a long-abandoned wool pullery building on the Urban Renewal property, the 20-acre city-owned parcel is closer than ever to being marketable for development.
Surveying the less cluttered, concrete-based expanse below the old city water tower, City Manager Ray Young said progress for the property — after being "dead weight" and a "political football" for decades — is finally at hand.
"It's been vacant for 20 years," he said. "There's been more done in the last year and a half than the previous 20."
One significant hurdle was overcome in 2018 when former landowner Junki Yoshida withdrew from development negotiations and sold his eight acres to the city, which owned the adjacent 12 acres.
Beyond the city owning all 20 acres, Mayor Casey Ryan credits recent progress to a cooperative and forward-looking city council.
"This council, in two-and-a-half years, has tackled and solved more problems without a fight," than some previous administrations, he said, adding the property "should have been cleaned up and gotten ready for development a long time ago.
"A lot of things that were done wrong before are being done right now."
If Metro regional government funding comes through and the city of Troutdale completes its eastern section of the 40 Mile Loop trail, the entrance should be a sight to behold.
The city is working on a project to remodel the Depot Museum, located downtown by the train caboose at the bend in the Historic Columbia River Highway, to include a visitor center and bike hub.
Part of the city's Sandy River Access Plan, the museum and visitors' complex will serve as the gateway to the 40 Mile Loop Trail and a proposed promenade-style park along the Sandy River.
While the timeline is fluid at this point, City Manager Ray Young is confident the momentum is already there.
"There are a lot of moving pieces," he said. "Once it's all done, it will be an amazing amenity for downtown."
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