Lake Oswego nixes trailhead project after voters restrict development
On the heels of a local charter amendment that passed in the November election, which aims to keep Lake Oswego's natural areas free from development, the city canceled a trail project that has been in the works since 2019.
Lake Oswego was in the process of receiving bids for a trailhead project at Stevens Meadows, located on 1551 SW Childs Road, when the plans had to be canceled permanently.
"Really, it has to do with the provision in the new chapter 10 (charter) language that only permits projects to move forward (without) prohibited activities," said Parks Director Ivan Anderholm. "Number one would be a parking lot and the other would be the hard surfacing for the sidewalks and ADA access."
If this work had been adopted in a master plan for the project prior to the ratification of the charter amendment, it would have been allowed. But Anderholm said there wasn't an adopted master plan because the project was developed under Clackamas County's development code, which doesn't require a master plan to be adopted.
This project would have created a gravel parking space large enough for 12 cars and two ADA-compliant hard surface parking spaces. The plan also called for a restroom facility, a smaller covered shelter, a kiosk and improved trail connections that would connect Stevens Meadows to Cooks Butte City Park.
The Love LO Parks Measure 3-568 that was passed earlier this month repealed and replaced the original chapter 10 in the charter, which was created in 1978 to preserve Springbrook Park or other parks "acquired by a bond issue after the effective date of this Chapter if (and only if) the voters specifically designate such other park as subject to this Chapter."
The original charter language said an athletic facility, parking lot, road or trail for motorized vehicles could not be developed at any of the parks covered by that chapter.
The Love LO Parks initiative expanded those limitations to cover 14 additional parks and natural areas — Bryant Woods Park, Canal Acres, Cooks Butte, Glenmorrie Greenway, Cornell Natural Area, Hallinan Woods, Iron Mountain Park, Kerr Open Space, Lamont Springs Natural Area, River Run, Southshore Natural Area, Springbrook Park, Stevens Meadows, Waluga Park-West and Woodmont Nature Park — and development is now limited to only what is necessary for the enjoyment of the natural spaces.
The measure also allows room for the addition of other natural spaces to be included in the charter as they appear.
The city had sent competing Measure 3-575 to the ballot, which fell after garnering 7,358 "yes" votes compared to Measure 3-568's 8,225 "yes" votes. The city's measure would have allowed the Stevens Meadows Trailhead project to continue.
"This was going to be a relatively affordable partial solution to issues that we have with people accessing Stevens Meadows and Cooks Butte (from Stevens Meadows)," said Anderholm, adding that there is currently no off-street parking at either property. "When the opportunity came to purchase the property down off of Childs Road that was adjacent to it, (the city) ... had in mind this was going to help alleviate some of the parking (issues) and provide greater, more equitable access to these properties, so it's a bummer."
The project was going to take place on a piece of property the city — in partnership with Metro — acquired in 2019 for a total of $700,000. Metro placed a conservation easement on the property but left the east third of the property with less restrictions, "which would've allowed for access facilities to the natural area, specifically parking, a restroom, small shelter, kiosk, trailhead — that type of structure," Anderholm said. "We went through the Clackamas County development process because the property entirely is in Clackamas County and is not inside our urban growth boundary or the city limits."
The plan was approved in May 2020 and since then, the city was working on conditions of the approval like stormwater management and technical engineering components of the project. To date, the city spent just over $187,000 on the project.
"A large part of that overall spending has to do with the testing and abatement removal of the home and structures that were on the property — the actual demolition and deconstruction of the properties was a large chunk of that," Anderholm said. "In this particular case it's not common for projects to make it to bid and then be pulled off the shelf and canceled. This is a very unique situation we have here in Lake Oswego with the charter amendment."
Anderholm said other projects on the horizon don't fall under these new restrictions. There are adopted master plans for Bryant Woods, Canal Acres and River Run that could eventually be carried out because the master plan was adopted prior to the ratification of the charter amendment.
"Quite honestly any project that's brought forth on any of the 15 properties, because of chapter 10 of the charter — any project brought forth by the public, by the department, that's even conceptualized — we will be putting together a narrative about those projects and a description of what is proposed and that will be evaluated by the city's attorney office with compliance of chapter 10," Anderholm said.
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