Graduate student report recommends starting trail development on west bank

CITY OF SCAPPOOSE; ISAAC BUTMAN - A recent analysis of the proposed trail along South Scappoose Creek recommends a phased approach to construction.The Scappoose city government is looking into developing a public trail along South Scappoose Creek.

But to create a trail along the creek, the city would need permission from landowners whose property the trail would pass through.

A Portland State University graduate student completed a property analysis for the proposed trail earlier this year. Isaac Butman found there are 73 properties on the east bank of the creek and 46 properties on the west bank.

On the east bank, most of the properties are smaller residential lots, and close to one-fifth have buildings within 50 feet of the creek. On the west bank, the properties are mostly larger lots with more open space, and less than a quarter have buildings within 50 feet of the creek.

Interim City Administrator Alexandra Rains said residents likely won't see any trail development in the near future.

With its recent purchase of a mostly undeveloped parcel of land next to Veterans Park, the city now owns more than 2,000 continuous feet along the west bank of the creek. That property, purchased from Bart Grabhorn earlier this year, is likely the city's next recreation development project.

The first portion of the trail development will likely be inside the Grabhorn property, as the city creates other recreation areas on the parcel. The city aims to fund development of the Grabhorn property and the trail with grants, but the grant funding process could take years. City staff presented preliminary site plans for the Grabhorn property — including a softball field, soccer field, and swimming pool — at the city council's Sept. 8 meeting.PMG PHOTO: ANNA DEL SAVIO - Restoration projects have been completed along the Scappoose Creek, including the portion that flows along Veterans Park.

Rains said that in the best case scenario, construction likely won't start until 2022.

Discussions on the actual surface of the trail — such as dirt, gravel, wood or concrete — are still in the early stages, Rains said.

Options like concrete could be more expensive to install and maintain, "but at the same time we want to make it as accessible as possible," Rains said.

A trail along the creek would likely require more maintenance than a trail far from a waterway, particularly given the creek's frequent flooding. Construction along a waterway also goes through additional hurdles to ensure the project won't harm fish, wildlife, water quality or the bank structure.

Obtaining access for a trail across private property would require easements. Butman estimated easements for a trail from the southern city boundary to Scappoose-Vernonia Highway would total almost $1 million on the west bank, but more than double that on the east bank, based on Butman's calculations.

Butman recommended building the trail along the west bank, starting with about a mile of trail between Northwest E.J. Smith Road and Southwest E.M. Watts Road.

The trail could then continue to south to Creekview Park, which is on the east bank of the creek, by either crossing the creek at E.M. Watts Road or constructing a bridge across the creek. Constructing a bridge could cost upwards of half a million dollars, Butman suggested — if it's even possible, considering environmental regulations intended to protect the creek as a natural habitat and waterway.

A trail along Scappoose Creek emerged as a goal for the Scappoose City Council years ago.

Residents who participated in the city's annual survey in 2016 ranked developing more trails among the top two ways for the city to improve parks and recreation opportunities.

At the 2017 Scappoose town meeting, 81% of respondents said they supported a trail along South Scappoose Creek.

When the City Council adopted a list of long-term goals last year, developing a South Scappoose Creek trail plan was on the list.

Scappoose Creek is the most significant wildlife habitat within the city. It serves as a home and travel route for native wildlife like steelhead trout and Chinook salmon.

But the banks of the creek are severely eroded and require rehabilitation. In sections of the creek, the Scappoose Bay Watershed Council and other local groups have carried out restoration projects in recent years, on public lands like Veterans Park and on private property, working alongside land owners.

The city has also hired Butman as a temporary worker to cover some of the responsibilities of Rains' previous position as assistant to the city manager. Rains became interim city manager at the beginning of September, when Michael Sykes left Scappoose government for the Columbia River People's Utility District.

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