Following on old streetcar line, the six-mile Trolley Trail will combine with other regional trails to make a 20-mile loop between Portland, Milwaukie, Gladstone, Oregon City and Gresham.
The Trolley Trail master plan recommends design features that will:
When the Portland to Oregon City railroad opened in 1893, Milwaukie and Gladstone were not even towns. They developed along the new line, which helped communities grow into prosperous cities.
Now, 43 years after the last freight train arrived in Portland and more than half a century after the last passengers stepped off the streetcar, the tracks between Milwaukie and Gladstone are being transformed into a six-mile bike and pedestrian path that passes through the community of Oak Grove.
When the trail opens late this fall, it will connect local neighborhoods, schools, parks, retirement communities and business districts. It also connects a lot of supporters, including Metro's voter-approved Natural Areas Program.
“The Trolley Trail is probably one of the best examples of projects that take long-term devotion and regional cooperation,” Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette told nearly 100 people at a groundbreaking celebration this spring, hosted by North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District. Collette recalled being implored by community advocates, shortly after joining the Metro Council in 2007, to “get this thing built.”
The trail has been a long time in the making. After the Portland to Oregon City streetcar closed in 1958, freight trains used the tracks for another decade.
By 1968, most of the rails were removed as the route fell out of use and into disarray.
Since the early 1970s, there has been consistent interest in turning the right of way into a walking and cycling path. Over the years, says Metro trails planner MelHuie, the Trolley Trail has been added to “nearly every plan we have” – blueprints for trails, transportation and regional growth.
Supporters got their wish in 2001, when funds from Metro’s first natural areas bond measure footed the bill for the historic right of way.
Metro also worked with the community to plan the trail and supported construction with federal transportation funds. The “flexible funds,” which are distributed at a regional level and may be used to support alternative transportation projects, account for more than half the Portland metropolitan area’s trails investments during the past decade.
Most recently, Metro awarded a Nature in Neighborhoods grant for a “green” park-and-ride station where the future Portland-Milwaukie light rail line meets
up with the trail. The station will complement the trail’s natural setting and provide another transportation link.
Other partners include Clackamas County, the City of Milwaukie, the Oregon Department o
Transportation, the Oak Lodge Water District, Congressman Earl Blumenauer and the citizen group Friends of the Trolley Trail.
“Trails like this help connect the whole region,” Clackamas County Chair Charlotte Lehan said at the groundbreaking, calling the Trolley Trail “a great milestone for Clackamas County.”
Huie should know, as he has worked on the route for more than 23 years – and his family’s connection goes back even further. His parents first rode the streetcar from their home in Gladstone to downtown Portland to celebrate their honeymoon and later used it for their daily commute to work.
“It’s funny,” Huie says, “because now I’ll be using it as a trail after my parents used it as transit.”
He plans to bring his 91-year-old mother, who lives near the historic rail line, to see its reinvention this fall.
“I know I’ll be excited to welcome her back,” Collette told the crowd at the groundbreaking. “And I know all of you will, too.”
The Trolley Trail is a partnership project involving many residents, community groups and agencies. North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District (NCPRD) partnered with Metro to purchase the Trolley Trail right-of-way in 2001. Many organizations lent their support and services to NCPRD and Metro during the master planning process. Project partners include the cities of Milwaukie and Gladstone, Clackamas County and Oak Lodge sanitary and water dictricts. Community partners include the citizen-based Friends of the Trolley Trail, and various neighborhood associations and civic groups. An independent working group volunteered their time and expertise throughout the master planning process. NCPRD will manage the future Trolley Trail with the help of Friends of the Trolley Trail and other community volunteers.
The master plan analyzes and recommends a trail alignment, environmentally sensitive trail design features, trail amenities and safety and security measures for the 6-mile trail corridor. The purpose of the master plan is to guide the future development and safe use and operation of the Trolley Trail as a non-motorized recreational and commuter trail. The master plan will also be a useful tool when applying for grants to implement the phased construction of the Trolley Trail.
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