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Sellwood Gap shrinks with help from voter-approved Natural Areas Program

Planning and conservation    Natural areas, parks and trails    Protecting natural areas    Acquiring natural areas    Springwater Corridor    Sellwood Gap shrinks

Learn about an agreement between Metro and the Oregon Pacific Railroad Co. that is helping to close the Sellwood Gap.

 Springwater Corridor

The Springwater Corridor takes bicyclists, walkers and joggers from central Portland to Sellwood – then forces them onto public streets for a mile before rejoining the trail for the trip through Milwaukie and Gresham to Boring. Metro recently acquired the rights to fill more than half of the so-called Sellwood Gap.

Closing the gap

Runners, walkers and cyclists needn’t scrutinize trail plans to name the region’s most notorious missing piece: the Sellwood Gap, which forces people off the Springwater Corridor for a mile in its namesake neighborhood in Southeast Portland.

The gap will shrink dramatically, thanks to a recent agreement between Metro and the Oregon Pacific Railroad Co. that will allow more than half a mile of trail to be built alongside the train tracks the company operates. Someday, commuters and outdoor enthusiasts will be able to take the trail between Southeast Umatilla Street and 13th Avenue. 

As the regional government, Metro works with cities, counties and park providers to plan trails that link our communities. The Springwater, one of the region’s signature trails, spans 20 miles from central Portland through Southeast Portland, Milwaukie and Gresham to Boring.

“By definition, trails connect places,” said District 2 Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette, who served as the council’s president last fall. “But they also connect many of the issues that Metro tackles, from health and safety to land use and transportation. Closing more than half the Sellwood Gap is a prime example, improving public safety and inspiring people to get out and exercise.”

Metro will collaborate with the City of Portland to secure funding for trail construction. The city may begin extending the Springwater as early as 2012, once sewer work and intersection improvements are complete.

The Springwater is one of 27 focal points of Metro’s voter-approved 2006 natural areas bond measure, which is designed to protect water quality, wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities for future generations. Metro’s previous natural areas bond measure secured rights to build a three-mile stretch of the Springwater, from just north of the Ross Island Bridge to the Sellwood Bridge.

Generally, Metro doesn’t want to purchase land for trails – just the ability to build on it.

“Closing trail gaps typically involves small pieces of property, but it makes a huge impact on neighborhoods across the region,” said Metro Councilor Robert Liberty, who represents portions of Southeast, Southwest and Northeast Portland in District 6. “The extension of the Springwater Corridor will be felt right away by residents of the Sellwood neighborhood and the thousands of people who use the Springwater Corridor.”

The agreement with Oregon Pacific, which was finalized in September for about $618,000, also included the sale of a 5,000-square-foot property in the Sellwood area. The land did not further Metro’s natural area goals, and its sale to Oregon Pacific helped secure the rights to extend the Springwater.

Mel Huie

Trails planner Mel Huie chats with neighbors at the Moreland Farmers Market, where the Metro natural areas team spread the word about progress in closing the Sellwood Gap.

Metro’s natural areas team spread the word in October by staffing a booth at the last Moreland Farmers Market of the season. Nearly 200 neighbors stopped to enjoy a cookie and chat about the Springwater Corridor.

Mel Huie, Metro’s regional trails coordinator, said it was exciting to meet trail-lovers from all walks of life. Visitors included parents who bike with their children, a woman exploring the entire 40-Mile Loop and commuters who rely on the Springwater to get to work.

“I was very impressed by the level of knowledge and enthusiasm about the trail,” said Huie, who has worked at Metro since 1977. “I have worked on planning for the Springwater Corridor and Sellwood Gap for almost 20 years – and talking with nearly 200 citizens, neighbors and trail users was a ‘planning moment’ for me. I learned so much from the public.”

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Natural Areas Program

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