In 1903, brothers John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., charged with planning a Portland parks system, came up with a novel concept: the 40-Mile Loop.
The city was preparing for the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, and the Olmsted brothers envisioned a signature trail around Portland and its suburbs.
More than a century later, it's still not finished. But that could soon change.
This week, two dozen landscape design students from the University of Oregon will present their proposal for the design of the last seven miles of the now 140-mile trail.
In partnership with the university’s Sustainable Cities Initiative, the Gresham Department of Environmental Services, Metro, the students have spent the quarter looking at the gap through Gresham, between downtown Troutdale and the Springwater Corridor.
On Dec. 3, the design proposals will be unveiled to the public at Gresham City Hall. Students will be on hand from 5:30 to 8 p.m. to talk about the proposals and the design process.
“As both a design and planning student, it is refreshing to work with a real client on a pressing public-good project like the 40-Mile Loop,” Andrew Louw, one of the University of Oregon design students working on the project, said in an email. “This project will be a crucial public amenity for decades to come, and I feel very lucky to be part of it.”
To tackle the project the class, and the segment of the trail-to-be, were split into five groups. After studying precedents in regional trail design and developing goals and objectives, each team studied one area, including local land use and transportation plans. The teams then created maps showing every possible connection between two points. Each link was evaluated based upon 13 impact categories, from safety to habitat to zoning.
The end result was three proposals per segment: a low-cost trail which interacts with more developed area but is easiest to implement, a high-quality trail which offers the most access to an array of natural areas and additional trail loops, and a cost-effective design which retains high ranks for recreational experience and construction costs.
“The students’ work is amazingly creative, proposing trail alignments through areas in the east part of the metro region that don't currently have trail access,” Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick said. “The future route will link neighborhoods to neighborhoods, to vistas, through natural areas and along streams. I am sure the trail, once built, will become one of the most popular trails in the Portland metro area by not only being a very interesting trail on its own, but also by connecting the popular Springwater and historic Columbia River Highway trails.”
The Sustainable City Year Program, a project of the Sustainable Cities Initiative, engages hundreds of students from a dozen disciplines in thousands of hours of work for a selected Oregon region each school year.
Just five years old, the Sustainable City Year Program has already helped launch 18 other similar programs around the country. It has held three conferences to share its model with other universities that can leverage their own schools of expertise to benefit local issues.
Marc Schlossberg, co-director of the Sustainable Cities Initiative, describes the program as a radically simple, modern model for higher education. It's radical in its impact and as a mechanism for moving local initiatives forward, simple in its ability to harness already existing and untapped resources of students and the university, and modern in the way the community interacts and relates to the university.
For more information visit the event page