Troutdale residents are helping shape a proposed cycling and pedestrian trail that would connect their city to Gresham.
The new, roughly three-mile-long trail would extend from Depot Park to Mt. Hood Community College. The exact route will be decided in large part by input from residents – including approximately 200 who attended a Feb. 22 open house, co-hosted by Metro and the City of Troutdale.
The trail planning process is a joint project between the city and regional government.
“Metro’s role is to bring us together and start the discussion. We’re the conveners. That’s the responsibility that we have in the region,” Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick told the crowd at the open house. “Your job tonight is to give us input and guide the discussion and then your city council’s job is to make the final decision along with the Metro Council.”
Participants learned about the five routes that Metro has identified for the trail and the different forms the trail could take. Attendees were also able to voice their hopes and concerns about the project.
“It’s hard to find options to bike safely near home,” said Christine Adair, a Troutdale resident who jogs and cycles, often with her two kids. Her son recently went for a run along a traffic-heavy route. “If we had this trail, I wouldn’t have to worry about my son as much.”
Matt Craven lives on Troutdale Road, one of the streets that proposed trail routes could take. They worry about how a trail would affect their neighborhood’s safety.
“A big unknown is who is going to be on the trail,” Craven said, adding that he worries the trail would give an “avenue for transients to now have access to walk through a community.”
That sentiment was shared by many at the open house. Last year Portland’s then-mayor, Charlie Hales, pursued a “safe sleep” policy that removed enforcement of the city’s camping laws. Before the policy was overturned, this led to more than 500 people camping along the Springwater Corridor, mainly in Portland’s Lents neighborhood.
In September, the camps were cleared but worries remained. Early this year, concerns about safety led Gresham to suspend work with Metro on its section of the project, which would connect the Springwater Corridor to Mt. Hood Community College.
As work continues in Troutdale, public safety enforcement along the trail is part of the discussion – and so are design features such as lighting, visibility to the street and low landscaping.
None of the trail routes presented at the open house last week would connect with the Springwater Corridor, which is on the far side of Gresham from Mt. Hood Community College. The five proposed routes fall into two groups: one running steadily south to north along Troutdale Road, eventually splitting to take either Buxton Road or Sandy Avenue; and another that takes a longer but flatter course through Beaver Creek Canyon.
Depending on the section, the trail will take different forms. At some points it could be a paved path running through natural areas. In other places it could run alongside a road. And it could even be simply a sidewalk for pedestrians while cyclists use the existing roads.
Advancing this trail has been a goal for local communities since 2012, when the East Metro Connections Plan was adopted by Troutdale, Gresham, Multnomah County, Metro and other local governments. Among the prioritized projects was the creation of a master plan for a cycling and pedestrian route from downtown Troutdale to the Springwater Corridor at the southeast corner of Gresham.
“Among all the bike-pedestrian projects, it got the most support,” said Robert Spurlock, a trails planner at Metro.
In large part, that was because Troutdale and Gresham have few trails for cyclists and pedestrians to use for commuting, exercising and enjoying the outdoors. The project was also popular because it would connect the two cities to the region’s 40-Mile Loop, which Spurlock calls the “most iconic trail system we have in the region.” A trail from Troutdale would close a long gap on the eastern edge of the 40-Mile Loop, providing a path all the way to Forest Park through the Marine Drive Trail.
In his remarks at the open house, Troutdale city manager Ray Young emphasized that the trail is a collaboration between the city and Metro. “Metro came to us years ago and said, ‘Can you work with us to figure out what options to provide to the citizens of Troutdale to form trails out here?’” he said. “That’s why we’re involved, is to cooperate with them and help them plan things – not institute things, but plan things.”
Ultimately, adopting a plan for the trail and seeking money to build it is Troutdale’s decision. Going from concept to construction typically takes years.
“This trail that we’re talking about tonight will not be crammed down the citizens of Troutdale,” Young said. “We will get to decide.”
Metro News writer Carrie Belding contributed to this story.