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Walking the Route

Walkers don't want to see the library move to Safeco
by: Vern Uyetake, Bari Thompson used to live in the First Addition neighborhood, about four blocks from the Lake Oswego Library, and now lives in the Evergreen area. Thompson said he thinks the library helps to create a civic center in Lake Oswego, along with other public buildings. He joined a walk Oct. 4 to protest its potential relocation. “I would like to see at least a branch library here, close enough for people to walk,” Thompson said.

A group of about 20 First Addition and Evergreen neighbors, decked out in safety orange and carrying signs, marched from the Lake Oswego Library to Safeco last week to protest a possible relocation of the library.

To make a point about the accessibility of a proposed central library on Kruse Way, the group walked the 2.8-mile stretch between the library's current home in First Addition and the Safeco site Oct. 4, which could be the site of a centralized library if recommendations for a community center move forward.

'I don't think moving the library out of the center of town to a place where everybody has to go in a car is a good idea,' said Judi Umaki, a Palisades resident who has lived in Lake Oswego for 34 years.

Umaki said Lake Oswegans voted for a bond measure to build the library in 1974 and talk then was that a branch location would eventually open in Lake Grove.

'When we voted to expand this library they knew it wasn't a big enough building … It was on that basis that this was approved … That whole idea seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle,' she said. 'Nothing has really changed to go against the logic of that. It's just that we have a new group of people who want to build a new facility.'

Proponents of a single library on city-owned land currently occupied by Safeco say the biggest reason to centralize the library in the Waluga neighborhood is cost. Operating expenses would increase by $1 million a year to run two libraries in Lake Oswego.

'It's been a struggle for a lot of members (of the Community Center Steering Committee). Clearly if we didn't have to look at financial resources we would feel free to look at other recommendations,' said Erin O'Rourke-Meadors, a committee member who turned out for the walk to observe its kickoff.

Brenda Hart, one walker who hit the street in protest, said Lake Oswego needs better planning for its aging population and needs to put access behind its multigenerational aim at the proposed community center. Retirees in other states, she said, are moving toward civic villages, not toward driving their cars to visit a library in the corporate center of town.

'I think one of the things listed for the Safeco building was accessability, walking, biking, transportation, so we wanted to see how accessible Safeco is,' said Chris Brien, of the Evergreen Neighborhood Association, who organized the walk through an impromptu e-mail.

She said those who turned out were people who have an investment in keeping the First Addition library, most coming from that neighborhood, Evergreen and Lakewood. The group walked a route through First Addition to Country Club Road, traveling several roads without sidewalks, then crossing Boones Ferry Road at Country Club Road without the aid of a traffic signal.

They were trailed by Pat Nida and her mother, Marjorie Cooney, in a car. Both have knee problems and sometimes walk with canes. Cooney, who is a senior, said she wouldn't make the drive to the library or the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center, also slated to move to Safeco under the current community center proposal, because the roads from First Addition are too busy.

Diana Boom, who made the trek to Safeco by bus, said bus service in the Kruse Way area is less frequent than buses to the city's downtown transit mall, located a few blocks south of the current library. The bus line running nearest to Safeco - TriMet's 37 - does not run on the weekend, Boom said.

Dave Radich, also on wheels, traveled by bike to Safeco via Iron Mountain Boulevard. He said the ride was a little longer than the direct route to Kruse Way along Country Club Road, but is safer because traffic there is lighter.

'I want to keep at least a branch library on this end of town. It is such a vital part of the community here, I just can't imagine not having something like that. I use the library probably twice a week,' Radich said.

An ultimate decision regarding the library rests with voters, who must approve a bond measure in 2008 before any community center plan can move forward.

O'Rourke-Meadors said whatever the steering committee recommends for the ballot proposal has to be a best fit for all Lake Oswegans, not just those who want to walk or bus from First Addition.

'I think that's a narrow perspective because it fails to acknowlege that this (Safeco site) is the population center and the number of people who could walk to it,' she said.

She said voters will ultimately have to weigh issues like convenience against the added cost of operating two libraries.