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Park board reverses trail width decision for Lowami Hart Woods

Board member's change of heart narrows trail by 2 feet

The Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District board meeting took an unexpected turn Monday night when a member reversed his August vote favoring an 8-foot-wide paved trail through Lowami Hart Woods Park.

With board member Bill Kanable saying he had a change of heart, the board, following a lengthy discussion, voted 3-2 to amend the park's master plan to include a narrower, 6-foot-wide paved trail, the width park district staff originally recommended.

After that surprise move, the board agreed to postpone a vote on the final master plan until October so the revised language could be included in the plan document.

The board in August rejected the staff's recommendation for a 6-foot asphalt trail with 1-foot gravel shoulders - the option favored by an outspoken group of community members - in the 27-acre wooded refuge at Southwest Hart Road and 152nd Avenue.

In the initial 3-2 vote, Kanable joined fellow members John Griffiths and Larry Pelatt in supporting an 8-foot trail, which fits the district's 'community trail' standards. Board members Joe Blowers and Bob Scott voted against the measure.

But on Monday night, Kanable seemed to surprise his fellow board members when he made a case for a narrower upgrade to the park's main Wahoo Trail.

Noting the rancor between the board and outspoken neighbors regarding the trail's width, Kanable said he hoped his decision - supported by Blowers and Scott - would lead to a stronger sense of cooperation between the board and the community.

'In the areas between black and white, there's a hell of a lot of gray,' he said. 'I want to heal the rift I feel is going to continue on. It's not worth fighting over 2 feet of asphalt.

'To be honest, I think this is a silly discussion. We all need to come together and get everybody on the same page, working with the park district as a partner.'

Board members agreed the master plan would reserve the right to expand the 6-foot trail as needed to accommodate its proposed connection to a wider community trail system.

Standing his ground from the August meeting, board member Larry Pelatt respectfully disagreed with Kanable's reversal.

'We made the right decision the first time,' he said. 'I think an 8-foot trail is going to provide a safety aspect that's not present at 6 feet.'

'I said this last time, we do (trail planning) every day,' Pelatt added. 'We're good at it. I think we're gonna look back and regret (this decision).'

Priscilla Christenson, a neighbor of Lowami Hart Woods and an outspoken proponent of scaled-down park renovation plans, said the board did the right thing.

'I think we took a big step toward compromise,' she said immediately after the meeting. 'Do I think it's perfect? No, nothing is. But I believe the community will now feel this is a true partnership.'

She and her husband, Grant, said they disagree with some board members' contention that there is little aesthetic difference between a 6-foot paved trail with two 1-foot shoulders and 8 feet of asphalt.

'Part of it is in the heart, the way a 6-foot trail looks as opposed to 8 feet, if one is touched by nature,' she said.

'I think ambience counts,' Grant Christenson interjected. 'The difference between 6 and 8 feet, from a visual standpoint, is significant.'

In other Lowami Hart Woods-related business, the board agreed on a parking lot along Hart Road to accommodate nine vehicles as well as school buses and emergency vehicles.

In seeking an option for the parking lot that required removing the least amount of trees, board member Blowers admitted his nature-loving inclinations.

'Hey, I'm a tree hugger,' he said. 'What can I say?'

Upgrades to the natural area are funded through a $100 million parks bond measure voters passed in 2008. More than $1 million is allocated for trail improvements at Lowami Hart Woods, including removal of unofficial, or 'rogue' trails, non-native vegetation and replanting of native foliage.