A trail to nowhere right now

Fix stalled by local dispute
by: lee van der voo, 
Ken Hornung stands at the fenced entrance to a popular trail that was closed by a landslide (photo below) Feb. 2. Hornung and other hikers are eager to see the trail fixed and a dispute with an adjacent property owner resolved. But city officials say they can’t trespass on private property to fix a falling mess above the trail and can’t open the route until it’s safe.

An ongoing dispute over who should clean a landslide that covered a popular hiking trail in February has left the route closed to hikers and bikers along the Willamette River.

Lake Oswego officials say the mudslide wiped out a portion of the William Stafford Pathway Feb. 2 after an adjacent hilltop became so saturated with water it slid off.

The resulting debris covered the trail, which runs along the Willamette River, along a stretch between George Rogers Park and Old River Road.

The landslide also clogged a culvert that drains water from the trail. As debris continues to pool, the area around the landslide is flooding and land along the trail is eroding into the river.

City officials say they have twice reviewed the problem and find that warmer weather still is not improving conditions on the hillside.

They are in talks with the property owner of The Terraces, a condominium complex adjacent to the William Stafford Pathway and owned by real estate developer Martin Kehoe, who recently converted the former apartment complex to condominiums.

City officials want Kehoe to stabilize the hillside so the trail can reopen. They fear clearing debris off of the trail will only make matters worse for the unstable hillside.

But Kehoe is telling city officials it's their fault so much water flows to his property from uphill development and that the city ought to pay for the fix, city sources say.

Kehoe did not return a phone call by press time.

John Kennedy, assistant city engineer for Lake Os-wego, said he wasn't sure when the dispute would end and the trail would re-open. He said a geological survey of the hillside paints a scary picture.

'The geotech engineer that we hired told us there is a risk that additional landslides could occur,' Kennedy said.

'We felt then and we still feel there's a risk that somebody on the trail could get hit by a rock or a mound of soil' if the route is reopened before repairs.

Kennedy said an aging culvert that drains water from Highway 43 to The Terraces needs repairs before the trail can be reopened. He said loose soil at the mouth of the culvert also needs to be excavated, the hillside stabilized with rock and the trail cleaned.

The stalemate with Kehoe is meanwhile sidelining hikers and bikers, who use the popular trail and its link with Old River Road to traverse between West Linn and Lake Oswego.

'It impacts literally hundreds of people every day, you wouldn't believe the number of people who take that pathway,' said Ken Hornung, a regular hiker.

Hornung lives in Mountain Park and makes regular drives to Lower George Rogers Park to walk the three-mile roundtrip hike to West Linn.

He said he still sees fellow hikers around town and many remain hopeful the trail will reopen soon.

Kennedy said city officials are also optimistic. Engineers re-viewed and approved a plan to fix the hillside in early April and issued permits for the job to Kehoe, Kennedy said.

But the developer later changed his mind, according to Kennedy. Since then talks about the job - and who should pay for it - have taken place between attorneys for both sides.