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William Stafford Pathway reopens

A popular hiking trail re-opened last Thursday, five months after a landslide forced its closure, and a dispute about who should fix the slippery slope ended in compromise, not a courtroom.

The stalemate involving the trail had the city of Lake Oswego facing off with real estate developer Martin Kehoe for months, but a fix for the trail took just one week beginning in late June. In the end, both Kehoe and the city played a role in clearing piles of soil, rock and water from the William Stafford Pathway and stabilizing an adjacent hillside that threatened to slough off debris.

Hikers and bikers can now traverse the route, which runs along the Willamette River between George Rogers Park and Old River Road. The trail has been closed since Feb. 2, when a landslide at The Terraces, a condominium complex owned by Kehoe, wiped out portions of the trail.

An estimated five cubic yards of debris covered the trail, blocking a culvert and causing flooding. Land along the route began to erode and slip into the Willamette River.

City officials placed responsibility for the problem on Kehoe and asked him to stabilize the hillside and clear the debris.

But a frustrated Kehoe, who alerted the city to flooding on his property two years ago, said the city had some responsibility for the landslide because it failed to maintain adequate storm water controls uphill.

Kehoe's attorney sent a letter to city officials in June 2006 telling them that the drainage system tied to Hallinan Creek was water-logging his property.

After the landslide, a stalemate over who should pay to clean up the mess forced the closure of the trail to drag on. In a meeting with city officials and Kehoe, residents of The Terraces pressured both to re-open the trail.

In the end, John Kennedy, assistant city engineer for the city of Lake Oswego, said the city cleared the debris from the trail while Kehoe paid to stabilize the hillside.

'We basically got to a point where we were prepared to spend city money to build a barrier on the trail,' he said.

Had the city gone ahead with construction, it would have sued Kehoe for the cost. Kehoe offered the hillside work instead, and city officials agreed to spend $5,000 on the trail work.

'It was just one of those things where the city and I were never going to agree on responsibility and I felt it was my civic responsibility to get the path open,' Kehoe said.

'The benefit to the city far outweighed the personal cost to me,' he said,