The controversial new road would have cut through the Three Creeks natural area
Progress on Clackamas County's Sunnybrook West Extension Project came to a screeching halt last week, and the unpopular plan seems delayed at least until the end of the year, if not cancelled completely.
The project reached the 30 percent design milestone with an open house Monday evening, where many area residents offered comments that were overwhelmingly in opposition. Neighbors and regional environmental activists were concerned about the road project's impact on the abutting Three Creeks natural area, located behind the Clackamas Community College Harmony Campus and the North Clackamas Aquatic Park (see 'Fight continues over Sunnybrook,' Nov. 30, 2010).
Commissioner Jim Bernard attended the open house, which he called 'a real learning experience,' and afterward spoke separately with each of his fellow commissioners to gather support for shelving the project.
'I don't see that there's any community support for the project in the foreseeable future,' Bernard said.
Cam Gilmour, the county's director of transportation and development, sees the Sunnybrook project as vital for the ultimate realization of the Clackamas Regional Center Plan. Yet, Gilmour agrees that its delay is prudent as this point.
'A delay in decision-making is needed now so the road project can be evaluated in the context of yet-to-be approved plans for the Three Creeks area,' Gilmour said in an e-mail to employees and concerned citizens on Thursday.
The county has worked to scale down the project from four to two lanes, which they had hoped would still significantly reduce congestion at the intersections of Sunnyside Road and Sunnybrook with 82nd Avenue.
'When I walked into the open house (on Monday) and saw the project, I thought this was so much better than the original project, so I would have supported it, but after listening to two or three hours of opposition with concerns about the environmental impacts, I realized that these are my people, and my views completely turned around,' Bernard said.
Open house attendee Charlene DeBruin's views were typical of the activists' concerns about cutting 500-year-old oak trees, and the impact this would have on runoff and habitat health in the wetland area.
'There is no acceptable way to put a road through the land in or adjacent to Three Creeks or the aquatic center,' she said. 'Roads should serve the community, and this is unwanted by the community. There are better, less-expensive ways to move traffic in the area."
Officials are now turning their attention to other projects, like the Sunrise Corridor. A Board of County Commissioners work session on the Sunnybrook plan scheduled during June has been cancelled, but a work session may take place instead to discuss other transportation priorities.
'Is there something we can do to invite people to use 224 rather than Sunnybrook?' Bernard asked.
As for the Sunnybrook property that the county originally acquired for flood control purposes, tree plantings and invasive vegetation removal will continue in partnership with a local caretaker group called the Tsunami Crew.
The parks district had plans to construct ball fields in the area between Phillips Creek and the railroad tracks that run along the southern side of the property near the industrial zone. But the county will have to come up with a new conceptual plan for the entire area now that an earlier collaboration on the Harmony Campus Plan, which also involved the Oregon Institute of Technology, is probably void with the suspension of the Sunnybrook extension.
'Looking at the Sunnybrook Extension Project in the context of the conceptual plan seems to be a necessary and fitting next step,' Gilmour said. 'We will try to get this work done without affecting budgets, but that is an unknown at this time. No time frame has been set for completing this task, but it is likely to take up the remainder of this year.'
Gilmour's department will work with the Sunnybrook design consultant to determine how to best wrap up the project for now, but he hopes that it will re-emerge in the coming years.
'We are confident with more time and discussion the benefits of this project on traffic flow, the economy and the environment will be better understood, and hopefully appreciated by all involved. I think we can get to a sustainable outcome, all points of view considered,' Gilmour said.