by: PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Byron Boyce of the Lower Clackamas River Task Force surveys erosion damage imperiling the safety and stability of a railroad-owned bridge over the Clackamas River.It could get a lot easier to bike between Oregon City and Portland if local leaders can persuade Union Pacific Railroad to let go of its abandoned Clackamas River bridge.

Springwater Corridor runs 21 miles from Southeast Portland through Milwaukie and Gresham. But Gladstone is not part of Clackamas County’s park system, so the five-mile Trolley Trail from Springwater in Milwaukie stops at Gladstone’s city limits. To reach trails in Oregon City, people must walk or bike through Gladstone city streets and along a highway.

However, Metro regional government and Clackamas County officials have renewed excitement in connecting trails between Oregon City and Gladstone now that the Union Pacific Railroad is discussing the future of its abandoned Clackamas River bridge (“Falling down? Bridge draws concern,” Feb. 20).

Transportation advocates and regional planners speculate that public investment could save the bridge, although it remains unclear if the railroad would be willing to part with its property.

Gary Barth, director of the North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District, noted that Katie Dunham, the district’s senior planner, will attend committee meetings and work with other jurisdictions to discuss “synergies of connecting our trail system.”

In Barth’s hometown of Eugene, there are five bridges specifically built for people to bike or walk across the Willamette River, but he lamented that Oregon City’s Arch Bridge is the only crossing for more than 20 miles that allows pedestrians.

Bridges on the east and west ends of Gladstone provide less-than-ideal pedestrian access along Interstate 205 and Highway 99E over the Clackamas River into Oregon City. Barth sees a “natural carry on” that would extend the Trolley Trail down Portland Avenue and potentially across the bridge to where Oregon City has built a trail around the Clackamette Cove.

“We would support any efforts to extend that Trolley Trail across,” Barth said. “Our whole intertwine concept is where all the public agencies and park providers talk on a regular basis so we don’t have trails that dead-end at a jurisdictional line, but we create a fabric of an interconnected system.”

Gladstone’s City Council this week discussed applying for regional flexible funds that would be earmarked for the bridge.

Jim Desmond, Metro’s sustainability director, responded to hopes that the regional government would purchase the bridge by saying it would not own or operate the bridge, which are responsibilities more likely to be carried out through cooperation between the county and cities.

“Those sorts of opportunities don’t come along every day, so Metro is very interested in playing a planning and support role,” Desmond said. “If the structure has the physical integrity to move forward, then it would make a lot of sense to connect the major population center of Oregon City with its northern neighbors.”

Metro will host meetings this spring that will bring various jurisdictions to the table to discuss plans for the bridge.

“Generally these intergovernmental agreements for trails run very smoothly,” Desmond said.

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