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New plan will connect West Linn

Trails master plan aims to link neighborhoods and business centers


by: LORI HALL - A short trail at the end of Linn Lane serves as a link between neighborhoods and is a prime example of the connections the city wants to create more of.Now that the city’s parks projects are nearly complete, the city is switching its focus to trails.

As a city council goal for 2013, West Linn aims to have a master trails plan approved and adopted by the end of the year. This plan will serve the city for about the next 20 years.

When talking about trails, Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester isn’t just speaking of wood-chip paths through the woods. He is talking about creating connections and shortcuts throughout the city.

The goal is to make the city more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, along with complying with Metro’s new drive-less campaign, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Currently there are 25.6 miles of trails in West Linn that are mainly in parks and open spaces but provide little connectivity between neighborhoods and business centers. The proposed trails master plan outlines about 62 miles of new trail routes, using a combination of on- and off-street routes.

Though trails have been part of the parks and recreation master plan and the transportation system plan, the city has never had its own trails master plan. However, it has been in the works for years, dating back to the mid-1970s.

Two years ago the city tried to get a trails master plan adopted by the planning commission, but it was shot down after a contingency of neighbors expressed concerns about several proposed paths, namely along the Interstate 205 corridor and along the Willamette and Tualatin rivers, what Worcester refers to as “pinch points.”by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - The transportation advisory board and the parks board will be reading the book 'Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time,' by Jeff Speck.

Worcester said all of the proposed routes have been in the books since 1988.

Assistant City Manager Kirsten Wyatt said the plan is about making connections all throughout the city without using a car.

“It’s the big picture. It’s not just about enjoying nature, it’s about getting to where you want to (go),” she said.

“We still want trails in the woods ... but at some time we’re looking for real simple local connections,” Worcester said.

This time around, the city wants the citizen volunteer transportation advisory board and the parks board to review the master plan before it heads to the planning commission for consideration.

However, before the boards will review the plan, the city wants the members to read the book “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time,” by Jeff Speck. The book explores how urban planners make cities “walkable.”

The idea was to “have them read something that is bigger than West Linn,” Wyatt said.

Board members will be asked to read the book in small groups and then discuss it similar to how book clubs work before they begin reviewing the trails plan. Extra copies of the book will also be available at the library for interested community members to check out.

Wyatt said the city is not advocating for any of the book’s concepts but wants the board members to look at the master trails plan with “fresh eyes.”

“I love this idea of just taking a step back and taking a look with fresh eyes. I think it’s kind of cool,” Wyatt said.

City staff is now working on refining the exact location and routes of paths in the master plan. Worcester said he expects it to be completed in the next month or two.

Worcester was quick to clarify that not all paths or routes are 12-foot-wide paved walkways. Some could be just short connectors linking two neighborhoods, such as what is found off Linn Lane, which connects to Sahallie Illahee Park and a newer development. Or, it could mean widening a shoulder of a road to accommodate walkers. Worcester said Old River Road currently has a lot of walkers on it but is not wide enough to offer sufficient pedestrian safety.

“We’re laying the foundation. We’re laying the groundwork, laying out the plan for ahead,” Wyatt said.

Wyatt and Worcester said city surveys have found that sidewalks, bike paths and trails consistently rank as high priorities for West Linn residents.

“This is something they really value,” Worcester said.

The city hopes to bring the trails master plan before the planning commission sometime this summer. However, projects won’t be put on hold until the plan is approved. If a project is identified and can be tackled before plan approval, Worcester said the city would “go ahead and roll that out.”

Wyatt added that city staff members are excited about the near completion of the Rosemont path that connects West Linn to Lake Oswego.

Worcester said trail planning is the next big step for the parks and recreation department as the only thing left in the parks master plan is an aquatic park.

“Most cities don’t get that far,” Worcester said.

A general shift is happening in America and the next aging generation wants to be able to walk to the grocery store, walk to a friend’s house and leave the car in the garage, according to Wyatt. The city wants to address this shift now and prepare for the change in mindset.

The existing plan can be reviewed at westlinnoregon.gov/parksrec/comprehensive-trails-system-master-plan-0. If the planning commission approves the trails master plan it will move on to the city council for adoption.