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West Linn set to begin work on new Willamette River trail

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - The new trail will begin at Willamette Park and span about 1.5 miles down the river before stopping at the West Linn Paper Company mill. Though the West Linn Trails Master Plan was formally adopted Dec. 9, one of the first trail projects of 2014 is a holdover from more than 15 years ago.

The Willamette River Trail, which will provide riverfront access over about 1.5 miles between Willamette Park and the West Linn Paper Company, has been on West Linn’s to-do list since a parks, recreation and open space plan was adopted in 1998. Yet it wasn’t until March 6 that the city held a pre-application meeting for the river trail, which will likely be completed by the end of the year.

“It was a vision in the 1998 master plan,” Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester said. “And it even preceded that plan. Once we adopted it, we packaged a bond to go with it, so this is kind of that last project that still had some funding that we had not completed.”

The city currently has about $350,000 slated for the trail’s construction. If all goes according to plan, work will begin this summer and end in the fall.

“It’s to provide river access — access along the river and above the Willamette Falls,” Worcester said. “We’re not quite in residential areas or any of that, so it’s kind of the perfect place to try to build a trail.”

Eventually, Worcester and the city hope to extend the trail up Willamette Falls Drive and all the way to the McLean House.

“We would eventually like to get up Willamette Falls Drive, but we have to get around the cliffs and the West Linn Paper mill,” Worcester said. “Those are big obstacles.”

For now, the beginning phase of the river trail will offer more prime walking space without intruding on any nearby residences — a point of contention with other trails targeted in the 2013 master plan.

“Below the falls is more contentious than above the falls,” Worcester said.

After residents voiced concerns about riverfront trails below the falls, the city proposed on-street trails that would be placed near the riverfront area, rather than directly on private properties. These types of on-street paths would make up about 72 percent of the trail mileage under the latest trail master plan.

For now, this trail along the upper Willamette Falls will provide coveted access to one of the city’s most famous natural areas.

“People already love to walk on Volpp Street for exercise,” Worcester said. “If we can provide access for fishing and other activities along the river, I think it’s going to be hugely popular.”

To learn more about West Linn’s latest trails master plan, visit westlinnoregon.gov/trailsmasterplan.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester expects the new trail to be completed by the end of the year.

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