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Trail will link east side to Columbia

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JONATHAN HOUSE - Bikers and hikers might one day take the North Portland Greenway Trail from inner-east Portlands waterfront all the way to Cathedral Park, shown here at the base of the St. Johns Bridge, and on to the Columbia River at Kelley Point Park. Weaving through industrial areas, city parks and tight streets in urban neighborhoods, bicyclists and pedestrians might one day enjoy

a single path paralleling the east side of the Willamette River, from the Eastbank Esplanade all the way to the Columbia River at Kelley Point Park.

They call it the North Portland Greenway Trail.

Like other trails that can take decades to complete, the 10.5-mile path to North Portland is already there in piecemeal sections, as the city of Portland and its partners secure funding and easements to make it a reality.

Trail planning was completed in July, including conceptual engineering and cost estimates, says Emily Roth, project manager with Portland Parks & Recreation.

Next up is submitting the preferred design to Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz and the rest of the Portland City Council, as soon as mid-October.

“They won’t fund it, but they’ll just say, ‘Nice job,’ and listen to advocates about how to move it forward,” Roth says. “Then we would seek funding for it.”

The North Portland Greenway Trail would add beauty, new riverfront view opportunities, and recreational access to an entire quadrant of the city. It also should reduce auto traffic.

The project has been in the works eight or nine years to get this far. But the city is still working on gaining new easements for the Springwater Corridor, and that project has been 20 years in the making, Roth says.

“It’s going to be the same thing for any trail,” she says. “It just takes time.”

Activists keep prodding

Getting this close thrills Francie Royce and Pam Arden, members of NP Greenway, the community group pushing hardest for the trail.

“What we do as an organization is nudge and prod, show up at hearings, and work with (city and Metro) staff,” Royce says. “We have led every elected official on a tour through the entire alignment to show them what’s possible.”

Two trail segments on Swan Island have been completed. The Port of Portland developed one area when building along the waterfront, and the Waud Bluff Trail extends from North Basin Avenue on Swan Island, over a bridge and up to the University of Portland campus.

Those trails are used by Daimler and United Parcel Service employees, among others.

Some 20 to 25 percent of UPS’s local employees live in North Portland, says Thad Collins, UPS Portland hub training manager and trail advisory committee member. “They’d love to take paths to work.”

The Waud Bluff Trail on Swan Island is only a mile long, but it allows people to get down safely from the top of the bluff, he says.

A $2.6 million federal grant will fund construction of an important bridge over Columbia Boulevard connecting Pier Park and Chimney Park, though the money won’t get released until 2016.

Sticky points

Other proposed segments are more contentious. Perhaps the thorniest is whether the trail would run alongside North Greeley Avenue, or whether planners can get permission from Union Pacific to use its right of way at Albina Yard. City consultants concluded Greeley would work best, but the advisory committee disagrees.

“Right now, riding (a bicycle) on Greeley is miserable,” Royce says. “No one in their right mind would take a child on it.”

It’s more like a truck route than a greenway trail, Royce says. “We want the trail closer to the river. I think our voices were heard by the city of Portland and Metro. We think the railroad, which owns the property closer to the river, has heard. We’re waiting to see how it shakes out.”

Another issue is the Crown Cork and Seal property, whose owners aren’t interested in giving easements while their property is for sale. Plans currently include a “work-around” on North Reno Avenue.

“We always have work-arounds,” Roth says. “That’s what we have to do until we secure easements.”

Segments from Kelley Point Park to the University of Portland have been pretty well laid out, says Jim Kuffner, the university’s assistant vice president for community relations and special projects, who also serves on the advisory committee.

Part of the university’s River Campus, tucked up against the bluff and adjacent to Union Pacific railroad, would be used. But Kuffner says the railroad needs to provide some use of its property to make the trail wider. “Our property is pretty pinched already,” he says.

Planners hope to raise $7.5 million for one segment, including a bridge over the railroad tracks at North Rivergate Boulevard that would help link Kelley Point and Cathedral parks.

It’ll be a $30 million project by the time it’s done.

“The best alignment will go through some private property, where easements and outright purchases need to be made,” Royce says. “And that takes money.”

Arden figures the trail is a “natural extension” of the city’s planned network of bicycle trails, in a part of town heavily used by bicyclists. “We’re envisioning this trail would be quite a magnet.”