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Mammoth goals for Greenway Trail

3/4-mile missing link in trail will provide I-5 crossing, Ice Age history

TIMES PHOTO: JON HOUSE - Holes are drilled to build a ramp that will connect the Greenway Trail with the back of Nyberg Woods.Work on the Tualatin River Greenway Trail Gap Completion Project is rapidly moving forward, with the first paving work on the trail itself beginning this week.

But the scope of the project goes beyond simply filling in the missing three-quarter-mile link in the trail, which is shared between Tigard, Tualatin and Durham. For Paul Hennon, Tualatin's community services director, it's a chance to improve the community in several important ways.

The new trail section runs from Southwest Barngrover Way, past the Tualatin Public Library, east underneath Interstate 5 nearly to the Clackamas County line. Along the way, it accesses the Nyberg Rivers and Nyberg Woods shopping centers, as well as a couple of residential complexes.

“This is a fantastic project,” he said. “It ties employment centers and residential areas. … A byproduct will be better health and wellness. The thing about public parks and recreation is, we serve multiple needs.”

Once complete, likely by March of 2016 at the latest, the trail will be much more than just a ribbon of concrete cutting underneath the freeway.

The Tualatin River Greenway Trail is a big part of the city's efforts to promote its Ice Age heritage. The bones of extinct animals, such as mastodons and ground sloths, and boulders from as far away as modern-day Montana have been found in Tualatin and the surrounding area, relics of the glacial flooding period that saw hundreds of feet of water wash over the landscape of the region more than 10,000 years ago.

To that end, Hennon said, there will be a number of interpretive displays along the trail, such as castings of bones and skulls, real erratic boulders — some of them excavated during work on the trail itself — and maps showing what the area might have looked like during the last Ice Age.

The trail itself will even feature artistic representations, with animal and human “footprints” set into the concrete, a band of color running through the trail to represent floodwaters, an etched “Great Plank Road” like the one that used to connect Portland and the Tualatin Valley, and more, Hennon said.

“It's kind of a walk through geologic time,” he said.

For residents, including those who commute to jobs elsewhere in the city, one of the main attractions of the project is a safer, more direct route across I-5. Southwest Nyberg Road has an overpass above the freeway, but only the north side of the road has a sidewalk and pedestrians must cross heavily trafficked on- and off-ramps to get across it.

Hennon said it was “creepy” underneath the I-5 bridge, on the south bank of the Tualatin River where the trail is being constructed, when work first started. But the trail will be lit during the daytime, Hennon said, comparing the level of illumination to what would be seen on a sports field at night. (The trail is closed at night.) Railings will be installed to keep people from falling into the river below and deter the homeless from camping alongside the trail underneath the bridge, he added.

A portion of the new trail at its eastern end will be elevated, in the hopes of keeping it dry when the river floods, Hennon said.

Once the gap completion is finished, the total length of the contiguous trail will be 4 1/2 miles. Another quarter-mile section west of Pacific Highway West is also currently under construction.

The total price tag for the Greenway Gap Completion project is about $3.6 million. It has received grant funding from the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Washington County Visitors' Association and more.


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