City presents updated trail master plan at July 23 open house

As the city inches closer and closer to its long-held goal of housing a park within walking distance of every home, the West Linn Parks and Recreation Department is looking to tackle another issue: trails.

Though West Linn contains 25.6 miles of trails throughout its parks and open areas, city officials say the current system provides too little in the realm of connectivity between neighborhoods, commercial areas and other destinations. The new 2013 Trails Plan — which was presented at an open house July 23 — would add about 62 miles of new trail routes throughout the city, including 44.6 miles of on-street trails like sidewalks and bike lanes.

“We’ve almost built out our entire parks plan,” Associate City Planner Zach Pelz said. “The idea is to transition into trails development, to connect people with parks and other locations.”

Development of the trails master plan has been in the works since 2009, according to Pelz, and the 2013 iteration contains some significant alterations in light of comments made at a 2011 public hearing.

Some residents, particularly those with private property along the Willamette and Tualatin rivers, were concerned about the idea of new trails encroaching on their space and potentially attracting trespassers or hurting their property values.

In response, 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 new trail mileage, based on the latest trail master plan. According to both Pelz and Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester, the on-street trails are expected to be included when the city updates its Transportation Systems Plan next spring. Those improvements would likely be eligible for funding through both the capital improvement plan and the city’s transportation systems development charges.

Worcester said the city also hopes to begin the final design and land use process for the upper Willamette trail — from Willamette Park to the Willamette Falls — later this year, along with sidewalk connections and safe routes to schools.

Beyond that, Worcester said this is very much a long-term plan.

“The real misconception is that we’re going to do $60 million of work in one year,” Worcester said. “This is a 50-year mission.”

Indeed, this particular endeavor has neither a concrete budget nor a firm timetable. Many trails will be completed as part of other capital improvement projects, and Worcester expects volunteers will help with the off-street trails in the city parks.

An overview of the trail master plan was presented to about 50 attendees at the July 23 open house, according to Pelz, and he said the general reaction was positive.

“There were a lot of good comments,” Pelz said. “A lot of riverfront people came in support of the plan, and were generally excited to learn the trails had been moved on-street and off private property.”

Some remaining concerns had to do with trespassing, and Pelz said residents emphasized the importance of proper signage along the trails to identify private property.

According to data in the city’s trail plan, 73.8 percent of people in West Linn commute to work by driving alone — a downturn from 78.5 percent in 2000. In turn, the percentage of local commuters who walk to work increased from 1.4 percent in 2000 to 3 percent in 2006.

Should those trends continue, new trails would become ever more important.

“(We want) to take the strain off of walking, and also vehicular transportation,” Pelz said.

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