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Trails plan moves to city council

Unanimously approved by planning commission Oct. 16


by: TIDINGS PHOTO: 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. West Linn’s quest for a new trails master plan took another step forward Oct. 16, as the planning commission unanimously approved the city’s latest proposal and sent it on to the city council.

The new 2013 trails plan 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. Though West Linn already 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.

Development of the trails master plan has been in the works since 2009, and the 2013 iteration contains some significant alterations in light of comments made at a 2011 public hearing and an open house this past July.

Namely, in response to safety and privacy concerns, 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. The proposed trail near Interstate 205, meanwhile, was moved and lowered in elevation so that it would be invisible to surrounding homes.

Additionally, per the West Linn Transportation Advisory Board’s request, the city incorporated Safe Routes to Schools into the trails plan.

Of course, the plan itself does not set any project in stone.

“Approving a trails plan isn’t the final step,” Planning Commissioner Bob Martin said at the Oct. 16 meeting.

“Hopefully, before any trail is built, it will always go before the planning commission for design review and there will be an opportunity to examine particulars,” he said.

Indeed, Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester made clear that approving the plan would not suddenly toss the city into “development mode.”

“None of this happens overnight,” Worcester said. “Approving the plan doesn’t mean that we’ve committed to dollars or capital projects.”

The 44 miles of on-street trails are expected to be included when the city updates its transportation systems plan next spring, according to Associate Planner Zach Pelz. Those improvements would likely be eligible for funding through both the capital improvement plan and the city’s transportation systems development charges.

“There’s really only 17 miles of trails that would be funded specifically by the recreation department,” Pelz said. “The others would be funded by the transportation systems plan.”

A number of residents voiced their concerns about the plan during the planning commission meeting, most voicing concerns about privacy and safety with the trails near their homes.

“There isn’t a plan to prevent law violations in the trail areas,” resident Robert Jester said. “I don’t understand why the planning commission would make any sort of recommendation to city council for approval of anything that compromises the public safety of West Linn and its citizens.”

Resident Todd Jones, on the other hand, spoke in favor of the plan as a way to strengthen the community’s bonds.

“I believe having a multi-decade vision for how we want to create recreational opportunities for our citizens, connections between neighborhoods and support sustainability in our community makes a lot of sense,” Jones said. “And this would be a complement to the parks master plan that’s already been seen to fruition.”

In response to the concerns expressed by Jester and other residents about the I-205 trail, the planning commission voted to add language to the master plan stating that approval of a future I-205 trail would be contingent on demonstration of an adequate fire suppression and risk mitigation plan, as well as a plan to ensure the general safety of the trail.

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.

The city council is scheduled to discuss the trails plan at its Nov. 18 meeting.

To learn more, visit westlinnoregon.gov/trailsmasterplan.

Patrick Malee can be reached at pmalee@westlinntidings.com and 503-636-1281, ext. 106. Follow him on Twitter, @pmalee_wl

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