Council Creek Trail project manager says 'positive presence' decreases crime

A creekside trail is still among the route options being considered for the Council Creek Regional Trail, following a Stakeholders Advisory Committee (SAC) meeting last Wednesday, June 18, that narrowed down the possible trail routes.

And that’s what some residents just north of the Cornelius city limits are worried about.

Virgil Hockett and his wife bought their home near Susbauer Road nearly 40 years ago, looking for privacy, and now they worry that a creekside trail route would bring crime and litter to their property.

Landowner opposition will be one of the criteria for selecting the final route, said Jim Rapp, the Parametrix consultant who is helping to plan the 15-mile trail that would run west from Hillsboro through Cornelius to Forest Grove and then north to Banks.

Several of the initial route options got the thumbs down at the SAC meeting, including the idea of taking the trail along North Holladay Street through much of Cornelius and Forest Grove. SAC members also dropped part of a route along Highway 8.

That leaves three potential routes on the stretch between Hillsboro and Forest Grove: one along the Portland & Western rail corridor north of Highway 8, another along the former Southern Pacific track south of Highway 8 (connecting with the highway around 345th Avenue), and a third route near Council Creek.

On the trail stretch between Forest Grove and Banks, SAC members proposed dropping the route furthest east, which started by following Martin Road. That leaves a route that runs along Northwest Porter Road, another along Highway 47 and a western option that follows Northwest Kansas City Road.

On July 1, the trail’s Project Advisory Committee will decide whether to approve the SAC suggestions. Once the final three route options (for each of the two trail sections) are approved, Rapp and other planners will analyze them for cost, construction, timing and other factors, and will recommend a single route by early November, at which point they will gather more public comments before publishing a trail master plan in early 2015.

Hockett’s main concern is that the trail will draw crime and vagrants, like the Gresham-based Springwater Trail, where a homeless man was recently shot and killed after menacing police officers.

Anecdotal evidence from the Banks-Vernonia Trail indicates similar fears from homeowners in that area did not come true after the trail was built.

But Hockett said that’s probably because the Banks-Vernonia Trail runs through a primarily rural area, “not an urban setting with gang-related stuff going on,” like Cornelius.

Hockett said he has found hypodermic needles, condoms, even a young girl’s clothing down by the creek.

“I think citizens have a valid concern,” said Derek Robbins, the Forest Grove engineer who serves as Project Manager for the proposed trail. “I had the same thoughts.”

But Robbins points to other examples of how trails actually improve areas, such as in Medford, where property crimes and vagrancy decreased after a trail went in along Bear Creek. According to an Alta Planning + Design report published by Metro in 2010, six local law enforcement officers attended a hearing to support extending the Medford trail, “convinced the new trail would bring similar crime reduction benefits to the area.”

Criminal activity is discouraged when a trail brings more “legitimate users” to an underused or isolated area and when “responsive maintenance” shows the area is well-used and cared for, according to the report.

“This positive presence decreases isolation and diminishes the factors that attract illegal activity.”

Robbins said he did not contact local police departments to get their input on trail routes.

Lauren Petit, another creek neighbor, said she’s worried about a busy trail scaring away the local wildlife, which she said currently includes bald eagles, deer, blue herons, ducks, coyotes and more.

Petit thinks the rail line to the south of the creek—and of their property—would be the perfect option to get people through town.

“We wanted the privacy and we wanted the wildlife. We wanted to be away from everything and everybody,” said Petit, describing why she and her husband, Mike, bought their Susbauer Road property.

They also want to be alerted to public, decision-making meetings on the trail. They missed local newspaper stories (including one front-page announcement) on a June 4 Council Creek Trail open house and only learned of it at the last minute.

“We’re going to really have to get ahold of these property owners in this next round. I’ve got a lot of work to do,” Robbins said.

The July 1 Project Advisory Committee meeting is not open to the public but Petit, Hockett and others will get another chance to voice their opinions during the next round of public meetings in the fall.

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