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The city's view of, and plans for, the Willamette River change -- and local input is sought

DAVID F. ASHTON - Access to the Willamette River from the Brooklyn neighborhood has been a long-standing concern, confirmed BPS Planner Joan Frederiksen. "What's your vision for the South Reach of the Willamette River?" was the question put to Inner Southeast Portland residents by representatives of the Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability (BPS), as part of a "Visioning Workshop" on Saturday morning, June 9.

The meeting was held in the Llewellyn Elementary School cafetorium that morning. The planners said the area of focus for the forum was what they call the "Willamette River / South Reach", which is an area roughly from the Ross Island Bridge (excluding South Waterfront) to the north part of Dunthorpe south of the Sellwood Bridge, as well as portions of the Brooklyn, Sellwood, and west side "South Portland" neighborhoods.

"This is a high-level, public meeting to dream about the Willamette riverfront, here in this area; and it's part of updating the overall 1987 plan for this section," said BPS Senior Planner Debbie Bischoff. "The goal is to start the process of getting ideas and feedback – as well as learning their concerns about the area – from people for what they want for the riverfront, including river access."

Reporting back to the group of about 40 attendees from the breakout session she had observed, BPS Planner Joan Frederiksen remarked that much was said about access barriers between the river and the Brooklyn neighborhood. "The discussion was about not having any connection to the river, whether physical or aspirational by way of viewpoint." This is not a new complaint from Brooklyn.

Another topic that came up was about the Springwater Corridor Trail, and "how to make it more welcoming for the different users – including fast bikes, casual bike riders, and pedestrians; finding a way to separate out those uses a little, to enhance our connections to the river," Frederiksen said.

In another group, which focused on balancing recreation and ecology in the study area, BPS Environmental Planning Program City Planner II Jeff Caudill commented that the concerns expressed centered around the need to balance river access with natural area management. "The question also was: How do we feel about the natural area, and recreation, and then, factoring in increased housing in the area."

Bischoff reported back to the gatherings about recreational concerns expressed in that breakout group. Echoing a previous topic, she said, "River access – whether paths, boat dock, or launch, in Brooklyn is a long-standing issue and desire."

The trail along the river also came up in the recreation discussion group. "We heard about gaps in our trails, and comments about reducing trail congestion, and requests for better signage on the trails for how people should behave to make it safer and more comfortable to use for everyone," Bischoff said. "There were requests for more boat docks – specifically in the lower East side – and a suggestion for a boat launch at the [foot of] the S.E. Spokane Street right-of-way."

Other recreation-based suggestions included:

· Fence the no-leash dog area at Sellwood Riverfront Park

· Add interpretive signage along the river

· Offer easier paths from Oaks bottom from the top of Oaks Bluff

· Increase ADA extensibility throughout

· Add "bump-outs" along the trail where the river can be viewed, without being in trail traffic

The next steps in the project are to create a draft report with illustrative drawings by late June. BPS plans to hold more meetings during the summer, and by fall, provide a status report of the project. The finalized report is expected to go before the Portland City Council early in 2020.

For more information, go online -- www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/42548

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