Regional trails update
The Trolley Trail opens and miles of more trails are in the works
Imagine a regionwide network of trails more than 900 miles long that makes it easier and safer to ride a bike or walk to run errands, visit a friend or get to work, school or natural areas. Imagine biking from Forest Grove to Gresham, almost entirely separated from automobile traffic.
In 1903, the famous Olmsted Brothers landscape architects envisioned a 40-Mile Loop of scenic parkways around Portland. That vision has grown to today’s 300-plus completed miles of regional trails in Clackamas, Washington, Multnomah and Clark counties.
Just 10 years ago, the region had far fewer options for getting around without a car. Mel Huie, who has been planning trails at Metro since 1988, recalls when there were few off-street trails or bike lanes and many neighborhoods without sidewalks.
But because people value being a walk or a bike ride away from the places they want to go, Metro is now in its 24th year of working with partners across the region to provide more options for low-car, healthful ways to get around. Trail-making is a long process but Huie says, “It is quite gratifying to work on projects which will always be free and open to the public and provide transportation options and recreation sites. Trails connect people and communities. Being a trail planner requires optimism and eternal hope, because a trail project from idea to completion takes an average of five to 20 years.”
The region’s trail builders and community advocates are doing great work! Here’s an update on some of the newest regional trails:
Since the Trolley Trail opened this spring, walkers, joggers and bicyclists are following in the footsteps – well, tracks, actually – of the historic streetcar that inspired this 6-mile corridor between Milwaukie and Gladstone.
Passengers first boarded the Portland to Oregon City streetcar in 1893. It made its last trip in 1958 and, within a decade, the tracks had fallen into disrepair. Soon, community support swelled to reinvent the right-of-way as a trail.
That vision took several decades and many dedicated advocates to achieve. In 2001, funds from Metro’s first natural areas bond measure were used to purchase the historic right-of-way. Metro also worked with the community to plan the trail, and supported construction with federal transportation funds. North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District took the lead on building and managing the Trolley Trail, which came to life during the past year.
Today, the region’s newest trail links dozens of neighborhoods plus schools, parks and business districts. It chugs through the heart of Oak Grove, providing a scenic setting for a family stroll or a hassle-free way to bike to the store. Along the way, you can stop at waysides such as Stringfield Family Park, or poke over to the Willamette River to check out the view. And, if you use your imagination, you might just hear a streetcar in the distance.
The Tonquin Trail’s 22 miles will eventually connect the Willamette and Tualatin rivers and the cities of Tualatin, Sherwood and Wilsonville. The trail may someday even hook up with the Westside and Fanno Creek trails. This year, the trail’s route and design become more real as Metro and its partners consider formally adopting a blueprint for the Tonquin Trail.
People are already enjoying sections of the trail at Stella Olsen Park in Sherwood, Tualatin Community Park and Metro’s Graham Oaks Nature Park in Wilsonville. The Metro Council recently set aside $5.1 million in federal transportation funds to plan, design and build another Sherwood section, the Cedar Creek Greenway. Other sections will be completed as resources become available.
When the Tonquin Trail is complete, it will link parks, schools, neighborhoods, shops and offices. By bike or on foot, you can use open sections now to explore a unique landscape shaped by ice-age floods. Bring binoculars to spot birds at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, then pop into Sherwood’s Old Town for coffee or lunch. Enjoy Tigard’s Cook Park along the Tualatin River, or learn about Native American history at Graham Oaks. From there, walk or bike to central Wilsonville to pick up something at the grocery or hardware store. The Tonquin Trail is all about connections – to the land itself and to the places you want to go.
As car, gas and insurance prices rise, the percentage of household dollars going to transportation significantly increases. By providing a safe biking and walking route through Washington County, the Westside Trail will offer a money-saving, healthy alternative to driving.
Metro is working with residents, cities, park districts and community organizations to create a vision for this 23-mile trail, a continuous north-south route from the Willamette River near Forest Park to the Tualatin River at Tigard and King City. The trail will serve some of the most densely populated and fastest growing areas of Washington County.
Parts of the trail are already in place. Once complete, the Westside Trail will offer an uninterrupted path between homes, commercial destinations, schools, transit, natural areas and wildlife corridors, including Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, Tualatin Hills Nature Park and the Willamette River Greenway. Eventually, the trail will connect with other regional trails, including the Tonquin Trail and the Rock Creek Trail.
Tualatin River Water Trail
Imagine a beautiful commute along the Tualatin River with frequent, easy-to-access launch sites from Hillsboro to West Linn. As one step in making this vision a reality, a new small-craft launch site has been selected for Metro’s River Road natural area near Farmington.
The 83-mile Tualatin River is an outstanding natural resource that has shaped much of the landscape of Washington County. After an initial fast drop from its headwaters in the Coast Range, the river meanders slowly through the county before picking up speed near its confluence with the Willamette River in West Linn. The languid water speed along much of its length makes the river ideal for canoes and kayaks.
For now, public launch sites in the lower river exist only in Tualatin and Tigard. The next public access point is almost 20 miles upstream, at Hillsboro’s Rood Bridge Park. The River Road site will offer another easily-accessible launch point and promote awareness of water quality issues and wildlife habitat protection.
Though funding is not available to build and maintain this new site, its selection helps Metro and project partners such as Tualatin Riverkeepers as they develop a proposal for grant funding to support construction and long-term maintenance.
A Tualatin River water trail was first envisioned in Metro’s 1992 Greenspaces Master Plan. Since then, Metro has purchased nearly 400 acres in the Tualatin River Greenway with funds provided by the 1995 and 2006 natural areas bond measures.
Mount Scott/Scouter Mountain Trail
In fast-growing northwest Clackamas County, the 17-mile Mount Scott/Scouter Mountain Trail will create a loop around its namesake buttes, connecting town centers, neighborhoods, schools and natural areas – including the 100-acre Scouter Mountain Nature Park, slated to open in 2013.
Metro’s newest nature park will feature hiking trails, a picnic shelter, parking and restrooms. Land for the park was purchased with funds from Metro’s voter-approved Natural Areas Program. The forested area is closed to the public for now, during habitat restoration and park development, to protect natural resources and human safety.
Opening Scouter Mountain is a team effort. The City of Happy Valley is funding park development through Metro’s 2006 natural areas bond measure, which set aside money for communities to invest in nature close to home. North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District will manage the park.
Share your ideas and review preliminary Scouter Mountain Trail alignments and plans for Scouter Mountain Nature Park at an open house on Thursday, June 7 at Happy Valley City Hall, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Presentations by project staff and partners begin at 6 and 7 p.m. City Hall is located at 16000 SE Misty Drive in Happy Valley.