Trolley Trail opens, reinventing historic rail line as six-mile path between Milwaukie and Gladstone
Many area residents arrived at the grand opening of the Trolley Trail on Saturday by foot or bike, using the new six-mile pathway between Milwaukie and Gladstone.
More than a century in the making, the six-mile Trolley Trail opened last weekend with a few hundred people on hand to celebrate the new connection between Milwaukie and Gladstone.
The trail, which chugs through the heart of Oak Grove, traces the route of an historic trolley that once linked downtown Portland with Oregon City. Ever since the trolley closed for business in the late 1950s and freight service stopped a decade later, the community has rallied to reinvent the tracks as a trail.
Realizing that vision was a team effort: Metro helped secure right-of-way with a natural areas bond measure, led the planning process and invested transportation money in building the trail. The North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District collaborated on the planning, contributed to the project, managed construction and operates the new Trolley Trail. But it never would have materialized without dedicated citizens as champions, Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette told the crowd at Saturday's grand opening.
"Nothing like this happens without hundreds of people working endless hours of their own time. It's not the government saying 'Let's build a park,' it's people like you saying 'Let's build a park, let's a build a trail.' And here it is," said Collette, who lives in Milwaukie and represents most of the region's southern suburbs. "That's what we're celebrating today: not just that we've got a path, but that we've got a community that builds a path over 20 years.'"
The Trolley Trail runs north-south, passing residential neighborhoods, retirement communities, parks and business districts along the way. Many nearby residents arrived at Saturday's celebration on foot or bike, pulling off the flat, paved Trolley Trail at Oak Grove Elementary School. They listened to a marimba band, munched on snacks, climbed aboard a fire truck, toured a vintage trolley that once operated along the route – and reminisced about the trail's history.
Elaine Hamm, who grew up along the trolley line, recalled riding as a toddler in the late 1950s; she cried because the bell was so loud. Her family has fond memories, too, such as a conductor who frequently stopped the trolley to shoo their cat from the tracks.
"I'd love to see the trolley come back," said Hamm, who lives in her childhood home. "But this is the next best thing."
Timed for National Trails Day, the celebration brought together many partners who have collaborated on the Trolley Trail.
Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas recalled getting involved as a board member of the Oak Lodge Sanitary District, then seeing the project come to fruition as a county commissioner. He described the trail a model of regional collaboration, saying "Instead of just talking about something, we got something accomplished."
Longtime advocates with the community-based Friends of the Trolley Trail said this milestone didn't come quickly or easily; it took lots of meetings, negotiations with government staff over trail details, and cleanup days that unearthed everything from poison oak to electrical appliances. And their work isn't done. Group leaders envision creating an "adopt a trail section" program, lighting part of the trail and providing bags and disposal stations to pick up after dogs.
Longtime Trolley Trail advocate Dick Jones chats with Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette at the grand opening celebration.
But it's rewarding to see so many people enjoying the trail already, said Dick Jones, one of the founders of Friends of the Trolley Trail. He notices people getting to know their neighbors better and getting healthier.
"We said the trail would be a safe place for kids. We said bikers would have a safe travel lane apart from highway traffic. We said it would open up more direct routes to school, to the library, to the post office and shopping. We said it would be a linear park. We said the trail would become a gem of this community," Jones said. "The good news is, we've been able to deliver on everything we said and much more."