Trail route in Troutdale 'indefinitely' postponed
All work has stopped on a proposed trail route linking Troutdale with the Springwater Corridor.
In an email addressed to members of a stakeholder advisory committee, Robert Spurlock, senior regional planner for Metro regional government, said citizens' concerns primarily relate to security and illegal camping.
"The pushback from opponents has been so strong that we (Metro and Troutdale) believe it is most prudent to indefinitely postpone the project until these concerns can be addressed," he wrote. "Therefore, we are stopping work on the project."
But Christine Adair, a 20-year resident of Troutdale who lives near Reynolds High School, said she was "disappointed" that the trail had been canceled.
"A trail like that would encourage healthy recreation for all ages," she said in a phone interview. "It's a route that would connect us safely to downtown Troutdale off major roads."
Adair typically jogs on Stark Street, Halsey Street and Troutdale Road. The sidewalk is fine, but she doesn't like sucking down vehicle exhaust or staring at traffic.
"As a recreational runner, I like to run close to home. I don't like to drive long distances to find a trail," explained the process manager, who is in her 40s. "(At Sunrise Park) you can only do so many circles before you're like, 'OK, we need to move on.'"
While officially postponed, the trail remains a listed priority on a number of regional plans, including the East Metro Connections Plan, which Gresham, Troutdale, Metro and Multnomah County adopted or approved in 2012.
The plan is still on the books.
Anecdotal evidence of strong opposition to the trail also is supported by hard numbers.
n In one paper-and-pencil survey, 70 percent of respondents said their favorite trail route was "none of the above," according to another email written by Spurlock. The survey was conducted on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at a trail open house event in Troutdale.
n An online version of the survey, which did not include a "none of the above" option, also resulted in high levels of dissatisfaction.
n "The majority of respondents so far have indicated that they don't want any of the options," Spurlock explained, saying most survey-takers used a comment box to indicate their lack of support. "We are definitely getting the message that most survey respondents do not want any new trail, regardless of the route."
n The email appeared in a Facebook group created by those opposed to the trail.
Regional planners have long eyed Troutdale and Gresham for a new foot-and-pedal path, which would close a large gap in Metro's 40-Mile Loop, a regional trail network that actually spans 140 miles.
Gresham hit the pause button on planning its portion of the six-mile trail connection in January, citing a $1 million cost for patrolling its stretch of the Springwater Corridor in 2016.
Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis, who announced his opposition to the trail prior to the work stoppage at City Hall, remains committed to the cancellation, according to his staffers.
"I confirmed with Mayor Bemis … that his opposition to the trail extension remains unchanged due to public feedback and his substantial concerns about public safety," mayoral assistant Jessica Harper wrote in an email. "The city of Gresham and Mayor Bemis' position on the trail remain unchanged."
Troutdale's portion of the pathway would have linked the Mt. Hood Community College campus with Depot Park on the west bank of the Sandy River. Five route options, some winding past Troutdale Elementary School or the Beaver Creek Natural Area, were proposed by Metro.
"I am glad that we were able to work with Metro and come to a decision that lets the citizens of Troutdale know we are listening," Troutdale Mayor Casey Ryan said in a prepared statement. "Metro has been wonderful to work with, and I look forward to partnering with them on future projects."
Organizers note that most options for the walkway were routed in front of neighbors' driveways and front yards. In contrast, the Springwater Corridor wends behind businesses and through heavily-wooded areas, far from prying eyes.
In his email to the stakeholder committee, Spurlock called the decision to stop work abrupt and "unusual."
"Addressing homelessness, crime and illegal camping, whether or not they are caused by trails, will be key to shifting the public's current negative perception of trails," he said. "(But) the trail is still official policy in need of a refined alignment. The timing wasn't right this time, but I'm optimistic that its time will come."