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Westside Trail controversy quiets down ahead of open houses

Posted by on August 31st, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Metro is gearing up for a series of open houses to let the public weigh in on their Westside Trail project. The project spurred controversy earlier this summer when residents of the Oak Hills area of unincorporated Washington County objected to plans to have the shared-use path run through property adjacent to their homes. The path segment in question is just one-third of a mile and runs north of Highway 26 between NW Bethany Blvd and NW 143rd Ave.

The Oak Hills residents have come to think of the land adjacent to their homes as their own private property, but the land is actually owned by the federal government (it’s a powerline corridor for the Bonneville Power Administration). According to The Oregonian, residents have even posted “Private Property” signs in the area. Now, with Metro pushing forward with the project, members of the Oak Hills Homeowners Association are not pleased that what has long been a de facto private playground is now slated to become a public place for bicycling and walking.

At stake is a one-third mile connection of the long-awaited Westside Trail, a 16-mile off-highway path that will eventually go from the Tualatin River, through Beaverton, up and over Forest Park and into St. Johns.

Reader Stephen F., who is one of several people who alerted us to this story, says he’s surprised that people would object to the promise of a new biking and walking path. “Frankly, I can’t believe the paranoia from the Oak Hills Home Owner Association. The Westside Trail would be a huge amenity for the neighborhood.”

The Oregonian Editorial Board agrees. In June they wrote that the folks in Oak Hills, “… should embrace the Westside Trail,” and they went on to state, “Practically, we’re totally for it. We’re for it because the segment, stretching about one third of a mile, is an easily converted link in the 25-mile trail . We’re for it, too, because all citizens own the corridor.”

Mary-Anne Cassin, a staffer in Metro’s park planning and development division, says things have been quiet since the uproar in June. “We are getting ready to hold open houses in October,” she told us this week, “We’ve been doing technical studies in that [Oak Hills] section and we’ll want to get as big a turnout for that discussion as possible.”

This isn’t the first time a biking and walking pathway project has upset nerves of homeowners in Washington County. Back in 2009, residents made headlines when the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation Department wanted to develop a segment of the Fanno Creek Trail.

Stay tuned for details on the upcoming Metro open houses.

Further reading:
Westside Trail: Pros + Cons = Your Opinion and Westside Trail to Run Through Oak Hills – both from the Oak Hills Pioneer newsletter.

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  • K'Tesh August 31, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Please keep me posted on this.

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  • Dan August 31, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Actually, OHHA has not taken an official stance on this issue at all. They distributed a survey & found that of the residents that responded, opinions were mostly split on it, with only slightly more respondents being opposed to it (and my guess is that people opposed to the path would be more likely to respond to the survey in the first place). There’s an article in August’s Oak Hills Oracle that details the last board meeting’s discussion of the trail here:

    http://www.oakhillsoracle.com/images/AugOracle12-2.pdf

    The concerns I’ve read focused on additional noise, litter, parking issues, privacy concerns, possible safety hazards with bike/pedestrian collisions, and the cost of building this path when the Waterhouse trail is nearby to the west (if you consider 1 mile away to be nearby).

    The only concern I see as legitimate is the cost one. And I’m curious how they plan to get over/under Hwy 26 – I don’t think there’s a plan for that. However, there SHOULD be a better way to cross Hwy 26….the current crossings are not good for bikes or pedestrians. Cedar Hills, Murray, Cornell, Bethany, 185th….that’s 5 crossings in a row over a 5-mile span that are flat out terrible for bikes to ride over.

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    • q`Tzal August 31, 2012 at 5:09 pm

      I read the response to the O’s editorial.
      I am entertained by the hypocrisy of being concerned with cyclists being hit by lacrosse balls but simultaneously claiming that the area is now (with high speed lacrosse balls but without new cyclists) safe for small wandering children blissfully unaware in this otherwise bucolic pasture.

      Either it is safe now or not: which one is it?

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  • NW Biker August 31, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Me, too. One of the reasons I’m reluctant to ride away from my own home is because most of the roads nearby have neither bike lanes nor shoulders. I simply refuse to ride on Bethany between Hwy 26 and the intersection with West Union/Thompson Road. The Oak Hills neighborhood is close by and that path would be great!

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  • Dan August 31, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Bethany’s going to be expanded to 4 lanes, plus bike lanes on the sides, which will actually make biking on Bethany safer (not saying much, I know). Those expansion plans were the last big battle fought by Oak Hills homeowners, and I’m sure they are a contributing factor towards people being concerned about any additional expansion in the area. To us, widening a bike path (which is already mostly in place in Oak Hills already, BTW) is pretty much the opposite of widening a road, but it wouldn’t surprise me if to many homeowners they were basically the same thing. To them, this may be ‘Bethany Expansion Part II’.

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  • Hart Noecker August 31, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Good ol’ NIMBYism. Maybe they’ll chill out when they see their property value increase.

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    • Spiffy August 31, 2012 at 2:43 pm

      they don’t want to share their free roads…

      they don’t want to share their free parking…

      they don’t want to share their free yards…

      what free publicly-owned amenities are they willing to share?

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      • Terry D September 1, 2012 at 11:24 am

        Their exhaust pollution. Since carbon emissions are currently free for everyone, they do not mind sharing.

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  • Dan August 31, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Here’s an opinion piece from an opponent of the trail who lives very near the existing path: http://ouroakhills.org/

    Incidentally, if this path gets built, I wonder what they plan to do to mitigate some of the hills. The current stretch of path going through here is concrete (it would be widened & changed to blacktop) and it seems to be almost never used by people on bikes, simply because it’s so steep. The path appeals primarily to casual riders, and those types of riders have no wish to go up & down those kinds of hills.

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    • q`Tzal August 31, 2012 at 2:28 pm

      Excessive hills are for those that like to “train” or as I call them in the throes of laziness – masochists;)

      All kidding aside, if it is a hard ride doesn’t that skew the user demographic towards those with expensive carbon fiber bikes and away from poor unwashed masses who just need to get from point A to B?

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      • Dan August 31, 2012 at 2:50 pm

        These are currently just short, steep sidewalks for the most part. Those don’t attract any type of cyclist that I’m aware of. I’m a masochist, and I prefer a nice long 20 minute climb. Not too interested in sprinting up a sidewalk, crossing a road, riding on more sidewalk, crossing another road, etc.

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        • q`Tzal August 31, 2012 at 5:17 pm

          I’ve always preferred crossing arterial roads: at least there drivers are aware that anything can happen.
          MUP crossings like are planned here cross secondary and tertiary residential streets that have so little automotive traffic that car drivers are honestly surprised to have to slow down from 50MPH to yield to MUP users.

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    • Terry D August 31, 2012 at 2:31 pm

      In one description I read it said “this 20 mile path could easily turn into 25 when all the switch-backs are taken into account.” Most of these I believe are to deal with the west hills.

      I really hope this gets built…it would give us a reason to actually ride on the west side. Sounds like it would be a wonderful trail. Right now our “local bike day tourism” dollars all go to the east, north and sometimes south sides since the west side is so completely disconnected with no clear routes with entertaining destinations.

      We would not mind the slopes so much, one of our normal rides into downtown goes up and around the east side of Mount Tabor then down into the city, so navigating the west hills is not THAT much more….and this is a perfect opportunity to create micro-parks along the slopes with places to sit and rest with drinking fountains…..maybe a view of something….assuming of course the west side of Portland can handle us liberal bicyclists contributing to their local economies…

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    • the other dan August 31, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      You know, he sounds reasonable enough, but he’s overlooking (or just doesn’t want to acknowledge) that the trail area is not private property, and the state has a legal right to determine how it will be used.

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    • wsbob August 31, 2012 at 7:33 pm

      Switchbacks to deal with the hills. Steep sections of the WST south of TV Hwy provide examples of how designers and engineers working with the parks district have used switchbacks to climb the hills. At any rate, the Westside Trail is by no means intended to provide a fast ride. The paved trail surface is fairly wide, but in many places, it’s not a really smooth surface, but instead, kind of lumpy. Even on the flats, they put in curves to make the trail more interesting and discourage fast riding.

      Still, it can be a really nice trail to travel on for leisurely riding. It’s away from traffic, buffered by houses on both sides, so it’s quiet to ride on. Lots of people walk there, with and without dogs, run, etc. Oak Hills has always had a rep for being, or wanting to be a bit exclusive. Nice streets, nice houses, but it never seemed to me to be particularly choice. Even with this public trail through their neighborhood developed and open to the public, I don’t think concerned residents will have to worry much about trouble from out of neighborhood members of the public. THPRD has a good, responsive security detail.

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  • Rol August 31, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    You know you’re in thrall to capitalist propaganda when you think a bunch of bicycles are dangerous but you don’t mind living right next to 500,000 volts!

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    • q`Tzal August 31, 2012 at 5:26 pm

      High voltage power lines… weren’t those supposed to cause leukemia, cancer or some such ;) ?
      How dangerous is it to let kids play under all that EM radiation? Who knows, they might develop strange cool mutant powers and take over the world!

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      • Rol August 31, 2012 at 8:36 pm

        Yes although supposedly the “jury’s still out,” just like with global warming. The scientists investigating it, and the scientists being paid to defend it, can’t seem to reach consensus. Weird huh. Those cancers, well those just “happen!” We don’t know WHERE they’re coming from!

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  • Paul Hanrahan August 31, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    I went to a few public meetings about the Trolley Trail before it was built and several people voiced their concerns about it. Since it’s completion, though, I have seen nothing but happy users on it everyday, mostly families walking as a matter of fact. It has been an excellent change. I would hope this outcome would be the same.

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  • Spiffy August 31, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    the land is actually owned by the federal government

    residents have even posted “Private Property” signs in the area

    vandalism of federal property is a serious crime…

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    • q`Tzal August 31, 2012 at 5:30 pm

      Do they have a license to play a sport as dangerous as lacrosse on federal land?
      Think of the taxpayer liability if we allow this to continue.

      (I’m only mostly kidding)

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  • Dan August 31, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Terry D
    I really hope this gets built…it would give us a reason to actually ride on the west side.

    Actually, there are LOTS of great roads to ride on the west side. Just looking at the area between Hwy 26 & Hwy 30:

    * Skyline
    * Old Germantown
    * Jackson Quarry
    * Moreland
    * Logie
    * Newberry
    * McNamee
    * Thompson
    * Helvetia/Phillips
    * Springville

    Beautiful farmland, hills, forests. Lots of roads with little to no traffic if you know where to look.

    Just to dispel that myth….

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  • Terry D August 31, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    A few of those roads are scary to drive on, let alone bike, but I agree with your overall point. None of these however are close to the ease and relaxation of riding the springwater to Gresham or soon Boring, stoping to get lunch and walking around some new urban node and then riding home either the same, or an alternatively entertaining route.

    That is the kind of network we need in all directions. I do admit though that my knowledge of the west side is lacking. I have only spent one or two dozen days actually biking routes there (if you exclude my commuting days into deep SW PDX), but was unhappy with the conductivity almost every time……each route had some difficult section where I had to stare at the map say…how do I get around that?

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    • Dan August 31, 2012 at 3:18 pm

      Funny, I find the Springwater to be kind of stressful to ride on :) Too much head-on traffic within inches of my handlebars!

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  • the other dan August 31, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Dan
    Funny, I find the Springwater to be kind of stressful to ride on :) Too much head-on traffic within inches of my handlebars!
    Recommended 1

    I’m with you, the Springwater is not so hot for long rides – too many stops, and too much traffic. I’d much rather head out to Skyline, Germantown, etc.

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  • Oliver August 31, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    I’ve had discussions with my conservative friends and they hate paths. In case folks haven’t noticed they are obsessed with the appearance of security. “I pay ‘good money’ to live out here in the homogeneous suburbs, and now you want put in a way for unmonitored riff-raff to be able to bypass our gates or cul-de-sacs?” “…for them to be able to walk right up into my yard?”

    No.

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    • Oliver August 31, 2012 at 5:09 pm

      Case in point, from Dan’s link above

      “A flood of non-residents into our greenspace”

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    • Rol August 31, 2012 at 8:42 pm

      Excellent choice of wording: “the appearance of security.”

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      • Rol August 31, 2012 at 8:45 pm

        The “Crime Train” (a.k.a. MAX to Vancouver) was derailed (chortle chortle) by pandering to that same illusion.

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  • dwainedibbly August 31, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Scroom!!

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  • Dan August 31, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    By ‘our’ greenspace, I assume he means the space that we as
    homeowners pay to maintain. No, we don’t technically own it but we do sort of oversee it.

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    • q`Tzal August 31, 2012 at 6:52 pm

      Yes, we as federal tax payers all pay to maintain that property.
      Please continue justifying why proximity is 9/10ths of ownership.

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      • Dan August 31, 2012 at 7:45 pm

        No, I mean that homeowners pay $475 per year, some of which goes directly toward making that greenspace look nice. In addition to what we pay in federal taxes.

        Look, you’re taking the word ‘our’ way too literally. When I say ‘our kids’, I don’t mean I OWN them. Our Oak Hills? Hell yeah. Our home. You might say ‘Our Woodstock’ or wherever you live. I wouldn’t assume you owned the place. Please.

        [Stick to picking apart the arguments in there that don't hold water, like the 'lacrosse balls + kids', or the excessive parking issues. I mean, I ride in on the Hwy 26 bike path, probably the most heavily used bike path in Beaverton, and there are NO parking issues there.]

        Oak Hills is very much a community, with its own community center, its own recreation district (we are unfortunately not part of THPRD), its own newsletter, its own activities, etc. The greenspace that spiderwebs through the inside of the loop ties everything together with paths, parks & open space that everyone enjoys. There is very little else like it in the metro area. Check the map to see what I mean:

        https://maps.google.com/?ll=45.53873,-122.827406&spn=0.013031,0.033023&t=m&z=16&lci=bike

        Personally, I am completely in favor of the bike path, not for me but for others. Some folks could really use the exercise. And I’ve talked to people who feel trapped inside the loop because they are afraid to bike on Cornell to the south, Bethany to the west, West Union to the north, or 143rd to the east. A path running through Oak Hills that gets us out of that box would be really helpful.

        OHHA has made no such argument about any of this – they have not taken a side. They have just asked for a seat as the table. Some homeowners have vocally taken a position against the path – that is all. Please try to understand the distinction.

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  • q`Tzal August 31, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    OHHA’s whole argument basically boils down to “But we been using this property for free for so long it must be ours!”
    This is not a valid argument.

    And their spokesman’s indignation at being characterized as rich, xenophobic snobs is hilarious in the context of their own own website title “OUR OAK HILLS“; as if they own it. This only serves to further reinforce the view of the OHHA as an organization of rich, xenophobic snobs.

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  • Erik August 31, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    I just re-read the fanno creek extension. I wonder what the homeowners would say about the trail now. Follow up story? I ride through there several times a week, hardly ever see anyone and don’t really notice the homes. When I do see someone it’s usually a couple walking a dog. Maybe it will be different in the winter when the leaves are gone. Then again their view would just be the backs of business/warehouses and trucks, etc.

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    • Rick Hamell September 1, 2012 at 6:49 pm

      The view, and usage, doesn’t really much change in the winter.

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  • jim August 31, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    Theres nothing like a hike in the secluded wilderness with the buzzing of high powerlines over your head.

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  • Joe Adamski September 1, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    When the Springwater was built, some adjacent property owners were pretty critical, saying that their house values would decline, predicted quantum increases in crime and livability issues.
    Houses adjacent to springwater now enjoy increased property values. Once OH neighbors realize the benefits, and especially if they engage and work to insure the trails will be well planned to mitigate concerns and enhance their benefit, they will soon forget they were initially opposed.

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  • q`Tzal September 2, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Dan
    No, I mean that homeowners pay $475 per year, some of which goes directly toward making that greenspace look nice. In addition to what we pay in federal taxes.

    See, this right here pretty much explains OHHA’s position.
    If the picture on the OHHA site is any indication your neighborhood is putting more work, cost wise, in to the maintenance than any of the local parks organizations.
    Odds are if the maintenance was left up to the federal government it would be a struggle to keep the weeds cut back enough to not be a fire hazard.

    While this was primarily a local use park it made more sense that OHHA paid for the higher standard of upkeep.
    Now that it is to be rolled in to a larger THRD and Metro regional parks system, with all the increased use that entails, it makes sense that the maintenance costs be shared with or even completely taken over by the owners/managers.

    I don’t know if the feds do any terrain control there but the amount needed to allow convenient maintenance of power lines is miniscule compared to what needs to be done to call this a park. I propose they pay from 20%~30% of up keep costs.
    If THRD and Metro Parks want to call this a park they ought to put some effort in to maintaining it as such. I honestly think they should split 70% of the total costs of landscaping and clean up costs.
    Realistically, however, OHHA has a higher standard of how they want their neighborhood to look. I think 5%~10% of the total costs should help to cover the extra costs above and beyond what out local parks departments are willing to cough up.

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  • Jimbo September 2, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    My house happens to back up to the path. I can’t wait to see my tax dollars spent on something I really want!

    I just my throw a party when it’s completed…

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  • dr2chase September 3, 2012 at 11:55 am

    You would think that homeowners would check to see what happened with other bike paths opposed by abutters. When they get built, crime does not surge, and property values go up.

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  • Richard September 6, 2012 at 9:40 am

    One correction. It is 143rd and not 43rd.
    I am not sure this is even necessary. Its pretty easy to just ride through Oak Hills on the roads. Then you can just take Burton to Saltzman where there are nice, new bike lanes going either direction.
    Money better spend to get from Bethany to Forest Park or downtown would be sharrows going up Thomson (especially the lower part) and/or a safe passage underneath highway 26 to get to the bike path down by the highway.

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