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Property owner stands by decision to close off Springwater path

Posted by on October 12th, 2012 at 2:19 pm

“All I want to do is protect our members and our property… This is not a freeway.”
— Terry Emmert, owner of the Eastmoreland Racquet Club

Terry Emmert, the owner of the Eastmoreland Racquet Club (and Emmert International), takes full responsibility for erecting an iron gate across a spur of the Springwater Corridor Trail in southeast Portland. Despite outcry from nearby residents who use the short section of the path to access the Springwater, opposition from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), and murky legal standing, Emmert says he’s simply protecting his private property.

Today the City of Portland announced that they have reached an agreement with Emmert to move his gate further west, back onto his own property. While this takes the gate off of City property, public access through the Eastmoreland Racquet Club will remain closed.

I spoke with Emmert about this issue on the phone Wednesday.

Emmert recalled the similar dust-up he had with the City of Portland over this issue back in 2004. He said he disagreed with the City’s assessment that the easement through his property is part of the Springwater Trail. “They told my daughter they had the God-given right to come through our property… our parking lot… and I said ‘no’. It’s my understanding that the pass-through through our private property was made only four our members and for residents of the Racquet Club Estates.”

Emmert told me stories of many car break-ins, slashed tires, and vandalism on his property. He also said people had established camps on the property and that he has found numerous drug needles in Johnson Creek. “We’re not going to tolerate it,” he continued, “So I said I’m going to install a locking gate.”

Emmert also said his daughter has been approached by “vagrants” as she left the club late one night.

Eventually, Emmert says someone broke down the gate with a sledgehammer several years ago and he never repaired it. “It was out of sight, out of mind,” he recalled. He said people had stopped coming through, so he figured the situation would be O.K. Then, more recently, he got a call from someone asking about his liability insurance carrier. “They said they fell off their bike because they hit gravel in one of our parking lots and wanted to know where to turn in their claim.” Then another person allegedly asked Emmert to remove the speed bumps in the parking lot so they wouldn’t crash while biking. Emmert said the people weren’t members of his club so they had no right to be on the property in the first place.

Coming down, but being re-installed nearby.
(Photo: Morrie Erickson)

Then when a club member told Emmert she was afraid to leave the club at night, he decided, “Enough is enough. That’s it. I’m done.”

Emmert says his primary concern is preventing crime and keeping his club members safe. “There are very nice people who ride bikes and who jog,” he said, “But you also have a very high crime rate on that corridor and the people that are coming through here are less than desirable.”

The way Emmert tells it, he has given the City of Portland many opportunities to take care of the issue, to have more of a police presence, and to do something about all the crime and drug activity. But he says they haven’t done enough. “I was down there two days before I put the gate, and I see this man coming down the trail with a backpack and a six-pack of beer. He was so wigged-out on something he was like a tape machine on double speed. He said to me, ‘Hey! I live here! How am I going to get down there if you put this gate?!’”

“I’m not going to subject people to that type of encounter,” Emmery says, “I’ll be damned if we’re going to let this happen on our property.”

To keep the path open for members and residents (and what he called “responsible people), Emmert said he’d gladly issue keys to the lock and/or install a security key-code.

When I asked Emmert what he thinks about people who are opposed to the loss of access, he said he’s sorry it’s had to come to this. He also adds that he wants to be a good neighbor and that he’s open to working with people to help solve the problem. But he’s not budging on the gate. “All I want to do is protect our members and our property… This is not a freeway.”

Now that the City has completed the Three Bridges portion of the Springwater (back in 2006), Emmert feels even more strongly that there’s no need for the public to have access through his property. “After they put new bridge in, I said, ‘Stop sending them through my property!’”

———

A spokesperson for the Parks Bureau told me today that the Bureau of Development Services is currently researching the easement issue. Like I shared earlier this week, City documents show that the Racquet Club was once required to maintain a public easement for a trail; but Emmert says that requirement was on a land-use permit for an expansion of the club that never actually happened. Also, the City seems unwilling (in my opinion) to push this issue, given that this is only a convenient spur of the Springwater, and losing it wouldn’t lead to an outright gap in connectivity. Also, it doesn’t appear to me that Emmert will back down, and the last thing the City wants is to get mired down in an ugly land-use fight.

Parks says they’ll put up signs in the area by next week telling path users about the closure.

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  • 9watts October 12, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    “…he wants to be a good neighbor and [...]he’s open to working with people to help solve the problem.”

    He sounds like the kind of guy who is into compromise.

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    • q`Tzal October 12, 2012 at 2:55 pm

      You forgot your sarcasm tag.
      </s>

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    • Fredf October 13, 2012 at 7:15 pm

      My friends, don’t be decieved bt Terry’s comments, he doesn’t care about his members, there are no members anymore. He terminated all the memberships and it it now leased as a basketball/ volleyball rental facilty, conducting events, in violation of conditional use for a residential area. He’s thinking the people forgot about the condition use 90 90, he trying to take advantage of us. Do a web search and see what kind of individual he really is

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  • CycleBob October 12, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    If this is his property, he should have a right to keep people off of it. If you want someone to blame, blame the idiot who asked who his insurance provider is. That is the real problem here.

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    • Phil Kulak October 12, 2012 at 3:14 pm

      Sounds like the city has an easement, so no, he has _zero_ right to keep people off. That’s what an easement is. It would be like me putting a gate on the sidewalk in front of my house. Sure, it’s _my_ property, but the sidewalk is not mine to do with as I please. If he is so concerned with isolating himself from the undesirables, he should have bought some other property. Maybe something he can put a mote around.

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      • cyclebob October 12, 2012 at 3:20 pm

        I find it hard to believe that the city put in an easment through the middle of his property. This is not a city sidewalk like you are suggesting. It is through the middle of the property. We likely don’t know the full story here. Was it a temporary easment until the bridges were built. I don’t know. I doubt you do either. As far as the easment through the middle of his property, the city would lose that all day and every day in court. See City of Tigard v A Boy plumbing. It went all the way to the supreme court with a final ruling that the city could not just take their property. Again. This is not a city sidewalk as you had mentioned.

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        • Chris I October 12, 2012 at 6:17 pm

          It’s not the middle of the property. It’s on the edge… much like a sidewalk.

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          • John Lascurettes October 14, 2012 at 3:53 pm

            And it doesn’t need to be a sidewalk to be an easement. Easements are made for all kinds of reasons not even related solely to the movement of the public (shared property lines for driveways, public utility access, etc.). That there is an official public access easement on the books (there are also de-facto or implied easements, but this one is official) means he’s in murky legal standing – but as Jonathan points out, it’s probably not worth it to the Parks & Rec to fight it.

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        • Dan Morrison October 16, 2012 at 5:16 pm

          You’ve obviously never seen easements then. Sidewalk Easements, utility (public and private) can go through all sorts of properties. Without seeing the ALTA Survey, I can’t comment on the easement location and description and either can you.

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      • Caleb October 12, 2012 at 3:22 pm

        The article makes it apparent there is still confusion about that easement, so I wouldn’t be so quick to make the conclusion you have.

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      • Pete October 12, 2012 at 8:53 pm

        It depends upon the type of easement – water rights easement, street easement, etc. A property easement by the city does not mean the public has access to the property, it means the city maintains the rights to convert the portion of the property for it’s reserved use should the need arise. It also means if the city chooses to execute on those rights it assumes liability for people using/working on that easement.

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    • Phil Kulak October 12, 2012 at 3:17 pm

      Also keep in mind that he has the right to put up fences on any part of his property that’s not subject to the easement. For example, fence along both sides of the path as is goes through his property. He didn’t do that, though it sounds like it’s in the works.

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  • Tammie October 12, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    I have to say, that living very near this part of the path and using it several times a week that there is plenty of access to the Springwater without using the club property.

    I think the owner may have left the fence open had some idiot not been sue-happy over a spill on some gravel. Really? You’re suing because you fell? You’re just the type of cyclist that makes people angry toward cyclists who follow the law and accept that falling once in a while is par for the course.

    You can’t blame the property owner from wanting to protect himself against being sued or for not wanting vagrants on his property. Would you want to be sued because someone tripped in your driveway? Would you want criminals lurking in your backyard? No.

    Even as an avid cyclist I get so sick of this attitude in Portland that everything and everyone must cater to cyclists. Focus on more important issues for cyclists like getting the city to keep bike lanes clean of debris, not keeping a tiny easement open when there are 1) other ways to get to the Springwater path and 2) the property owner is trying to protect himself.

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    • Pliny October 12, 2012 at 3:09 pm

      Unless you need access to EB Tacoma or SB 32nd, in which case your only choices are taking Johnson Creek Blvd from 45th or crossing the bridge and doubling back across McLoughlin.

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    • Allan October 12, 2012 at 3:17 pm

      Don’t assume that the medical bills were not going to create a tremendous hardship.

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      • cyclebob October 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm

        Why not. I don’t know how much money he has. I doubt you do either. Honestly, it doesn’t matter To him $1 might be a hardship. Just because somebody has money doesn’t mean other people have a right to take it because they fell off of their bike on what the city says is city property.

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        • Chris I October 12, 2012 at 6:24 pm

          You don’t seem to understand what an easement is…
          If you don’t clean ice off of your sidewalk in a timely manner, you can be sued if someone slips and injures themselves.

          http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?c=28857#cid_379393

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          • Vance Longwell October 13, 2012 at 8:12 am

            IChris I – too am dismayed by the general ignorance displayed regarding the definition of an easement. A prime example of a city easement are the so-called planting strips Portland uses to protect automobile parking on public highways. Newcomers here are often aware of, and therefore not surprised by, a mandate to maintain the public sidewalk in front of their property. However, in my experience, the fact that the highway easement is city, and not public in any way, property, and further still, that they are required to maintain the easement with planted grass which must be kept trimmed, is just something noobs can’t get their head around.

            I begin to understand why.

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          • Caleb October 15, 2012 at 1:45 pm

            An aside: maybe that’s something we’d be wise to change. How about a bunch of hypothetical circumstance? If we’re walking on an icy lake, we act cautiously to avoid slipping, and when we do slip, we don’t expect anybody but ourselves to be held responsible. We know we’re walking on an icy lake where such things can easily happen, so we expect ourselves to be prepared for the relatively dangerous circumstances. But in a city, we think differently. The primary difference between that icy lake and a sidewalk appears to me that we expect a sidewalk to be convenient due to precedence set for generations, and we know that convenience is provided by the work of somebody. We know we could put cleats on our shoes like we do to walk on icy lakes, but we choose not to change our habits, because we know somebody else is legally obligated to change theirs. Maybe to simplify society, we could stop having all these expectations for convenience tied to legal obligations, and instead let convenience come from willing creators. As we wait for people to be inspired, we could further sharpen the vigilance we practice in keeping our bodies from harm. When parameters allow, one can ride around gravel in a parking lot. When they don’t allow, one can get off the bike and walk for a bit. Sometimes gravel falls in our route between sweepings.

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  • Alex Reed October 12, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    If this were the only access for many blocks around to a freeway for cars, you can bet the City would be pushing harder to enforce the easement….

    Recommended Thumb up 7

  • Sbrock October 12, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    The “crime wave” and “freeway” discribed sounds very suspect??

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  • CaptainKarma October 12, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    His “insurance claims” and vandalism, etc seem a bit off-the-cuff. Just my intuition, but I’d like to see facts, reports, etc. Guess he doesn’t have to give proof to me, but it looks like he wants to gut the operation and sell out Bain Capital style. Def not a community player.

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    • CycleBob October 12, 2012 at 2:58 pm

      If you look at the Portland Police crime mapper website, it does show crimes occuring in that area. You should do a little research before posting next time giving us your “intuition”

      Recommended Thumb up 15

    • Vance Longwell October 13, 2012 at 8:19 am

      CaptainKarma – Just what, pray tell, is a, “community player”? And how does exercising one’s property rights make one, not one? Moreover, if you’re so concerned with the, “community”, then why did you move here? Was it not obvious to you that skyrocketing population density is destroying the city’s infrastructure, economy, cleanliness, parks, public resources, and on, and…? ‘Cause that makes you sound pretty much not, “a community player”. Or do you only make up rules for other people to follow?

      Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Justin October 12, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    Is this the same Terry Emmert of Emmert International?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Justin October 12, 2012 at 2:56 pm

      Oops. Yes it is. I withdraw my comment.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Sbrock October 12, 2012 at 3:00 pm

      Yep.

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    • q`Tzal October 12, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      Found an Oregon based Emmert International.
      On the theory that the founder of the company would be most proud of their own name in their 1st official press release (2003) I found that Terry W. Emmert founded this Clackamas based company in 1964.

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  • John Mulvey October 12, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    I’m surprised Mr. Emmert didn’t use the old standby: “public urination.” Whether it’s homelessness in downtown or Last Thursday, raising the dreaded “p.u.” seems to always put an end to the debate.

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  • karl d October 12, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    I though the club was closed? So he may have development plans.

    1. Eastmoreland Racquet Club is closing, sad news for the Portland tennis community. Historically the club hosted numerous pro tournaments during the 1970s and has been an important part of league play, City League, and junior/adult tournaments. Obviously it’s even sadder news for the many Eastmoreland members who, as of Aug. 15th, are simply out of luck unless they want to play at Clackamas River Racquet Club in Gladstone which is under the same ownership. Reportedly the outdoor courts will remain but the indoor courts are being converted to an indoor sports facility featuring basketball and volleyball. The ripple effect of the closure will affect Portland Tennis Center, the closest indoor facility, as Eastmoreland players look for new teams/leagues and indoor playing opportunities. Keep this in mind if, as league/City League captains, you need players.

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  • Perry October 12, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Hint: One Helluva Link There, Jonathan

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  • Sylvia October 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    As a former member of the Eastmoreland Racquet club I can only say that Terry Emmert is an embarrassment. He is well known for dubious business practices. The way he handled the closing of the racquet club was shameful – especially dismissing employees with over 30 years of service without any acknowledgement or even thanks. I won’t ever do business with Terry again.

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  • Allan October 12, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    At the end of the day, if the city can’t keep a handle of crime on the springwater trail, I wouldn’t be surprised if more people living near the trail want to close their accesses.

    That is the root of the problem. Sure, this guy may be causing you anger right now, but I would try to strike the root of the problem and then reach out to this guy. I’ve been told by the Portland Police that the best way to get rid of problems in a park is ‘positive use’. In this case that means people using the trail and not being afraid to call the police. If cyclists are just going through not reporting questionable actions going on around them then this problem is just going to get worse. Think about it!

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    • John Mulvey October 12, 2012 at 4:06 pm

      What action do you think bicyclists should take? I’m supposed to call the police anytime I see someone Mr. Emmert might call a vagrant?

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      • Sunny October 12, 2012 at 6:17 pm

        just the ones oogling his daughter

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    • davemess October 13, 2012 at 10:50 am

      Yes, I agree. Even if some people think the owner is a little misguided in his fence erection, he brings up a good point about lack of police presence on the Springwater. How many articles has Jonathan posted the last few months about these same kind of issues? A little enforcement would definitely help.

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  • Sunny October 12, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    He could have just hung a “No Vagrants” sign. I know of no vagrant that would not comply.

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  • Spiffy October 12, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    whoever built that bridge and path should be the one who decides who gets to use it…

    I suspect that’s the Park’s Dept because I don’t see that as something the club would have built…

    I’d bet that when it was built there was an agreement on who could use it…

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    • cyclebob October 12, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      No… Whoever owns the path should decide. If the city has a proper , legal easment, then by all means, they control its use. If they don’t, then he should control it. If you go by your logic, I need your address so I can come by and build my hot tub on your front lawn. Just a warning…. I wear a speedo

      Recommended Thumb up 7

  • Joe October 12, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    ahh man would one get a ticket if they go into this area by bike?
    wait he can just put up a sign that reads “Caution Zombies Ahead”

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  • Perry October 12, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Perry
    Hint: One Helluva Link There, Jonathan
    Recommended 0

    There you go…silly tags.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • resopmok October 12, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Sounds like the city is being as reasonable as they can on the issue without wasting taxpayer money (if only they could be so wise with the money they do allocate to spend..) by forcing Emmert to move the gate onto his own property. There are alternatives for access, even if they are not as convenient, so it’s not worth fighting a legal battle they could very well lose.

    I doubt Emmert is being dishonest in his reasoning for the gate’s installation, however it is still primarily based on anecdotal evidence. Furthermore, there is nothing to say that the gate will help curb the crime and vagrancy he describes beyond the short term without an adjoining fence of enough length to deter its circumvention. Trying to isolate himself from what he perceives as the problem is reactionary and short-sighted. As a responsible property owner who is interested not only in the well being of his own property but of his neighbors and fellows citizens, he should be working with the city to find a long-term solution for many of those who have taken it on the bad side of this recession. Suppose, for example, he set up a small picnic shelter or even portable tent that fed hot meals to the homeless in the area three nights a week. He could network directly with them, make acquaintances, and try to work with them to keep the area safe for both residents and passers-through.

    If Emmert were truly community minded, his action would be not to close himself and his property off from it, but to open both things to it and reap the benefits it has to offer.

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  • q`Tzal October 12, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    I think that any prior agreement about public access should be honored.

    Especially in regards to the liability issues of public users being injured on private property he has a very valid concern.

    Crime occurs wherever there are people so I really can’t muster much sympathy; the urbanization of that area has been a long time coming so it should be no surprise that crime levels no longer resemble the bucolic rural pasture this once was.

    Someone once said “sunshine is the best disinfectant”. In this case it can be taken 3 ways:
    () clearing brush cover and natural hiding places will reduce camping and ambush points
    () literal bright lights and unshaded parts of his property will be more noticeable, more noticed and thus more literally clean
    () by drawing public attention to the issue here he can achieve concessions that protect his interests while potentially leaving the path open.

    I envision a scenario where he knows he legally has to leave the path open but has no protection from frivolous lawsuits from slip-and-fall-artists. In this economy this business man is smart enough to know that increased police enforcement will cost tax money that doesn’t exist and won’t be approved at the ballot box. HOWEVER, if he is a shrewd business man that has survived for this long he knows how to use an issue as a negotiation point.

    From here any concessions he makes to the public good can only make him look golden.

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  • Adam October 12, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    It’s bizarre. Could he do anything more compelling to advertise his business in such a negative light? Any hopes I might ever have entertained towards joining this club down the line have now totally evaporated. I feel so sorry for the neighbors of this business.

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  • Sunny October 12, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em — the vagrants, that is. There’s a hobo path that goes south from the corner of the gravel roads 28th and harney that goes directly to Springwater. It can be seen on google maps and is a few feet northeast of the sherrett st entry. Happy trails everybody! Don’t get raped.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Sunny October 12, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Wouldn’t folks in Eastmoreland just walk across the golf course?

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    • Psyfalcon October 13, 2012 at 9:37 am

      To where?

      There is a railroad and highway to the west. To the south (where the main springwater is) there is a creek that can flood to high levels.

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  • Joe October 13, 2012 at 9:33 am

    The author of this story did a pretty good job presenting both sides of the issue – - Something you hardly ever read anymore. Nicely done.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Smitty October 13, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    Rode by there this morning and the gate has been re-located 100ft or so west of where it was.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • JJJ October 14, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    A sledgehammer, eh?

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  • tonyt October 14, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    Given that it seems that this trail has been used for years, I believe that “Easement by prescription” might apply here.

    Nothing needs to be agreed upon for there to be an easement by prescription. Nothing needs to be signed. Just the fact that people have been using this trail through his property for years makes it real. In Oregon the requirement is 10 years.

    Of course there are other conditions that need to be met for it to stick, but at a glance it sure seems arguable.

    Those who are saying, “Hey it’s his property, he can do what he wants,” are simply not acknowledging the complexity of the laws that govern this.

    http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/oregon-law-of-prescriptive-easement

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  • velo October 15, 2012 at 6:13 am

    If there is a City easement the City needs to enforce that right. Easements are tied to the land, not the owner. His lack of awareness of this doesn’t change the situation.

    tonyt’s ‘easement by prescription’ sounds interesting – any lawyers care to comment?

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  • Oliver October 15, 2012 at 9:20 am

    “They told my daughter they had the God-given right to come through our property… our parking lot”

    A representative of the city told someone they had a “God given right”?

    I doubt that.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

    • Vance Longwell October 15, 2012 at 10:12 am

      Huh uh, guess again. I had a religious nut go all bible-thumper on me at the Department of Human Services the other day. State, not city, but I’m not at all surprised to learn of a comment like that coming from what you and I would consider a secular source. I complained only to be reminded that this form of speech is protected by the United States Constitution. Even though it feels all slimy when it actually happens.

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      • q`Tzal October 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm

        The problem is that the local management infrastructure is misinformed about the nature of civil servants’ free speech rights in the workplace.
        When dealing with the public they are supposed to keep their trap shut. As the public face of the bureaucracy individual workers are legally required to show no preference and exhibit no prejudice.

        What is protected is the right of civil servants to decorate their work space (office, cubicle, locker) with their religious preference and even wear religious jewelry to the extent that the public does not perceive a religious bias.
        The fact that many workplaces like this are socially selective for the social religious clique in the majority eventually makes them homogeneous to the point where any dissenting view is tantamount to a full frontal assault on their way of life.

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  • Doug October 16, 2012 at 12:11 am

    That’s the legal means I was searching for: “Easement by prescription”. Was used to keep trails open in the hills above Los Angeles 30 years ago. Probably has it’s root in English common law. If the public has been crossing your property for years and you haven’t stopped them, then a right for the public to cross it is established. There are all sorts of walking paths in England that cross farmers’ fields, etc., and there’s a dedicated constituency of walkers who make sure their access is maintained.

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  • Eric McClelland October 16, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Boy, I’ve got 2 thoughts about this. One, I know this section of trail very well, as I lived just up hill from johnson creek and 52nd for years. I’d ride through here at all times of day. It’s a beautiful sections of the springwater corridor and while I no longer live in this neighborhood, I’m sad to be loosing this as a throughway. Two, as a business owner myself, I can completely understand where Terry is coming from and I think his concerns for his club members and from the trail are valid.

    We’ll see what happens with the contractual end of this story, but maybe this area is over due for a beautification and infrastructure upgrade. I visualize a graded and paved trail that is as far from the club building as possible, a fence that runs alongside the entire length of the trail, landscaping, possibly some modifications to the driveway and front parking lot so that the fence can go all the way to the public right of way. Maybe this could be done in a way that feels like it improves Terry’s business.

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