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City of Gresham moves to close Springwater Trail at night

Posted by on December 11th, 2008 at 10:19 am

This flyer was passed out at a
meeting last night to announce the
Springwater closure.
(Click to enlarge)

At last night’s Multnomah County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting, BikePortland.org correspondent Matt Picio was surprised to hear about a decision to close the Springwater Corridor Trail at night.

According to Picio, the issue came up at the end of the meeting under an agenda item titled, “Springwater Trail and the City of Gresham – Discuss (5 minutes)”. When the item came up, Multnomah County bike and pedestrian coordinator (and staff liaison to the committee) Jennifer Dederich, passed out a flyer (PDF here) that outlined the new policy.

The flyer reads:

For everyone’s safety and enjoyment, please follow these rules: Parks, trails and greenways are closed 10:00pm to 5:00 am April 1 to September 30th and 8:00pm to 6:00 am October 1 to March 31.

The closure policy would bring the Springwater Trail in line with other Gresham park facilities. But Committee Chair and Gresham resident Greg Olson objects to the idea, and he’s already lobbying the City to make an exception.

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According to Picio, Olson (who I’ve been unable to reach for comment) objects to the new policy based on the premise that the trail should be treated like a transportation corridor and that it’s a vital link to jobs and other destinations for many citizens.

Bikes at Earth Day

The Springwater Trail is a
busy thoroughfare.
(Photo © J. Maus)

I spoke with Jennifer Dederich this morning and she confirmed that Mr. Olson is trying to put pressure on the city of Gresham to make an exception for the trail, but the issue remains unresolved. Olson also plans to send a letter opposing the policy to the Gresham City Council.

In addition to the question of whether Gresham will treat the trail as a park or a transportation corridor, further complicating the issue are the multiple jurisdictions that preside over the Springwater. The trail is maintained by the city of Gresham but it’s owned by the city of Portland.

It’s unclear at this point what exactly triggered the new closure policy (it’s actually more of a clarification of an existing policy, rather than a new policy), but it’s likely that issues of safety and budget concerns over maintaining the trail are at the heart of the issue. Also, at this point, we’re unclear if the closure policy applies to the entire length of the trail, or just the portions withing the city of Gresham.

It will be interesting to see how this story plays out. It could set a precedent for how cities treat greenway trails — as transportation facilities with the same regulation as roadways? Or as park facilities that are regulated as recreational areas?

The City of Portland did bike counts on the Springwater Corridor Trail over the summer and the findings showed a surprising percentage of the trips were made by commuters, and not by recreational riders (I’ll find the source for that in the next story).

Picio points out that the Gresham Parks and Recreation Subcommittee is meeting tomorrow evening and there’s a public comment period where he plans to voice his concerns. The meeting is from 6:30 – 9:30 pm at Gresham City Hall (1333 NW Eastman Parkway, Conf. Room 3A). More details here.

Stay tuned for more on this story as it develops.

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36 Comments
  • Matthew Denton December 11, 2008 at 10:30 am

    Define “Closed.”

    If they say that it is closed, and then use it as an excuse to kick the homeless off of it, but ignore people that aren’t homeless, that is one thing. If they say it is closed, and put up gates at each end, and give everyone on it tickets, that is another…

    (And don’t get me wrong, homelessness isn’t a crime, but there is a lot of injustices in the world that need to be remedied, and unfortunately, fighting for the rights of the homeless isn’t on my top 10…)

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  • Ethan December 11, 2008 at 10:38 am

    How much would it cost to move Gresham to Clark County?

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  • Mike December 11, 2008 at 10:44 am

    The Gresham mayor is one of the very very few young republicans in elected office in the (albeit generously defined) metro area.

    It should not be a surprise to anyone that this young gun could support playing the “tough on crime” / “who cares about civil liberties” card.

    Appealing to this mayor’s sympathies for cyclists and public amenities generally might reveal a tin ear to these notes of concern.

    Folks might instead want to look for real allies with leverage to lean-in. Maybe Burkholder or Bragdon or others on the Metro council can help move things in our favor?

    Either way, high-five to Picio and BikePortland for throwing some daylight on this story. Keep us posted.

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  • Glen Bolen December 11, 2008 at 10:45 am

    8 O’clock in the winter – that’s just silly. I have used that trail for transportation at night. In fact, I rode home to Portland from an evening meeting at the City of Gresham.

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  • GLV December 11, 2008 at 10:46 am

    “The trail is maintained by the city of Gresham but it’s owned by the city of Portland.”

    Really? The City of Portland owns the part of the trail that is in the City of Gresham? Are you sure about that?

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  • K'Tesh December 11, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Ok, so let’s close I5 after 10pm to protect drivers from themselves…

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  • Quentin December 11, 2008 at 11:03 am

    “For everyone’s safety and enjoyment…” !? I think they need to elaborate on exactly how everyone’s safety and enjoyment is enhanced by prohibiting normal, reasonable, everyday activities.

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  • Dave December 11, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Why not close Powell to cars after dark? Heck, let’s just bust out with a curfue so everyone has to be indoors after dark. Way to compliment Portland’s platinum status Gresham. …Sheesh.

    If I’m inclined,I’m going to ride it regardless of the time of day. If they aren’t interested in maintaining it after hours now, I’m not too concerned they’re going to make any strides in enforcement moving forward.

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  • Jessica Roberts December 11, 2008 at 11:19 am

    I remember when I worked at the BTA, there was a similar threat to close the Eastbank Esplanade at night, just like other Portland Park facilities. All we had to do was get the word out, and a huge number of bicyclists contacted the city to protest. They ended up (wisely) backing down.

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  • sue December 11, 2008 at 11:21 am

    That trail is a transportation corridor. No doubt. It’s also there for recreation. Geez, just like a street. If they’re going to close it, the better make huge, fast improvements to make the surrounding streets bike-friendly and safe. Obviously, Gresham needs a big dose of edu-bike-cation.

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  • dsaxena December 11, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Who should we right letters to? I don’t bike over that way very often (once every six months?) but this is pretty ridiculous in my book and would set a really bad precedent for the region.

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  • Bent Bloke December 11, 2008 at 11:24 am

    “For everyone’s safety and enjoyment …”

    So, forcing me to ride on Powell is supposed to be safer and more enjoyable? I don’t think so …

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  • Zaphod December 11, 2008 at 11:33 am

    This seems a simple case of not thinking it through. The author probably does not use a bicycle as transportation and thus considers it outlandish, risky…whatever to ride in the dark.

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  • Bjorn December 11, 2008 at 11:41 am

    If they don’t have the manpower to physically monitor the trail during the hours it is open, which currently I would say there isn’t much monitoring by law enforcement at all then closing it makes it more dangerous not less. The more normal law abiding people traveling up and down the trail at all hours the safer it is for everyone. If having it close at 8 causes people who would have rode one way at 7 and the other at 9 to drive instead then the trail is less safe at 7 than it would have been otherwise.

    Bjorn

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  • GlowBoy December 11, 2008 at 11:49 am

    You hit the nail on the head Bjorn. Keeping it OPEN makes it safer.

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  • I wonder if I could tie the ocean to your knees... December 11, 2008 at 11:51 am

    We don’t want Gresham over here in Clark County either.

    Maybe we can move it and the Pose festival east of Mt. Hood?

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  • Coyote December 11, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    It is road. It just a road that has not been modified for cars. A public right-of-way to convey people, goods, and services.

    I believe there is a regulation prohibiting commercial use of parks without a permit. So if Jonathon is using the trail to go to Gresham to conduct an interview, would he need a permit.

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  • TWA December 11, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Having commuted from N Portland to my work in Clackamas, the SW is a bit of a scary pump at night(less about homeless and more about the sex workers, pimps, and drugies). What about forming a guardian angels on wheels; voluntary patrol of springwater, eastbank, forest park…along with some lighting here and there.

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  • Kevin December 11, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    The ONLY portion of SCT that would be closed is the section that runs through Gresham. It starts at SE Jenne Rd. which is a mile or two east of the Powell Butte Entrance.

    The rest of SCT is managed by City of Portland Parks and I highly doubt there is talk of closing it all down. It is completely un-inforceable and would be expensive.

    It makes me wonder if the City of Gresham is doing this in order to control the camping population. In my opinion, having less people using the trail would only encourage more camping.

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  • Roger Geller December 11, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    If this trail was funded, even in part, with federal transportation dollars with the intent of either reducing congestion or improving air quality (i.e., with CMAQ funding), then I don’t believe the city can close it to legitimate transportation users/uses.

    Even if it wasn’t funded with CMAQ funds, but was simply funded with federal dollars–even in part–then I don’t believe they can close it.

    We ran into a similar issue with the Eastbank Esplanade several years ago and I believe the city determined that you cannot shut down a transportation facility, built with federal dollars, just because it was built and, in some ways, managed as a park.

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  • Jessica Roberts December 11, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    I asked George Hudson, currently principal at Alta Planning + Design and formerly at Portland Parks and Recreation, for his thoughts. Here’s what he said:

    “Having developed the Springwater Corridor I have an opinion on this. The project was funded with ISTEA dollars back in the early 90’s. ODOT required the project to be treated as a transportation corridor – no different than any other transportation corridor, and it shall therefore not be closed at night or at any other time except for maintenance or emergency reasons. This issue came up specifically because there was a desire by the managing agencies to gate trailhead areas to avoid night time problems. We were not allowed to do that – ODOT would have rejected the plans if gates were shown. I’m sure ODOT would hold a similar position today – since it’s funded with transportation dollars, it must remain open.

    I would ask what specific safety issues are they encountering and what measures have they taken to address those. Closure of the trail will most likely not solve the problem. Design and programmatic solutions would be more effective. “

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  • Jessica Roberts December 11, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    p.s. Roger, thanks for bursting my bubble. Here I thought I could take credit for leading the charge against the trail closure, and all along it was just a legal issue? 😉

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  • Jason December 11, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Actually, this kind of underscores my discomfort with bike paths and bike trails. In particular, cyclists cannot expect the same level of infrastructure support (lighting, police presence, and availability) that other roads get.

    As such, we should make it extremely clear to governmental agencies that it is precisely this sort of problem which is why we lobby for safer streets, better traffic enforcement, and better motorist behavior.

    D. Jason Penney
    Chair, Washington County BTC
    http://www.washcobtc.org

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  • Steven J. December 11, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Saw a new “no loitering” sign along the 205 pathway, just north of 99th St. Max station. Is obviously meant to control the homeless from camping under an overpass there.
    Something like that may be able to shelter the needs of the transportation sectors, while providing for safety concerns through Gresham.
    Pretty much Moot point if they don’t patrol it. Like mentioned before, take away the random conscientious rider willing to patrol randomly and you just may have LESS safety.

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  • Ron H December 11, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    Gosh, are they trying to save money on maintenance? I doubt they spent much/any money on maintaining the trail. As it is, the section of the Springwater that does run through Gresham is riddled with root bumps. It’s practically a washboard in places.
    Ron

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  • BURR December 11, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    closing it isn’t going to keep people out that want to walk in and camp illegally, but it will keep the legal cyclists out.

    🙁

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  • Stig December 11, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    I commute on the Springwater during those ‘closed’ hours. As a cyclist, I’m not wanted on the roads or the trails. Wonderful.

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  • dan Kearl December 11, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Has there been a spike in crime along the trail? Before jumping to conclusions about the closure someone should present some facts. Gresham may not have the funds to patrol the trail, and if it is not safe this is probably the reason for the closure. If no problems are occurring then there is no point to this and the city should explain the reason why it is taking this action. City parks are closed for this reason, they just don’t have the funds to police them.

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  • Matthew Denton December 11, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Jason #23:

    “In particular, cyclists cannot expect the same level of infrastructure support (lighting, police presence, and availability) that other roads get.”

    Why not?

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  • matt picio December 11, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    One minor correction- I had previously stated that I was going to try to make the meeting. I’ve just arrived back in Portland from work (I work in Hillsboro) and there is no way for me to make it out to the meeting tonight in time for the public comment period (which is at the beginning of the meeting). I do plan to write up my comments and submit them to both the Gresham Parks department and the mayor and city council.

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  • Blah Blah Blah December 11, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    How about closing it to meth heads and people with pitt bulls?

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  • JR December 12, 2008 at 12:55 am

    The trail has been open 24 hrs/day for over a decade.. what now (specific instances) has caused this concern and “need” to close the trail at night? Should we also close major streets where there are more car crashes at night? Should we close down 82nd Avenue at night because of prostitution? Let’s think hard about this.. If bicycle transportation is just as valid as automobile transportation, what makes this situation so special to demand evening closure???

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  • Byron December 12, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Can’t someone from the City of Gresham weigh in here with a response? It might help clarify matters a wee bit.

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  • Faux Porteur December 12, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Are there any posts about this on hhtp://dont.bikegresham.org?

    What’s the offical Internet punctuation for sarcasm? Are there reverse italics?

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  • Mike Fish December 14, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Mathew Denton: what an awful thing to say. My first instinct is that this will be a tool to kick people who are homeless off of the corridor and that is not OK either. What’s the point of fighting for rights of one group when you’re so apathetic about the rights of others? That’s just selfish and immoral.

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  • Matthew Denton January 8, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Did you do anything to complain about the total lack of investigation of the murder of man on the BART train in Oakland last week? What about the fact that the government of Sri Lanka is claiming that their current campaign of genocide is a “fight against terrorism,” and as such our government has actually been encouraging it? Or the fact that Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Southeastern Europe this week, when the current temperatures are in the 10F range, and it is quite likely that thousands of people are going to freeze to death?

    Keep in mind that these involve people actually dieing, not just people being told to move along, so while they aren’t local issues, they are quite a bit more important.

    But did you do anything about those issues? No? Why not? Probably the same reason I didn’t, life is only so long, and there are only so many battle one can fight in a day…

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