Special gravel coverage

Security concerns, drug-use along Springwater Corridor give some riders pause

Posted by on October 13th, 2011 at 2:31 pm

East Sunday Parkways-30

The Springwater at I-205.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Far from just a recreational trail, the Springwater Corridor is a vital active transportation route for thousands of Portlanders. Unfortunately, it’s also a place many people don’t feel safe bicycling through. In the past few weeks I’ve heard a growing number of concerned citizens who feel like certain sections of the Springwater in Southeast Portland are becoming too crime-ridden and dangerous to travel through.

Heidi Swift, who writes the Grit & Glimmer bike blog and writes a column in The Oregonian told us she was bicycling on the Springwater and almost ran into someone who came “stumbling out of the bushes.” “I never take it when it’s dark,” she added, “It’s really dicey back there and I definitely don’t feel safe.” Swift says the area between SE Bell Avenue and 82nd (where you turn off Johnson Creek Blvd) is the worst. “When I’m riding through that section at dusk or dark, I think about all the self-defense skills I know: my voice, fighting from the ground, my proximity to help, etc. I’m on full guard. It’s a shame, because it’s such a useful path.”

Jennifer Dynes, a resident and mother of two who lives right along the Springwater at SE 87th shared similar concerns with me via email a few weeks ago:

“I am not a commuter or sport cyclist, but I enjoy cycling and have ridden bikes all my life. I want to pass the love of biking and the Portland biking ethos to my children, ages 8 and 10. It would seem simple, since we live on SE 87th, right next to the Springwater Corridor bike trail. The problem is when I try to bike there I find myself wending my children through groups of drunk people, drug dealers, garbage, shopping carts, gang scrawl and aggressive dogs. I cannot enjoy the lovely (and salmon bearing) Johnson Creek because I am afraid of people living in the bushes.

I find this situation unacceptable… it is not the fault of the neighborhood, but of the Parks Department and the city for allowing an essentially lawless zone to fester on Springwater Trail.”

And then a few days ago I heard from Danny Knudsen, a North Portland resident who frequently rides the Springwater in the same area as the woman above. Danny wrote:

“This last weekend myself and two other riders witnessed a person shoot drugs out in the open pathway in front of kids and other riders. I have seen this on a ton of other rides and I also state that I wouldn’t ride that area (SE 82nd-ish) late in the day…

I have seen much more and would love to take you and the Mayor out for a ride to show what I have seen. This needs to stop!”

One of the issues with a shared-use path like the Springwater is that it doesn’t get the same amount of traffic, law enforcement attention or streetlights that a standard roadway does. It’s also managed by Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R), not the Bureau of Transportation. That detail reflects the feeling that it’s a recreational trail and therefore doesn’t need the same amount of maintenance and other resources.

However, the Springwater was funded by a Federal Highway Administration transportation grant and as such it is supposed to be regulated as a transportation corridor. This fact was made clear by the FHWA themselves back in 2009, when the City of Gresham considered closing a portion of the Springwater at night due to safety concerns.

They couldn’t, said the FHWA, because, “the Springwater (and Gresham/Fairview) Trails are principally transportation facilities.”

PP&R spokesman Mark Ross says the area between SE 82nd and Foster is “heavily patrolled” by Park Rangers. “They don’t do scheduled ‘sweeps'” he said, “but they do respond to calls for service and complaints.”

PP&R data shows that rangers have made 149 visits to this area in 2011. That’s compared to 116 visits in 2010. In the past two years, they’ve removed 219 camp sites and have written up individuals with 76 warnings and 57 exclusions (which prohibit the person from returning to the area for a specified amount of time). Ross also notes that budget cuts have led to a ranger staffing reduction of 50% in the past year “So we are doing much more with significantly less.”

Check out the stats below to see more about what park rangers have been up to:

When it comes to handling yourself on the Springwater at night, Brock Dittus, who lives near SE 87th and can see the Springwater Corridor from his living room window, says people should just take ordinary precautions.

“My wife make a practice of staying to well-lit areas when she’s alone… However, an adequate and bright light can provide visibility to cyclists using the path, and I don’t think twice about riding through here on my way to or from home.”

As for concerns about seeing people use drugs or doing other sketchy things, Dittus says it’s like wild animals; “don’t get in their way and they’ll leave you alone.”

If you ride in this area of the Springwater and have a safety concern that requires a park ranger, call the PP&R Security manager at (503) 823-5459.

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Chris October 13, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Meth is out of control in deep SE. The drunks and bums have never made me feel unsafe on the SWC, but the shirtless screaming tweakers have many times. I am beyond apathy for these people.

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  • Indy October 13, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    This comes down to people want security, but they don’t want taxes and fees to pay for the security.

    People want their children educated, but they don’t want to elect politicians that will raise taxes to pay for said fees.

    Where do you think homeless people are going to go? where CAN they go? WHere do you think drug users will go? in plain sight of the public’s eye?

    We want enforcement, but enforcement is extremely expensive compared to prevention. We have lobbying groups that want the public’s money, and they are winning versus loosely organized groups of people that want a basic path for transportation.

    Things will get a *lot* worse. When your government is 14 trillion dollars in the hole you will not see increased security on a small trail as a priority.

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    • Matt F October 14, 2011 at 8:33 am

      100% agree

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      • matt f October 15, 2011 at 8:06 am

        Let me change that to 99% agree. We do live in a place that has chosen to tax ourselves many times over the past 10 years for education, libraries, etc. So we’re not that delusional.

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    • wsbob October 14, 2011 at 10:32 am

      Paid security is expensive, but as I mentioned down in this post:


      …it’s probably possible for security to be increased on the Springwater by organizing, training and scheduling volunteers, as they normally travel the trail, to accurately observe and report activities that aren’t beneficial to the community’s interests.

      People camping out along the trail because they don’t have a place to live might not be such a big deal, if the people camping are compelled to limit their activity to temporary camping. Hard economic times have put people in such situations before…the Hoovervilles of the 30’s Depression years. I seem to recall reading that Sullivan’s Gulch was once the site of a Hooverville.

      Beyond simply camping, there’s probably not a good reason to allow the fights, drugs, excess drinking and other nasty stuff going on along the trail to continue on. This is the kind of situation where people can do the grass roots thing, by recognizing it’s their community, and that there are some little things they can do to set the community right without costing everyone a huge pile of money.

      It’s likely that with a more organized set of eyes, consistently watching the trail in co-ordination with some timely visits by the police in response to reported unacceptable activity, many of the people wanting to hang out along the trail for criminal activity would soon move along on their own accord.

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    • Nicholas Caleb March 13, 2014 at 4:40 pm

      Utah started housing and assigning a social servant to homeless people mainly because it is cheaper than policing, jailing, and hospitalizing them. It also happens to be the human thing to do.

      In Portland, we have the criminalization of homelessness.

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      • melody May 15, 2016 at 1:45 am

        Thank you! finally someone that understands I’ve been homeless since i was 13 and I’m 20 now you don’t see me using drugs or being violent i live in my van and everyday i go too that bike trail to visit one tent there that is the cleanest on record and they are great friends! just because you are houseless and homeless does not mean you are dangerous or a drug user or dirty “nasty” lol and or a threat or a junky/trailer trash just because you are surrounded by that environment and are blended in and are un noticed by the public does not make u one of those so call “Homeless junkies” or “a threat and terrified to go down the street” i am proud and have had met the most interesting lively ppl on my journey being on the streets I’ve traveled snd have i met dangerous ppl yes have i been in dangerous places/ dangerous ppl yes! but that will happen no matter where you go or who you’re around or any kinda lifestyle lol….it’s all how YOU live and look at it you can take anything and make it look bad

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  • Jeff October 13, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    I work near Clackamas Town Center and live in NE Portland so I also ride through here regularly. I’ve seen a lot of “business” going on but have never been hassled. I agree with the comment that by leaving them alone they leave us alone. PLUS they are too stoned to put up much chase anyway. That being said, I don’t condone it and wish it weren’t an issue. It is absolutely an obstacle to some other potential riders where I work. Haven’t seen actual drug use. The pattern seems to be that a scout is sitting on the side (often drinking a beer) and watching for the law. I’m not too freaked in the early morning. I figure they are sleeping it off. But dark rides home in the evening definately give me the creeps and I often wonder where the law is and how brazenly they are getting away with this.

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  • Faux Porteur October 13, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    Before the fear mongering gets out of hand: how many people have actually been accosted/assaulted/etc by these supposed homeless people/drug users/dealers while on the SWC?

    In my opinion, the real danger to people riding bikes continues to be poor infrastructure.

    As for “sketchy” peole hanging out on the path, police sweeps won’t help much. Properly funding social services for housing/psychological care/substance abuse care would do better.

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    • Randall S. October 13, 2011 at 3:10 pm

      I’m gonna go out on a limb here, and guess “0.” It’s just more “hide the homeless problem” mixed in with a little bit of “excuses for driving.”

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      • Chris October 13, 2011 at 4:12 pm

        I’ve never been accosted. Had a guy yell at me and try to step in front of me, and I have seen a guy playing chicken with cyclists coming the other direction and almost running a few off the path. (both instigators were tweaked out of their mind) – but I have never seen any actual physical violence.

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        • esther c October 13, 2011 at 10:46 pm

          A guy playing chicken with cyclists could result in broken bones for the cyclists. this isn’t minor.

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        • Nick February 5, 2016 at 12:37 am

          Old post I know, but this topic has been revitalized. Apparently, it’s not necessarily the homeless. It appears to be opportunistic jerks looking to bully and rob. I know it’s scary to some, but you can’t just let these folks take your shit, or run you off the trail. I suggest TRYING to group up when you can. People like this are cowards and usually fold like cheap suits when confronted. I realize this may not be an option for some….

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  • Steve October 13, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    I hope this results in results, because the springwater trail is one of the things that will ultimately save SE, but yeah. the hot spots are little wallows between 82nd and Se Luther. Since buying a house in Lents five years ago, this is my commute route to work downtown. I love it. but that little section has needed policing for the whole five years I’ve used the trail. The intoxication levels appear to be profound with these small bands of people just before sundown. At night, the general population of houseless people increases. headlamp strongly recommended. And a buddy.

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  • chad October 13, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    I’ve reported problems similar to this to SAFE hotline many times. There is also a large (and growing) encampment near the Ross Island Bridge. I’ve witnessed drug use there and the area is full of litter and smells of human waste. I’ve reported it several times and have yet to see anything change. I’ve never felt threatened there, but I do worry about all the garbage, drug paraphanelia and human waste going into the river. I think it’s time for a full time bicycle patrol by PPB on the Springwater (I have never once seen a cop on the Springwater).

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    • jeff October 13, 2011 at 3:47 pm

      I’ve seen a few PPB’s on the springwater, driving cruisers down the middle of it.

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  • rootbeerguy October 13, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    i have gone on that section many times. As long as I keep pedaling, I have not felt threatened by them yet.

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  • A.K. October 13, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    I’ve seen “activity” before but I’ve never been hassled. I also don’t bother then, harass them, or try to photograph them – I just keep on trucking by.

    However, I can understand the level of feeling “in danger” during such situations is different for folks of different ages, genders, and where they are at in their lives. As a childless adult male I don’t worry about it, but I can see where a mother of young children might be concerned, certainly.

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  • Wayne Myer October 13, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Much ado about nothing.

    Warning! Anecdotes ahead! I live near Felony Flats and frequently use the Springwater. My roommate (female) runs by herself at night on the Springwater and never had so much as a “boo.” I’ve had more issue with cyclists buzzing me as they ride past while I’m walking my dog. Seriously, I’m more worried about hitting unscooped dog bombs and horse apples.

    Faux Porteur hits it with the rhetorical question. Is it possible that something bad happens to someone? Sure. But that could happen anywhere.

    The timbre of the alarmists seems to be that of “I’d really rather not have to see that and I think somebody ought to do something about what I want.”

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  • Ed October 13, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I ride to and from work through that section of the Springwater, at Kaiser Sunnyside Hospital, 2 days a week, returning home after 8PM, which is of course after dark this time of year. I pass by folks who congregate and, at least many of whom, live on or just off the bike path. Quite a few even have bikes and/or bike trailers! A lot of them are familiar to me by now. We often exchange greetings. I’ve only occasionally encountered any gestures or actions that seemed at all aggressive or threatening, seemingly fueled by alcohol, but more unpleasant than really scary. No, they probably wouldn’t fit in at a meeting of 1,000 Friends of Oregon. But, does their presence constitute a real security issue? Jonathan, have there been any documented acts of violence or even theft in that area? I’d guess you’d have mentioned them if that had been the case.
    Having said all that, I’m aware the situation, very sadly and unfairly, is different for a female. But, even then, I don’t know that a trail lined by bushes with few houses and no businesses open is any safer for a woman biking alone at night, without than with homeless folks camping and drinking and, maybe, shooting up nearby. By the way, I have to wonder whether one can be sure what you’re seeing, riding by in the dark. Was someone really shooting up, or maybe you think that’s the case when that’s what their appearance makes you expect to see?

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  • G. Tyler October 13, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    I have had one scary incident in the past year but it was on the west side of 99E and it involved a group of non-homeless drunk guys on the bridge over Johnson creek. Luckily there were other bicyclists so it didn’t get any more involved than threats and name calling.

    I am a daily commuter on that path from Sellwood to 122nd and haven’t had any problems with homeless people that gather around the path. There is a group that frequents the path just about every evening west of Cartlandia but I have never seen them harass or give problems to bicyclists. Most of the time they stay off the path. At first I was uncomfortable with commuting alone and in the dark through there but like it was said earlier, don’t get in their way and they will leave you alone.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 13, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    The issue here is also about how the Springwater managed and regulated, compared to a standard roadway. I’d be curious how the maintenance money spent per mile compares to an arterial street.

    As for actual police reports. I didn’t ask for this story. I go by my gut, which is informed by monitoring many sources of information and relying on a large network of people who share information with me.

    In this case, I felt the multiple emails I got about a similar issue in a similar area warranted a story. I also thought it WA a good opportunity to learn more about what PP&R is doing security-wise.

    I also was curious to hear what others are seeing.
    If this is a non-issue than great! But my hunch is that it’s a serious issue for some people.

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    • q`Tzal October 13, 2011 at 4:05 pm

      This is an issue for the “Interested But Concerned” or “curious but paranoid” crowd.

      For current cyclists it is almost a non-issue.

      For the sake of cyclists being a larger share of total commute miles it is a major component of the fear that the “Interested But Concerned” feel on a bicycle.
      This fear may be irrational but it is still there.

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    • Chris October 13, 2011 at 4:14 pm

      This is an issue, I’m glad it’s getting coverage and you posted it. This is one of those issues that until something happens, everyone will blow it off as over-reaction. And after something happens, people will shake their heads and say “well someone should have seen the warning signs earlier.”

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    • eli bishop October 14, 2011 at 6:21 am

      yes, i personally know someone who wants to bike to work but is leery of that section. i am also leery, but i bike it anyway.

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  • Brandon Rhodes October 13, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    I live near 87th & the Springwater Corridor, too, and can attest to many uncomfortable situations, but never being threatened. I’ve become familiar with many of those folks by name, and now feel safer.

    Fact of the matter is, at least from what’s reached my ears: all of the violence I’ve known to go down on the trail is:

    1) gangs beating up homeless guys,
    2) towards prostitutes,
    3) cops raiding and/or harassing homeless folks.

    I’ve never known of the transients or drug abusers assaulting passers-by. They might make an odd noise to mess with you, or they might emerge from the bushes in an “I-don’t-care-if-you’re-uncomfortable-with-me” way.

    Like Brock said in the article, the folks we’re weirded out by, and often RIGHTLY SO, have no interest in us cyclists, and mean no harm. (that said, meth can make you do horrible stuff to strangers, but mostly these guys n gals are on heroin.)

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    • Brock Dittus October 16, 2011 at 1:27 pm

      Also, the recent eviction and fence-building that led to at least 20 people losing their temporary homes has caused many of those people to take up temporary residence in more visible locations around Flavel & 92nd, which probably leads to more public appearances of the things that make people riding the corridor nervous. It’s understandable, because most people don’t spend a lot of time immersed in transient culture, and anything that looks different can be unsettling whether there’s due cause for that or not. But even granting that people will be using drugs or drunk in public, I’d agree with the statement made that the perceptions can be more dangerous than the reality itself if we are motivated by fear more than by compassion.

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  • Cora Potter October 13, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    There have been a few assaults that I can vaguely recall within the last couple of years – but the skirmishes have occurred between the individuals that are camping off the trail – not between said individuals and passing commuters, neighbors and recreational users.

    The only danger I’ve encountered is the same sort of safety issue you’d experience on any right of way where there is the potential of intoxicated folks present, and that’s the potential for a collision because you don’t see them laying on the trail, or they stumble into you. That really makes the Springwater no different safety-wise than say Oldtown or 6th street in Austin. I think the cognitive dissonance comes from the expectations set by the sort of bucolic environment around the trail.

    But, a regular bicycle patrol would be fabulous. Especially if the officers had training in working with people that have mental health and addiction concerns.

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    • wsbob October 13, 2011 at 5:23 pm

      As volunteers, many people could and would likely do a lot of patrol work if the agencies responsible for the trail had such a program. This is partly how activity in the nature park out in Beaverton is monitored. I haven’t inquired into specifics of how the effort is managed, but I gather there’s some training involved, time scheduling, specified procedures for observing, interacting with visitors, contacting management, and so on.

      Because some but not all of what the volunteers are doing is security, their profile is low, but not completely inconspicuous. They’re also there to offer the public information about nature in the park, directions and so on.

      The Springwater is a long trail. It would take definitely take some carefully planned organization to improve the level of security it now has, but seems like something that could be done.

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      • Wayne Myer October 14, 2011 at 6:54 am

        This is an excellent idea. And nothing marginalizes untoward activity like a large amount of legal, “normal” human activity.

        And if the “Interested, But Concerned” group want something, they should pony up the money or sweat equity. But the active users of this resource (me included) should similarly respond with an equal contribution. A little bit from many would go a long way to making the Springwater what we all want from it.

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  • Jon October 13, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    I’d ask that everyone who sees a crime in Portland – including the Springwater – to call (503) 823-3333. This is the non-emergency number. Get home, get into dry clothes, eat a meal, but at some point call them. If police or park rangers are available, they can go check it out. More importantly, even if no officer goes, they’ll have the call on record. If the Springwater shows up as a hotspot of complaints, you better believe that they’ll clean it up. This is a very easy way to get involved and make your community better.

    Also, PP&R is changing how they handle security in downtown parks. Search the web. They’re in-housing daytime security, which may mean more park rangers willl be available to patrol the Springwater. Would I rather see PPB’s Traffic Division out there? Yes. But it happens to be PP&R turf and it looks like they’re making changes for the better.

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  • Scott October 13, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    We should actually open a lawless zone where all of this stuff can be done. Just make it not near where anyone that isn’t interested in illicit activities doesn’t need to go. The war on drugs is a failure. You will not stop drug use. Ever. Best case scenario is for those who do not want to involve to be able to avoid it.

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    • Scott October 13, 2011 at 4:46 pm

      I forgot to add that I have ridden the Springwater at all hours of day and night and never even felt kind of like I needed to be extra aware of anything other than nutria in my path and anyone who writes for the Oregonian knows that the scary stuff is what gets noticed. It’s mainstream news. They want the fear.

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    • A.K. October 13, 2011 at 5:02 pm

      Hamsterdam in Lents! YEAH!!!

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      • Hugh Johnson October 14, 2011 at 6:46 am

        Does Lents have enough problems?

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      • sw resident October 14, 2011 at 7:01 am

        LOL! I’m pretty sure I have heard a guy calling out “Yellow tops! WMD! right here!” I even saw the Bubbles Depo shopping cart last week. The difference between a fictional open-air drug market in Baltimore and here is that the Mayor knows about it!

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    • Brock Dittus October 16, 2011 at 1:23 pm

      rickemerson.com !

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  • John Lascurettes October 13, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    it is not the fault of the neighborhood, but of the Parks Department and the city for allowing an essentially lawless zone to fester on Springwater Trail.

    Well, it does go down to the neighbors too. The dogs are from the neighborhood for one. Additionally, the only successful “ordinary” neighborhoods that get cleaned up from a “festering” state are the ones that have heavy community involvement and don’t leave it all to the police (who are there in a support capacity and can’t do it all either). Think, Community Watch or Take Back the Night. Who the neighborhood is here I’m not sure – the people who live on the trail? The people who use it?

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    • q`Tzal October 13, 2011 at 5:11 pm

      Re: dogs
      Dog owners of the sort that are going to insist that their dog has the right to roam free are not going to be swayed by fines.
      Usually there has to be a gruesomely slaughtered canine carcass left out in plain view before they’ll obey the leash laws.

      It is interesting that of all the roaming dogs and all the supposed “dangerous” people that this area is also safe for dogs.


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  • grandpa October 13, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    This blog frequently addresses issues that concern me. Thanks Jonathan.

    I have been menaced a few times. Once by 4 young teens who had 3 40s of old english, once by a guy on a bike who came after me claiming I had stolen his bike, and I had the curious experience of being shadowed by a young fast guy with incredible BO and another where stumbling drunks caused me to deviate my course. I once called the police on a pedophile who had set up a toy display on a bench, and another time on a woman (homeless/camping) in Beggars Tick park who could not control her pit bull dogs.

    In reading the other comments I have to agree that the perception of hazard turned out to be greater than the actual threat.

    I think the whole corridor should be planted in food producing plants so that persons of forthright intentions would make greater use of that linear park. (I like native plants just fine, but willow thickest are perfect hobo warrens.)

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  • mudlips October 13, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    I commute both the 205 path from Burnside to Clackamas and the I-5 to Vancouver link through Delta Park and Jantzen Beach. Both have gangs loitering and hanging out but it’s the I-5 group where I’ve witnessed O.D.’s, drug deals, human excrament, etc. However, even with all of that making me uncomfortable, I’ve never been threatened in any way.

    I’ve seen signs of violence -piles of bottles broken on the path, been stopped by cops who said an altercation had been reported: had I seen anything, but never witnessed anything myself. And, in addition to the gang-like guys, there are lots of folks who seem to be just minding their business looking for a warm, dry place to hang. Today, they were bundled in the sleeping bags during the rain.

    I would hate to see police sweeps occur that treated all of these folks like criminals.

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    • Brock Dittus October 16, 2011 at 1:22 pm

      unfortunately it happens all too frequently. recently some folks were “evicted” from an informal campsite that had been undisturbed for at least 4 or 5 months behind the i-205 overpass at Flavel. Rightly or wrongly as far as land use and whose authority could remove these people, it was unfortunate that it had to happen on the rainiest day of the month. I’ve also seen PPB on their (motorized!) ATV units roaring down the corridor many times in the summer months looking for more campers to intimidate and drive away. That’s two approaches I don’t much care for.

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  • q`Tzal October 13, 2011 at 8:32 pm


    In reading the other comments I have to agree that the perception of hazard turned out to be greater than the actual threat.

    Perception of danger is more dangerous than than the danger itself.

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    • Grandpa October 14, 2011 at 7:09 am

      “Perception of danger is more dangerous than than the danger itself.”

      Please rephrase. As quoted it sounds like one could be physically harmed by perceptions

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      • q`Tzal October 14, 2011 at 10:46 am

        Been tryin` to be less long winded/ranty.

        “Perception of danger is more dangerous than than the danger itself.”

        Ignoring that some danger is actually real I am simply drawing attention to the fact that far to often in human history fear has been a root cause of greater human suffering in an effort to prevent human suffering.

        Rather than expound upon that which I’m not an expert I’ll point you where my googling shows those with better articulated and more historically and scientifically accurate theories.

        Without even the correct terminology I stumbled upon a NY Times op ed America’s History of Fear.
        Wandering around McCarthyism and Salem Witch Trials on Wikipedia finally unearthed the accepted historical terminology:
        Moral Panic
        The list of “see also” wiki entries it is related to is telling: Bullying, Culture of fear, Deviancy amplification spiral, Deviance, “Fear, uncertainty and doubt”, For the children, “Herd mentality, Mass hysteria, Missing white woman syndrome, Propaganda, Scapegoating, Seduction of the Innocent.

        Like the false story of Eskimos and their many words for “snow” we here have so many ways to describe fear induced societal stupidity.

        For a little light reading try the Google Scholar search results for “moral panic historical perspective“.

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  • Jacob October 13, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Only issue I’ve had was a few years ago a drunk transient had started a telephone pole on fire… ruined my favorite shirt putting it out. 😐

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  • GlowBoy October 13, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    I rode through here once this summer with my young child in our Madsen cargo bike. We got admiring comments both from homeless guys and from tweakers along the path, but no hassles.

    But then again, that was in broad daylight on a nice August weekend. Might not be dangerous statistically, but it sure wouldn’t FEEL safe by most people’s standards at night, and I wouldn’t judge anyone for not wanting to be there after dark.

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  • esther c October 13, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    I am a middle aged woman who works in an ER so I’m used to dealing with all manner of miscreants and crazies. They’re kind of “my peeps.” But not everyone is. I really feel that ordinary citizens should be able to go out and about in public and on the light rail without being accosted by weirdos. Maybe the person screaming at you is harmless but should you really have to endure being screamed at by someone you don’t know in public? Menacing is a misdemeanor after all.

    I would estimate that 10% of the time when I’m on the Max I have to endure some boring drunk trying to make conversation with me or sell me some stolen shoes or some other weird stuff. No I don’t have any cigarets for you. I don’t yap at strangers in public. I know how to politely tell them no, not interested because I deal with these people on a daily basis. I can tell the truly sick ones from the just plain assholes. But some people aren’t used to dealing with crazies and drunks and are held captive by them. And then they’re afraid to use public transportation.

    You want to shoot meth or heroin don’t do it on a public right of way. And then when you’re all crazy from doing it, don’t stand in the middle of a bike path and act like a horse’s ass.

    Sure we have a tragic problem with homelessness in this country. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk on the Springwater. If you’re drinking, doing drugs its exacerbating your problems, not helping matters at all.

    And yes, people have the right to be alarmed if people are jumping out of the bushes onto the trail at dusk and yelling at them just to get a rise out of them. Not everyone has the same tolerance level and I think expecting everyone to tolerate that is a bit much.

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  • was carless October 13, 2011 at 11:44 pm

    portlandmaps.com should show you the actual crime counts along the corridor, and you can get block-by-block crime stats and averages. Check it out.

    I have seen some campsites out there, but felt a little defensive when a friend and myself were trying to get some food + water near Johnson Creek. Whatever creepy-ass “Johnson Creek Market” services the area, I feel sorry for residents. I recall they didn’t even carry food (not even chocolate). Several tweakers gave me strange looks while watching our bikes.

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  • Jram October 14, 2011 at 12:33 am

    Just because someone has to sleep outside doesn’t mean they’re an animal. Sadly, this thought seems to set the tone for a lot of the above comments.

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    • JRB October 14, 2011 at 9:21 am

      I think you are overstating it. There a couple of posts that seem to be lacking in compassion, but I think most posters recognize that the homeless and/or addicts are people too and that we as a society have failed those who want to change their current situation. Being sensitive, however, doesn’t require folks to compromise their safety. Compassion also requires us to let folks express their concerns without judging them.

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    • esther c October 14, 2011 at 9:28 am

      No it doesn’t. And the ones that act like animals don’t make it any easier for the ones that don’t. You think its bad trying to ride a bike through there while people are shooting up meth then raging around? Can you imagine what its like trying to live there with those jerks if you were homeless.

      Not all homeless people are jerks but they’re not all saints either. There is a good reason a lot of them are socially bankrupt with no place to stay but on the street. And they’re making life very difficult for the ones that are there through no fault of their own, mental illness, bad circumstances etc.

      The predatory ones probably victimize the other homeless as their first victims.

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    • Brock Dittus October 16, 2011 at 1:17 pm

      I hope it didn’t come across that way. I am personally acquainted with a lot of the outdoor residents in my neighborhood and find them to be just like me in many respects. Here’s the quote I offered for this article in full:

      “…I don’t have a lot of experience with drug trade or gang violence, but my guess is that the advice given for wild animals in Yellowstone probably holds up – don’t get in their way and they’ll leave you alone. Drug related violence seems to most often be between dealers and buyers, or between people in possession, not directed at random passers-by.”

      I hope this clears up any misconception. Thanks for a compassionate bent, Jram.

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  • Spiffy October 14, 2011 at 8:03 am

    I’ve had a few times where people on drugs (alcohol, meth, whatever) were trying to scare me or get in my way as I rode down the path… usually always when I’m by myself…

    I’m always in a state of heightened awareness when riding the Springwater at night alone because of that…

    during the day it’s almost always good… or it’s at least less scary because you can see better…

    mostly the people will leave you alone or wave and make nice comments if you have a kid or a cool bike…

    it’s the few crazy ones that are ruining the experience for everybody… and this is the case for everything everywhere, not just the Springwater…

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  • K October 14, 2011 at 8:25 am

    I used to teach a bicycling class along the Springwater. The class started at the Johnson Creek parking lot along the trail, near SE 45th Avenue.

    One lady had her car broken into and handbag stolen while the class was taking place (she suspected someone was hiding in the trees watching to see who left what in their cars, as she put her purse into the trunk, which was the part of the car they broke into).

    A few weeks later, our trailer housing our bikes, which was stored at the trailhead, was also broken into, and two $800 bikes stolen.

    We ended up moving our bike class to a different bike trail. It was such a shame, as crime aside, that portion of the Springwater Trail is very beautiful, and quieter than other sections, thus making it a great location to teach people to ride a bike for the first time.

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    • Wayne Myer October 14, 2011 at 8:45 am

      It sounds like you’re describing just about any trailhead. Stuff left at a trailhead = stolen stuff. I’m not saying it is right, but it is the way these things go. Oregon seems generally better than other areas of the country, but in the Northeast a break-in was almost guaranteed.

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  • Lisa October 14, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Classism, pure and simple.

    As a woman who commutes and rides a lot of miles, I know there are places I need to avoid, especially at night, in order to increase my odds of staying safe. This applies to riding, walking, driving, whatever. On the bike, even though some routes are faster for me to take, I avoid them. I don’t travel on any of the interstate bike paths once it starts to get dark, the Springwater, the paths down by Columbia Villa, that little section of trail under the bridge on 222nd. It’s just common sense to me based on my experiences. I also feel very unsafe traveling by rows of frat houses at night.

    If you don’t like the trails near your house, you should buy a house in Lake Oswego. There are a lot of nice outdoor trails there.

    If you can’t afford to do that, or feel like you are tied by circumstance to where you live, then you should consider that the homeless folks on the Springwater are also tied to where they need to stay or one reason or another.

    Considering the Portland Police’s abysmal record regarding people who are homeless and/or mentally ill, the last thing the folks on the Springwater need are more police.

    They are mostly nice people. They dont deserve us laying our largely middle class insecurities at their “doorsteps” and making life more difficult for them.

    I feel like the place I’m most likely to get injured on the bike due to other people is the jogger, rollerblader, stroller, and kid laden esplanade. I’ve seen a lot of accidents ACTUALLY HAPPEN there. I avoid it as often as possible

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  • TidemanPicker October 14, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Hello folks, I work very close to the turn onto JCB, and in fair weather I will take a lunch over in the park. Recently I have found this a great place to practice my Banjo, really nice.

    Can I ask if any of you who feel threatened if you have actually stopped and talked to the “transient’s”? The ones that I have encountered have been a little rough on the edges, but have a heart of gold. I try not to judge them by how they act, or look, understanding that we are all just trying to get by.

    Are there bad people out there? YOU BET! Some are on bikes! HaHa! Please take the time to see all of the flowers in the field, and don’t focus on the so called weeds!

    BTW check out the bike trailers that are on the trail, good ideas!

    Hope to see you out there!


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  • GAR October 14, 2011 at 8:39 am

    I ride the Springwater from Boring to NW Portland a couple times a week. My observation is that the area in question is rather sketchy. Like others, I’ve had tweaked out punks try to play chicken and I’ve had them come flying out of the bushes onto the path without looking. I’ve got no solutions to advance, just one more voice sharing my perspective.

    Equally as dangerous is the unmarked and rather blind intersection of the Springwater with the I-205 trails. It would be very easy to get T-boned hard if you aren’t aware that cross traffic could be coming.

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    • mudlips October 15, 2011 at 7:55 pm

      Yes! I know it’s off-topic but I’ve worried about the Springwater/I205 path junction too. There’s a yellow sign showing some stick figures but it doesn’t give nearly the warning needed. In fact, it’s pretty unclear and the first time I rode through I had a close call with another fast-moving cyclist.

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      • G. Tyler October 15, 2011 at 8:00 pm

        I like to ring my bell before that intersection, just to let folks know I am about to go through there, might catch a few that aren’t paying attention and save a wreck.

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  • stan October 14, 2011 at 8:42 am

    Most of the stretch of the Springwater b/n Bell and 82nd ave isn’t in Portland but actually in unincorporated Clackamas County.

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  • jered October 14, 2011 at 9:15 am

    I use to do long training runs on springwater and it was like a crazy movie everytime… bum sex, fights (at least staggering,yelling and shoving), cooking a little can of beans over a fire (all things I saw!).

    I thought that was just a natural part of the cultural experience of the springwater trail.

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  • Adam October 14, 2011 at 9:31 am

    I will agree that portions of the trail are not the most comforting to ride on at times, but it is significantly better then it’s been in the past. One main area this is evident is a big clearing just off the trail at the Foster Rd crossing. A couple years ago it was a huge transient camp with easily twenty or more people there at a time. It’s not there anymore. To basically add to what’s already been said. Use good lights at night, and just leave them alone. I work noon-8 and ride from Gresham to Sellwood for work. Haven’t had any problems yet.

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  • DK October 14, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Someone runs from the bushes and it scares you enough to stop using the pathway? Shooting drugs in the open…What if the person is diabetic? There are folks in the area that may appear unkept but we all face different struggles in life and none of us look or act the same. The concerns listed in the story seem a bit over-the-top but also, everyone is entitled to feel safe. It’s too bad that people are afraid to use this route. I don’t seem to see where the fear comes from but can empathize, all the same. Hopefully we can come together, as a community, and come up with a winning solution for all parties.

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  • Caroline October 14, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Shooting drugs = probably taking their insulin… Anyway, they sell really cute little canisters of mace which you can mount on your bike for peace of mind. Has anything *actually happened* to a cyclist on the Springwater Corridor, or are these still just fearful fantasies. Thought so. Keep your head level, stay tough, you’ll be fine.

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  • Serena October 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    It would be great if there could be a way to patrol for *safety* without penalizing homelessness as such at a time when a record number of people are out on the street. This would be of value, then, not only in making the trail safer for riders, but making the Hoovervilles safer for the many people — especially women and children!!! — who must live along the trail.

    As for safety being an issue, heck yes it is! Portland has a real problem with mode share: there are not enough women biking. As we know, the dangers, real and perceived, of biking are central to this. I consider myself a pretty fearless woman, but try to avoid the corridor after dark. I will ride it–it’s arguably safer than bicycling on unprotected bike lanes in outer Portland–but I don’t like it. I work to avoid the statistically *likely* problem of being injured or sexually assaulted by someone I know or am related to by someone I know by paying attention to who I trust. I work to avoid the statistically less likely problem of being injured or sexually assaulted by a stranger by avoiding situations where I am alone with high and/or deeply unhappy men.

    We need to make the Springwater corridor safer for everyone–camper-residents and riders alike.

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  • Chris October 14, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    HAha yeah I’m sure everyone using needles on the SWC is just taking insulin. And I’m sure that’s tobacco they are smoking out of tin foil. And just allergy medicine they are snorting in the bushes.

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  • Teejay October 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    file this under “scared middle-class white people who love their suburban environment”

    you treat people with respect, you get respect back. this has more to do with people not liking their giant suburb masquerading as a city being dirtied up by homeless folk than any actual safety issues.

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  • mmann October 14, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Thanks for bringing attention to this. I ride the Springwater twice daily, from I-205 east to Gresham and back, and that section is equally dicey. There are people living in the brush along the trail, and a lot of drug use and the associated crimes that go along with that. I know two cyclist who have been jumped in the dark there by people trying to steal their bikes. The area under I-205, because it’s dry and dark, is a regular hangout/camp, as are the benches east of there near Beggars Tick marsh. Gang graffiti is also pretty rampant in the Lents/Sprinwater/I-205 area, which speaks to the type of folks you should expect to meet in the dark in that area. Ride hard and if someone steps out and tries to stop you, Lower your shoulder and hope your helmet leaves a good impression.

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  • Andrew Holtz October 14, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    I have no fear about riding the Springwater… but here is a video of what sure looks like a deal going down:

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  • dan October 14, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    file this under “scared middle-class white people who love their suburban environment”
    you treat people with respect, you get respect back. this has more to do with people not liking their giant suburb masquerading as a city being dirtied up by homeless folk than any actual safety issues.
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    Treat people in cars with respect, and get respect back…

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  • Dan Buton October 15, 2011 at 8:11 am

    This is the same area where there was a gunshot murder a couple of years ago, which to my knowledge is still unsolved.

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  • phil October 15, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Not wanting to teach your kids how to bike in a place where homeless people are… that’s pretty abhorrent.

    what are you teaching your kids?

    a little compassion, understanding, and friendliness would be nice.

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  • phil October 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    forgot to add that in all my years riding on the springwater, i have never had a problem.

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  • bearcub October 16, 2011 at 11:51 am

    atmo the biggest problem with the springwater is people not knowing how to ride courteously, or at least smartly.

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  • RyNO Dan October 16, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Thank you Jonathon. I think it’s obviously a problem. I’ve been having similar issues with the homeless and transients living on/near a piece of transit infrastructure that I use often. The MUPs are becoming synonymous with transient camps. I’m not sure the best course of action. I’m a little disappointed at the lack of discussion about changing the mgmt of these paths to a different agency.

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  • resopmok October 16, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Springwater trail needs lights. I guess Parks departments don’t really think of the path from a transportation perspective, but arterials are generally fairly well lit with street lamps. If one were to consider a path like the Springwater or I-205 as bicycle arterials, they ought to be lit. Lights would mean you can see the edge of the path easily, you can see obstacles in the path, see what’s ahead, and allow you to travel safer at a decent rate of speed.

    Well it’s a nice idea anyway, but it costs too much money, so next!

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  • Jeff October 17, 2011 at 9:44 am

    I agree with the lights. The completion of the 205 path brought in some extra federal stimulus money and the solar path lights are great. There would be many more dark stretches without them. As is, much less risk of pedalling over a stumbler during dark commutes.

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  • Joe October 17, 2011 at 10:53 am

    bright lights :)~

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  • anonymous October 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    So we’ve arrived at a time in our history when it’s now politically incorrect to admit that you are rubbing your hands in gleefeel unsafe around homeless people who are abusing drugs and/or who are severely mentally ill, or around chronically homeless people who are organizing themselves into self-fashioned “homeless communities”?

    Fine. Allow me to be politically incorrect.
    I am not a therapist, a police officer or an Emergency Medical Technician. I do not have the training to know how to deal with people who are severely mentally addled, by illness, drugs or otherwise. I think it’s okay for me to say that I want my tax dollars to help pay for keeping public access areas like the Springwater Corridor safe for all who use them.

    I also think it’s okay for me to say that Portland is that rare city which, for a host of reasons, makes it extremely easy to live here as a homeless/houseless person and not make an effort to get help, or to change one’s patterns of behavior and choice. Finally, I think it’s okay for me to say that I should not be rqeuired to develop the skillset of a therapist, police offer or EMT simply in order to navigate my way around the city safely.

    If there are problems on the Springwater in the evening hours — and I don’t ride the SWC much so I can’t speak to that — then they are problems that have been years in the making, and they are problems that will not be solved simply by tearing down campsites or adding streetlights to the path.

    One good start would be to write laws that require homeless people to start taking some personal responsibility for their actions — and if they choose to remain outside for whatever reason and become a public threat to safety, then perhaps forced treatment and follow-up should be legislated and funded. so that Portland becomes a less desirable destination for the homeless wishing to move here from elsewhere. Let’s stop infantalizing homeless people as if they’re not able to make any choices for themselves, and begin requiring those who can make better choices to do so or pay some consequences.

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  • Jay October 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    I rode this trail frequently last summer and loved it; I wish I’d known about it sooner. My issue wasn’t any transient types; my issue was inconsiderate “marathon-style” runners who insist on running down the trail in ‘6-abreast’ wolf-packs. They give me about 2 inches of space on my side and don’t even bother with an “excuse-me” or anything. Whats up with that crap?

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  • Ethan May 19, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    Can we get an update on this vis-a-vis the heated conversation on the Shift list-serve?

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