The 50-year-old vision of a continuous mixed-use path along the east bank of the Willamette River, connecting Kelley Point Park, on the tip of the St. Johns peninsula, to the Steel Bridge, has made it on all the planning maps.
Now, the little nonprofit that has brought the concept this far is preparing for the last stage: getting it on the ground.
Thanks to a $50,000 capacity-building grant from Metro awarded last fall, the nonprofit North Portland Greenway organization is preparing to hire its first dedicated staffer, a consultant who will spend up to 10 hours a week preparing for a transition on npGreenway’s volunteer board.
“I think this grant will be the tool to take our organization to the completion of the trail.”
— Joe Adamski, npGreenway board member
“In 10 years we’ve done an awful lot, but we know there’ll be another 10 years before that trail is completed,” said Joe Adamski, a longtime npGreenway board member, in an interview Tuesday. “We’re now at the point where we’re pushing and agitating for building and finding the money and the support. And we couldn’t put a website together if our life depended on it. Twitter? We’re all 60 or 70.”
Adamski said most of the existing board consists of people with experience in planning rather than in political action.
Key political challenges for the group include lining up enough money to build the path and to secure the building rights from landowners like Union Pacific Railroad and Ash Grove Cement, two companies that control the crucial segment between the Swan Island industrial area and the Broadway Bridge area.
In 2013, we reported that the city, UPRR and advocates were discussing an inland route just south of Greeley that would avoid the contentious Cement Road, an existing private road near the shore that is crossed by rail tracks and used by Ash Grove cement trucks.
“The connection to Swan Island is going to be the crucial place that’s going to drive the whole trail,” Adamski said Wednesday. “We will support that alternate line [south of Greeley], but we still have a preference towards the Cement Road alignment. The reality is that if it’s going to happen, probably it’s going to be that alternate Greeley alignment.”
UPRR’s concession to allow an off-road path on the south side of Greeley, rather than forcing it to be built into a hillside north of Greeley, came out of a 2013 meeting attended by UPRR, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Mayor Charlie Hales.
npGreenway has already retained Bill Weismann of Grassroots NW to complete the first phase of their 18-month project, which is to develop a strategy that’ll be carried out by the board and its part-time staffer during the longer second phase.
Adamski said the group aims to be ready to bring on its second-phase staffer by late March.
“I think this grant will be the tool to take our organization to the completion of the trail,” Adamski said.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.