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Where some see historic trail connection, others fear a home for urban campers

Posted by on January 5th, 2017 at 11:36 am

Metro map with location of proposed trail and a concept drawing of how it might look near Kelly Creek in Gresham.

Filling a six-mile gap between Troutdale and Gresham would put a serious dent in the “40-mile Loop” — a trail concept that’s been in regional planning dreams for well over a century. And Metro is creating a plan to do just that.

But where some see an historic opportunity for a new, low-stress place to walk and roll, others see a perfect place for people who live outside to pitch tents and build encampments.

“By far the most frequently expressed concerns had to do with crime and homeless campers along sections of the Springwater Trail.”
— Metro

Last summer Metro launched a master planning process for a new trail that would connect from Troutdale and the Sandy River down to Johnson Creek and the existing Springwater Corridor path in Gresham. While public response to the project has been mostly positive, concerns about urban camping and associated impacts have already surfaced and there’s a new website that encourages people to oppose the project.

The person/people behind NoSpringwaterExtension.com offer up a myriad of concerns about the trail — from a loss of privacy and property rights to fears of what they consider an inevitable crime wave that would follow. The site is peppered with images and news stories from last year when a large encampment on the Springwater Corridor became a major controversy as adjacent businesses, trail users and residents began to speak out about its impacts. That camp grew in size in large part because former Mayor Charlie Hales made the unprecedented decision to allow outdoor camping in the wooded areas adjacent to the path. Hales ultimately reversed course and ordered an eviction.

There are no names or organizations associated with NoSpringwaterExtension.com and it’s not clear how many people it represents. (We’ve reached out via email but have not heard back.)

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Metro has heard these concerns and has already begun responding to them. Hundreds of people have already shared feedback about the project through public meetings and an online survey. 159 people responded to an open-ended question about the project. Of those, Metro says 47 percent were in favor of the trail, 31 percent were “generally supportive but had concerns” and 21 percent were opposed. In a document that analyzed the feedback, Metro wrote, “By far the most frequently expressed concerns had to do with crime and homeless campers along sections of the Springwater Trail.”

Reached by phone this morning, Metro’s Natural Areas Program Director Dan Moeller said public safety agencies have been at the planning table since the beginning, “To make sure the community’s concerns about safety along the trail are adequately addresssed.” Moeller also said Metro believes research proves trails do not generate crime or safety issues. “If there are issues along the trail they generally reflect the patterns around the surrounding neighborhood,” he said.

Moeller also said that letting people camp in a natural area along a path was “a horribly failed experiment” and he doubts any other agency in the region would dare repeat it. He points to the benefits the project would bring, including safer places to walk and bike and more eyes and ears in the community as people get out and use the trail.

While illegal camping is on Metro’s radar, the goal of the master plan effort is to identify the best alignment for the future trail so that they can begin to negotiate easements, potential land acquisitions and funding sources. So far they’ve shared three potential alignments. Here’s the latest as of December 19th:

Click image for larger version to see the Troutdale and Gresham routes in detail. Or click here for original PDF.

As for the facility itself, Metro plans to utilize a wide variety of path and trail designs. The default will be a 10-12 foot paved path and they are also considering other options when that isn’t feasible. Some sections could have a dirt hiking trail along the path and in places where space is limited they are considered standard buffered bike lanes on the adjacent roadway.

The next project meeting is scheduled for January 19th in Gresham (details here). Metro hopes to have a draft master plan completed and ready for public review this spring. “Information and considerations around safety, homelessness and crime,” they say, “will be taken into strong consideration as Metro staff proposes a recommended trail alignment.”

Learn more about the project on Metro’s website and/or contact project manager Robert Spurlock at robert.spurlock [at] oregonmetro.gov.

UPDATE, 3:52 pm: I originally had outdated route maps. They have been deleted and a new map is now shown. Sorry for any confusion.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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

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Adam
Subscriber

Stop making being homeless illegal then. Either build sanctioned homeless camps or allow people to camp in wilderness areas. People have to sleep somewhere.

Spiffy
Subscriber

the contact phone number on the front page is 503-912-8891…

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

Solutions needed to help mitigate camping along trail:

+Neighborhood engagement
+Increased Police enforcement and outreach
+Physically build up the environment to restrict camping: large boulders, trees, bright light fixtures, gravel, public art, fences, playgrounds, picnic tables, etc.. Make it physically impossible to camp.

dwk
Guest
dwk

Thanks Charlie.
Your legacy will continue for years…..

Ray
Guest

Wish they would at least finish the Fairview Gresham trail Aka fresham

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Twenty-odd years ago, a former student of mine moved to Atlanta for grad. school. In his spare time, he got involved with trying to get a bike path put in. The neighbors were concerned about its impact on property values, so he reached out to me for any information I might have. As luck would have it, I played basketball with the head of planning in Davis who had conducted a study that showed that a bike path increased adjacent property values by about $100k (average house cost about $250-350k, although above-average value homes were generally sited near the newer paths, but we’re talking about significant value added).

Fast-forward to our current situation with depression-level homelessness in many west coast cities, and I don’t think a bike path adds monetary value to a nearby house, although it might add quality of life value depending on the location of the nearest camp.

In spite of this, I feel very strongly that we should build as many bike paths as we can. If we can get a less incomplete network up, perhaps we can generate adequate support to deal with the homelessness problem that plagues our communities.

rick
Guest
rick

Irvington and Ladd’s Addition need rezoning. Those neighborhoods with lots of transit, sidewalks, grocery stores, and nearby closed school (Washington High School), need the housing. More jobs. More housing.

rick
Guest
rick

What about the horrible traffic crime that has taken place on deadly TV Highway, Barbur Blvd, hit-and-runs, and street racing? What about the people who stopped traffic on the Fremont Bridge just to have a street race with cars?

Redhippie
Guest
Redhippie

The camping on the greenways is just a symptom. The city needs to address the homeless problem. Providing a place to warehouse and provide social services to them is a start. Criminalize meth and herion possession and prosecute those that won’t go into the drug and alcohol free shelters. Carrot and stick.

Todd Hudson
Guest
Todd Hudson

After someone was sexually assaulted on the SWC last year (who was later found camping on the Portland section), Gresham e̶v̶i̶c̶t̶e̶d̶ 86ed the homeless from their part of the trail.

Gresham/Troutdale can partly re-assure nearby homeowners by emphasizing they won’t ever attempt Charlie Hales’s policies.

soren
Guest
soren

i am not a fan of the design choices in some of those alignments. for example, why would the roadway median be grade-separated when the bike facility is not? and why would a grade-separated buffer be placed to right of a bike lane? both the bike facility and path should be separated from motor vehicles, whenever possible.

mh
Subscriber

Ignoring all the previous commentary, is this supposed to be for transportation or recreation? The answer would greatly influence which alignment I would prefer.

Jon
Guest
Jon

Lower priced housing is only part of the problem. Due to globalism low skill labor is a commodity. If you don’t have training or education you are competing with labor that is willing to work for a few dollars per day. There are very few “living wage” jobs that somebody can get straight out of high school today like were available 30 or more years ago.
If you are mentally ill, addicted to drugs and/or alcohol it is hard to even hold a minimum wage job. Unless we as a country are willing to pay a lot more for imported goods by taxing imports heavily low skill jobs are going to go to low wage regions like Africa and parts of SE Asia.

Kirsty
Guest
Kirsty

It’s a complex issue.

But the one thing I see in common with many of the areas the homeless are camping in is a history of poor planning. They tend to congregate around areas that were the bane of 1960s planning and planners smitten with the novelties of concrete, with “vegetation” for decoration. Think concrete freeway flyovers, with steep banks of brambles underneath, etc.

I am a firm believer in the concept of CPTED – Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. If we design our urban spaces better, they don’t invite so much criminal misuse.

CaptainKarma
Guest

What a brave new society. We must deter sleeping at all costs.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Great thread:

Creative millennial robots living in snot houses!

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

People need safe places to sleep. People need help for mental illness and addiction. People need safe openspaces to experience nature and exercise. Charlie Hales made a dangerous and unfair trade off of public openspace for unregulated, shantytowns. This does not work for people who use those openspaces for recreation or transportation. IMO, it does not work for people who need temporary shelter or treatment for mental illness or addiction. Public openspaces are isolated, difficult to police, mostly far from services. It is expensive to service them with restrooms and trash service. It is a tremendous and unsustainable disservice to the civic life of Portland to allow our openspaces to be taken over with shantytowns (Halesvilles). There is public land available that is closer to services, easier to patrol, cleaner, safer, and more sheltered that could be used for interim shelter beds: parking garages.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Until there is a plan and commitment to maintaining the facilities and assuring reasonable security of users from 8-to-80, I’m not sure it’s worth planning for the construction of such facilities.

The Springwater Corridor became so uninviting that I, a reasonably fit male, did not feel physically safe to ride it alone even during daylight hours in recent years. There was no way I’d let my children ride it to school, even though it was a good route for other reasons.

Isabella Taylorz
Guest
Isabella Taylorz

Maybe I can teach a yoga class on the new trail!

eddie
Guest
eddie

Why don’t bike cops cruise through the SWC just as part of their “beat”? I’m not a big fan of five o, having been subjected to my share of harassment, but I don’t get why they don’t send some cops up and down the corridors – on bike not ATV – to keep down the drama and make sure people who might need services are aware of them. Not to harass or clear out or search campsites or bust people, just to check in from time to time. Seems simple enough to me…

Justin
Guest
Justin

Sadly, I feel this site has become, I dunno, too ‘holier than thou’ to read anymore.

Look, causes for personal problems are complicated, but let’s stop pushing every excuse in hopes that we never hear the term ‘self responsiblity’. Some people are just selfish, care nothing for anyone but/even themselves, vile, opportunistic takers and cradling them and defending them relentlessly on blog posts is not going to make the world a better place.

When a girl gets raped on the Springwater in a area known to be a dense with problem behavior (whether or not the perpetrator was homeless, or as we strain to call urban camping or something; why is it offensive to say shelterless anyway?), it is time to clean the area up. Yes, I understand that doesn’t solve all problems, but the alternative of just letting the area fester is not the solution. Same goes for when a woman gets hit in the face with a rock and robbed on the bike trail in north portland.

Just because root causes are complicated does not make all behaviors OK. I’m tired of Adam feeling that it is more important that we don’t give a hint of holding anyone accountable than it is that community action is taken to reduce chances of a young girl getting raped on a bike trail.

K-ken
Guest
K-ken

This new connection shouldn’t be about homelessness. It’s about completing the 40 mile loop.
The jist of the current meetings is about where to put an effective link between Troutdale and the Springwater Corridor Trail.
FYI, it will take 20 plus years to line up the funds and actually build this trail. By then the homeless problem will not be the same as it exists today. Most of the folks that live in this area will likely not even live there anymore. Let’s not loose focus on the problem at hand and help Metro make a decision about a viable connection. Check out the map with the proposed routes and help choose one.

Brian
Guest
Brian

I used this in my class yesterday and think it is worth a watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uaIKO7lJY0&t=2245s

resopmok
Guest
resopmok

Multi-use paths are, by any definition given before the 20th century, roads. People tend to live along roads because, as the Romans proved, they are a very efficient means for transporting cargo with a wheel. The problem of having homeless people live along roads which we want uninhabited is not the fault of the road or of the homeless, but by our continued allowance of homelessness as a society.

We should be setting aside a considerable portion of tax money to fund humane housing and rehabilitation programs, and look into more permanent solutions for that portion of the population which is truly unemployable. We should care for these people and try to understand how they need help, because no “cause” of homelessness is the same; it is as individual as the person themself.

Of the anonymous opponents, I imagine some are property owners concerned about dealing with the crime and trash which has accompanied recent illegal campsites, and others probably just hate bicyclists. The first group should understand this is a temporary problem which can be solved and shouldn’t prevent us from building better infrastructure. The second group should be ignored.

resopmok
Guest
resopmok

Also, I’d like to see the Gresham-Fairview trail connected to Marine Drive.. I’m guessing land ownership has provided challenges here.

Lester Burnham
Guest
Lester Burnham

Bust just imagine the scenic colorful tarps, piles of bike parts, trash piles, and drug needles puncturing your tires! Sounds wonderful. Build it!

Ozman
Guest
Ozman

Shelter’s expect a minimum level of cooperation in order for them to provide a bed for the night. In general, people who are drunk or high do not perform these levels of cooperation, thus make it much more difficult for the staff and organizations to fulfull their missions. Now saying they should change their rules, you are saying that those who are providing the downtrodden with shelter and help to improve their situation are inexperienced, and falling behind in their abilities, and should work harder, expend more capital, and put up with more incidents of harrasement, violence, and medical situations that caused them to institute the no drugs/alchohol policies to begin with.

That is the essence of pretentiousness. You have no idea what you are talking about

Terry D-M
Guest
Terry D-M

The upper 1℅ that have held incomes static since the advent of “trickle down economics” would love the infighting here. Let us pit the working poor against the houseless….Hence everyone fights over crumbs while the corperatist class does whatever they want.

We are the richest country in the world that has developed one if the .
MOST unequal forms of economic distribution. ….. Which will continue untill we come together. We have the resources to solve all of these problems if we get over all of the “pull yourselves up by your bootstraps” propaganda, stop the infighting and actually work together.

Alas, most people prefer the in fighting, one group scared of another, scared to lose their own safety net…..All while the true problem stares down from the hill top laughing sipping port and eating truffles relaxing and watching the sunset over the unwashed masses…….

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

The Springwater being less than a “park” is part of the problem. For me and my neighbors, it mostly serves the same functions (albeit in a more gritty way, since it mostly goes through industrial areas in Lents) as the biking and walking trails on Mount Tabor do. It is one of our parks in our minds, and we love it. The powers that be not respecting it as such is one of the reasons that most Lentils now feel quite estranged from City Hall and are likely to be unusually skeptical of pretty much anything the City proposes in our area.

Al M
Guest
Al M

The fact that the homeless problem exists at all if proof of the moral bankruptcy of our culture

The further fact that in the neoliberal capital of the world so many people couldn’t care less about there fellow human beings is proof that the Trump phenomenon is not so outside of the mainstream as our fake mainstream media would have us believe

People hate each other. Here in Portland it’s hatred and contempt for the poor

Woe is us as a nation

Who knows where the bottom will be of our barbaric society

Beth H
Guest

Yet another article about homeless campers and the folks who fear them.
Still no concrete solutions being put into practice.
The lack fo compassion here is not limited to the homeless or owrking poor alone.
And the worst is yet to come.
Is the ACA is dismantled and Medicare goes on the ropes we will see a lot more desolation and homelessness and a lot less compassion, as anyone who isn’t independently wealthy scrambles to hang onto what little they can. Without any way to stop this steamrolling by the rich of everyone else we’re headed for a future where many of those commenting here (from the relative security of a warm, dry shelter) could well be fighting for real estate in a local park.
Stop attacking the poor and start fighting the filthy rich instead.

dwk
Guest
dwk

” I also would guess there is more beyond New Motor Voter that Oregon could do to reach every voter – contracting with USPS for the list of people who moved, for one.”

Seriously? Who is paying for this? You don’t think we could spend money better?
If you cannot bother to get a ballot, fill it out and either drop it or mail it, there is nothing more we can do.
Oregon has made it as easy as possible.
California basically has a month long voting period!
No, this is on the people too stupid and lazy to even bother….