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Oaks Bottom project will close Springwater path for four months this summer

(Map graphic: Portland BES)

A major project to improve wildlife habitat at the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge will come with a full closure of one the busiest biking corridors in Portland.

Starting this July, the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES), Portland Parks and Recreation and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers, plans to close the Springwater Corridor path between Oaks Amusement Park and the Oaks Bottom Trail for up to 120 days. Contractors will use the path to stage construction vehicles and move material.

When this same project was first proposed back in 2010 (it was ultimately delayed), it raised major concerns with the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee. Members of that committee urged BES to use the adjacent railroad right-of-way in order to keep the path open. This time around, the City and the Corps of Engineers incorporated feedback from the community and designed a plan that incorporates barge access and/or rail as a primary haul route. However, the Springwater closure is still necessary to safely complete the culvert and channel grading work in the refuge.

The latest City bike counts show that about 2,800 people ride this section of the path on an average weekday and that number more than doubles on the weekends. The closure is on the same section of path we recently highlighted as one of the top ten most popular Strava segments in the country.

The other point of concern from the advisory committee was the detour plan. The closure will require path users to ride on surface streets, or head to the other side of the Willamette River. In 2010, the north-south options on the east side of the river were not great at all. In fact, they were so bad that PBOT created a bike detour map that listed eight bikeway upgrades they planned to finish before the closure started.

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This photo shows part of the section that will be closed.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

According to BES Project Manager Ronda Fast, they are working with the Bureau of Transportation to develop a detailed map so path users can plan out the best route around the closure. While none of the detours will be as safe, direct, or convenient, the options are better now than they were eight years ago.

The main detour options will be:
➤ The SE 19th Avenue Neighborhood Greenway route (which should be completed by this spring) through Sellwood which connects to the SE 17th Avenue to “Clinton to River” route (via SE Insley/Milwaukie or via SE Harold to pathway along the northeast side of McLoughlin Blvd.)
➤ SE 19th Neighborhood Greenway to the Oaks Bottom “bluff” trail at SE Milwaukie which brings you back to the Springwater path.
➤ The Sellwood Bridge to the Willamette Greenway path on the west side of the river.

In addition to a detailed map, Fast assured me that there will be plenty of signage in the area to warn people about the closure so they can choose a different route without wasting too much effort.

If you’re wondering why the closure has to happen in the busiest riding months it’s because that’s all the “in-water work window” that has the least harmful impacts on federally protected fish.

The project also comes with a new wildlife viewing platform and a turnout that will be accessible from the Springwater path. The turnout will be built over a new fish passage culvert just north of the floating home community. It will be about 50-feet long and add about eight feet of width to the path. The viewing platform will further south just at the northern end of Oaks Amusement Park. It will be about 95-feet long with a landing to park bikes and a ramp up to an overlook. This is good to hear not only because viewing wildlife is cool, but the path is so busy and so narrow in these sections that having a place to pull over and rest or just allow faster trail users to pass will be a nice upgrade.

Check out the official project page for more details.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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