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Advocates say it’s a perfect time to invest in ‘Safe Routes to the Slough’

Posted by on March 8th, 2019 at 1:57 pm

There are great places to ride on and beyond the Columbia Slough. Getting to them should be much easier.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

With Metro laying groundwork on two major funding initiatives, advocates with the 40-Mile Loop say the time is now to make a substantial investment in the paths, roads, and trails that get people to the Columbia Slough Watershed.

Retired Portland Parks & Recreation manager Jim Sjulin is shopping around a concept known as Safe Routes to the Slough. According to his five-page case statement (PDF) there are 27 parks, open spaces, and natural area properties in the 5,200 acres that make up the Columbia River Flood Plain — between Kelley Point Park at the tip of St. Johns to the Sandy River Delta near Troutdale.

The problem is, 95 percent of the 180,000 people who live in adjacent neighborhoods are effectively cut off from biking and walking to these areas due to a lack of infrastructure and/or the presence of dangerous roads and highways.

(Source: 40-Mile Loop Land Trust, Case Statement for Safe Routes to the Slough)

Think of trying to ride a bicycle to Kelley Point Park, Whitaker Ponds, or the Sandy River Delta. Now think of whether or not you’d do that with an eight-year-old or an eighty-year-old. Probably not, due to bikeway gaps and having to deal with major crossings like Columbia Blvd, Sandy Blvd, Airport Way, and so on.


“Over the 20-mile length of the watershed,” reads the case statement, “now only two non-motorized access routes connecting upland residential areas to natural areas and parks in the floodplain: The Peninsula Crossing Trail and the I-205 Bike Path.”

(Source: 40-Mile Loop Land Trust, Case Statement for Safe Routes to the Slough)

The timing is good for 40-Mile Loop to present this concept because Metro is about to put a renewal of their parks and nature bond on the ballot this year. And next year, Metro will present the region with a major transportation infrastructure investment bond.

Sjulin says while most people think of trails, paths, bike lanes and roads as one integrated system for getting them from A-to-B, agencies are siloed into “recreation” and “transportation” projects. He sees Safe Routes to the Slough as an opportunity to combine these needs into one package.

For their part, Metro — who convinced voters to pass natural area bond measures in 1995 and 2006 and local-option levies in 2013 and 2016 — says they plan to spend less on acquiring properties this time around, and more on getting people to existing properties. That’s a perfect fit for the 40-Mile Loop’s idea. Another way this project fits with Metro’s goals is that the area surrounding the Columbia Slough watershed is home to some of the lowest-income and most racially diverse census tracts in the region.

Borrowing from language used in previous Metro bond measures, the 40-Mile Loop recommends making the Columbia Slough Watershed an official “target area” for investment.

If you think this is an effort worth supporting, consider emailing your thoughts to Metro via

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

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Josh G
Josh G

Any movement on the trail through Port property at NE 33rd and Marine Drive?


Peninsula Levee please.


I’m rarely afraid (I’m conscious of the risks) when cycling on the road, but riding into the sun at the end of the day on Marine Drive for the short stretch between 33rd and 13th (in addition to the tunnel of doom on Vancouver Way/Schmeer) keeps me from riding anywhere on Marine Drive after work.

Lenny Anderson
Lenny Anderson

There is a funded Metro project to construct the Greenway Trail from Chimney Park over Columbia Blvd on a new bridge and to a “St Johns Prairie” viewpoint; the old landfill is currently being restored by Metro, with Western Meadow Larks as a key measure. The hope is that the trail project can include the preliminary design for extending the Trail to N. Lombard, including the key North Slough bridge. Learn more at


Right now 205 path is scary and I won’t do it again. On Sunday March 3 I joined the 205 bike path at Prescott, heading north to go shopping at Target by the airport. Near the Sandy underpass there was a large encampment with guys stripping bike frames. The scary part was the encampment under Sandy. Homesteaders had their belongings spread over nearly all the entire bikeway, leaving a path just barely wide enough for my bike tire and pedals. Bike frames hung overhead and I had to duck to avoid being hit by the “inventory”. People were inside the tents. Propane tanks and then pure garbage abounds. I chose not to bike home that way – too creepy. So I chose to bike home via Alderwood > Cornfoot > 47th by Whitaker Ponds. Crossing Columbia at 47th/42nd was fine but that hill heading south on 42nd is too steep and too narrow. I walked my bike on the sidewalk on the opposite side (facing traffic) and that sidewalk ends as well. Way too narrow for uphill biking and fast cars.

I’m a woman in my mid-50’s, and I’ve been bike commuting in Portland since the 90s. Not the timid 80 y/o used as an example, but also not strong enough to keep up with traffic when the hill is steep and the road narrow.

I sure would like to see that encampment under Sandy cleaned up. It’s been there a long time, but never taken up so much traffic space as this week. I would have taken a picture, but no way with those people working on all those bike parts. I might have gotten beaten up or my own bike taken from me.