About 2,000 feet through a riparian forest are all that separate us from having a carfree connection between Portland, the Clackamas river, and beyond.
Metro just finalized the purchase of a 76-acre parcel that will close that gap. Once completed, this project will have massive impacts to bicycle riders of all persuasions.
First, some background:
The abandoned railroad line between Portland and Estacada that the City of Portland first acquired and paved in the 1990s. In 2013 pavement was extended into the small of Boring, about 20 miles from where it starts just south of OMSI. South of Boring is an dirt trail section that heads toward the Clackamas River and is known as the Cazadero Trail. Unfortunately, the trail ends just north of Highway 224. Just south of the highway, at Barton Park, the trail picks up again and follows the old railroad bed another four miles before ending in Eagle Creek (north of Estacada).
That small trail gap was created when two wooden railroad trestles over Deep Creek and North Fork Deep Creek burned down after the line was abandoned in the 1930s. For the past decade or so, state and regional agencies have applied for federal grants to construct new bridges over the creeks. The last attempt in 2013 sought $4 million for the bridges but the project was not selected for funding.
Now Metro’s Park and Nature division has stepped up with an $850,000 purchase of land that clears the way for Oregon State Parks to design and build a new connector trail. The 76 acres is adjacent to Camp Kuratli and was previously owned by the Salvation Army. In 2013, Metro estimated the bridge project would serve over 327,000 annual biking and walking trips and would have an economic benefit of over $6.4 million in the first five years post-construction.
The additional land gives Metro a total of 165 acres in the area. It also gives Oregon State Parks, the agency that will ultimately design and build the project, more space to look at a solution that doesn’t require “cost-prohibitive” bridges. Instead, they’ll build a series of switchbacks to cross the canyons. Metro estimates the project will build about 2,900 linear feet of new trail.
This project is important not only because it will close a trail gap, but because current alternate routes like Richey Road, Kelso Road, and Amissiger Road between the end of the Springwater in Boring and popular destinations like Barton County Park and Milo McIver State Park are very stressful. “All of these roads have no shoulder, poor sight lines, fast moving traffic, and
sections with steep grades,” wrote Portland resident and former Cycle Wild ride leader Shawn Granton in a letter supporting the 2013 grant application. “This four-mile section of roads is the most dangerous and treacherous part of our trips out into the Clackamas River region. It can be a harrowing experience for both seasoned and new bicycle campers alike.”
This purchase by Metro provides much-needed urgency for the ultimate dream: An off-street path from Portland to Estacada and then along the Clackamas River and into the Mt. Hood National Forest. Stay tuned for opportunities to weigh in on this project. Metro cautions that, while they hope a trail is built, nothing has been finalized and it could be years before the gap is closed. That just means we need to create as much pressure on these agencies as we can to get it done.
While we wait to hear from Metro and Oregon State Parks about next steps, check the Ride With GPS map below from regional route-master Ryan Francesconi to get inspired about the future:
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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