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Trails for everyone

Mapping an Intertwine for hikers with disabilities

August 6 2014

Living in Portland, I feel fortunate to be surrounded by natural beauty and to have great hiking and outdoor resources all around me.  But as a wheelchair user, I also feel frustration.  Where’s the information I need to access these hiking opportunities? 

My belief is that there are actually many trails here in The Intertwine that could be used by people with disabilities.  What is lacking is the data needed to enable informed decisions. 

With the right information (a simple and empowering concept) people could make their own determinations – and avoid the frustration of visiting an outdoor site only to discover that it is unusable, perhaps for the most inconsequential reason.

Several years ago, I decided to improve that situation and convened a team that included representatives from federal, state and local parks agencies to develop common standards for providing information that would better inform people with disabilities and thereby people of all abilities.  Access Recreation (AR) was born.

Starting in 2009, the new committee drew from our collective experience to develop AR’s Guidelines for Providing Trail Information to People with Disabilities.  

Driving our effort was the expectation that public agencies in the region would strive for a common standard of trail description and information sharing. A grant in 2011 from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department made it possible to further develop these Guidelines and publish them as a web-based document.

Now, AR is working to apply the Guidelines’ principles to create a Regional Online Trail Map.  This map will place photos, videos and descriptions of significant features along trails that are mapped using simple smart-phone technology.

Our hope is that people of all abilities will be able to find this map through our partner websites as well as on AR's own website.  With the information provided by these individual trail maps, hikers of all ability levels will be able to choose a trail ahead of time that matches their desired recreation experience.

The Trail Map is being supported by a generous Nature in Neighborhoods grant from Metro, and initially will cover only the Metro region.  Map data will become available to the public incrementally, as 24 or more selected trails are mapped over the next two years.  Half of these trails will feature videos as well as photos.

Eventually, we intend this Online Trail Map to encompass the entire Pacific Northwest, and perhaps even places of interest across the globe. 

Follow Access Recreation for more information on this ambitious project, our progress, and links to the individual trail maps as they are developed.  We’ll see you on the trail!


Georgena Moran is the Founder and Project Coordinator of Access Recreation, an ad hoc committee working to develop informational guidelines for hiking trails and outdoor recreation facilities to benefit hikers with disabilities. Georgena, an ICC Certified Accessibility Inspector/Plans Examiner and Certified Universal Trail Assessment Process (UTAP) Specialist, has conducted ADA Site Assessments since 1999 as a Principal of Mind on Accessibility.

The case for nontraditional funding of trails

Private money can speed progress, gain public trust and lead to big results

May 12 2015

In the pre-Intertwine days, Metro’s Blue Ribbon Committee for Trails thoughtfully strategized about how to fund the region’s vision for an interconnected network of trails. Supported by a team led by Metro and including staff from the City of Portland, Oregon State Parks, the City of Forest Grove, and Alta Planning and Design, the Committee published a report in 2008 that recommended an integrated strategy to address congestion, climate change, fuel costs and the lack of funding for traditional transportation projects. One of the strategies discussed was private funding through foundations, corporations and developers. 

Following that, the Executive Council for Active Transportation, chaired by Moda Vice President and current Intertwine Alliance Board President Jonathan Nicholas, convened in March 2009 to provide leadership and support for the completion of the regional network of on- and off-street bikeways and walkways, and guided Metro to apply for a $98 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation through its highly competitive Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. 

Ambitious in scope, the grant would have funded close to 100 miles of bikeways in North/Northeast Portland, Hillsboro, Milwaukie, Clackamas County, Boring and unincorporated Clackamas County, as well as outreach and encouragement programs.  

Metro was not awarded the grant. What can we learn from this? Let’s look at two trails that did get funded: the 8-mile-long, $63-million Indianapolis Cultural Trail and the 36-mile, $30- million Razorback Regional Greenway in Northwest Arkansas. 

What is of note is the extent to which these two projects leveraged private donations. The Glick Family in Indianapolis, for example, committed $15 million as a lead gift, which, along with an additional $12.5 million in private funds, was used as match for the $20.5 million TIGER grant and $15 million in additional federal funding. The Cultural Trail’s history is deeply intertwined with Indianapolis’ efforts to become more bike friendly, as explained to many of us by Mayor Greg Ballard on the 2014 Cycle Oregon Policymakers ride. 

Seeing the Indianapolis trail up close is a revelation. It’s simply gorgeous. The two-way cycle track forms a loop along one-way streets. Its surface is brick-like smooth pavers, graced by wand-like pedestrian-scale lights, interesting artwork, and interpretative signage, including a “Peace Walk” gallery celebrating some of history’s great legends. Every intersection and driveway is well-marked, signed and functional. An unexpected gem is a formerly grimy alley turned trail segment, with added art and the scent of roses pumped through a steam grate. A round of applause to Kevin Osborne at Rundell Ernstberger Associates, LLC, the lead trail design firm.

The Cultural Trail connects every single arts venue in downtown, and is a huge asset for tourists, local visitors and thousands of downtown workers. It was a catalyst for the Indianapolis Pacer-sponsored bike share system, and has spurred an estimated $864.5 million of economic impact. 

Now let’s turn to the Northwest Arkansas Razorback Regional Greenway, which Alta led from concept to design, through construction and ribbon-cutting on May 2 of this year. The greenway links the six major municipalities of Northwest Arkansas, the University of Arkansas, hospitals, commercial centers, 36 local schools, and the headquarters of three fortune 500 companies. The new greenway will increase connectivity, drive economic development, improve residents’ health, and help make Northwest Arkansas a more attractive place to live, work and play. 

Again, private vision –— and monies — drove the project forward at a swift pace, going from concept to ribbon-cutting in just five years. The story goes something like this: Some of the local jurisdictions and developers had started building trails. Rob Brothers from the Walton Family Foundation got concerned about design quality and lack of overall vision. He called Alta Principal Jeff Olson, and within short order, a meeting in Arkansas had been arranged. 

Along with Greenways, Inc.’s *Chuck Flink and greenway specialist Bob Searns, the concept of connecting the pieces via a cohesive greenway was sparked over large maps and later deepened in a multi-day charrette, which engaged community leaders and stakeholders up and down the corridor to build support and collectively create a vision and conceptual  alignment. With private funding provided by the Walton Family Foundation, the project developed a detailed alignment plan, filed a Categorical Exclusion application, and conducted cost-benefit analysis to estimate the positive economic impact health and air-quality improvements for the TIGER grant application. 

As with the Cultural Trail, private money leveraged other funding. The $15 million TIGER grant was matched by more than $15 million of Walton Family Foundation funds. Other funds raised in support of the project came from the Home Depot Foundation, National Urban Forestry Grant, EPA 319 Water Quality Grant, USDOT TCSP Grant, USDOT TAP Grant, the Endeavor Foundation, the City of Fayetteville, the City of Springdale, the City of Rogers, and Mercy Hospital. All totaled, more than $35 million in funding has gone toward construction of the Razorback Regional Greenway. 

Also well worth mentioning are the unsung heroes of the project: the 129 property owners who granted us no-cost easements.​

Why was the TIGER application successful? “There is no doubt in my mind that the application was successful because of three things,” explains Sandy Nickerson of the Walton Foundation Family. “One, regional unity. We had 40 letters of support from all the mayors, senators and representatives, the secretary of state, the State Highway Commission, even the governor. Two, the Walton Foundation Family match, and three, the quality of the application.” 

Intrigued by the Razorback Greenway, the Hyde Family Foundation and the Wolf River Conservancy recently brought in Alta to plan, design and oversee construction for 18 miles of the Wolf River Greenway in Memphis, Tennessee. Built in phases, the Wolf River Greenway will eventually extend a total of 36 miles to connect neighborhoods from the Mississippi River, north of downtown Memphis, through the cities of Germantown and Collierville, Tennessee. 

Whereas Portland’s signature trails, such as the Eastbank Esplanade, Springwater Corridor, Trolley Trail and Tonquin Trail, were publicly funded, the out-of-state projects described above share the common thread of private investment by foundations dreaming of a healthier lifestyle and wishing to invest in their communities. From what we’ve observed, the private funding not only leverages public funding, it speeds up the process, gains public trust and leads to big results.

Why hasn’t this happened yet in Portland, where we have trail plans and experience and dreams just as bold as Indianapolis, Northwest Arkansas, and Memphis? Could it?


Something to think about: Because we have been successful building trails using public funds, perhaps we haven’t considered private funding as an option, need, or even desire. Major donors have favored such causes as arts venues and medical research, not trails. This could change. 

Another observation: In our region, it is hard to achieve unity around a single signature corridor project like those described above. There are so many competing priorities! And we are process-oriented to the extreme, well beyond what we see in most other communities. But if a group of local governments and local foundations or corporations could, indeed, unify around a single corridor, just think of what we could achieve. 

A third is identity. The razorback (hog) is the University of Arkansas mascot. The Indianapolis Cultural Trail and the Wolf River Greenway speak volumes about what those areas wanted to create. Branding can make a difference.

There is no doubt in our minds that the Intertwine partners are heading in the right direction through our collective impact approach. Private investment could be the key to our ultimate success.

*Alta and Greenways, Inc. merged in 2010.

Katie Mangle leads a group of 17 planners, designers and engineers in Alta Planning + Design’s Portland office. She is a former senior planning official of both the cities of Milwaukie and Wilsonville.

Mia Birk is Alta’s CEO, a pioneer in active transportation, and author of Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet, which tells the story of how a group of determined visionaries transformed Portland into a cycling mecca and inspired the nation.

Discover hidden gems north of the Columbia

Celebrating 30 years of the Clark County Legacy Lands Program

April 29 2015

Many are familiar with the Vancouver Lake lowlands and Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Clark County, Washington, together a mirror image of the Sauvie Island complex on the Oregon side of the border. Clark County, along with federal, state and non-profit organizations, has assembled key pieces of the lowlands over a 30-year period as a conservation legacy for future generations. Vancouver Lake and Ridgefield are two of the best known natural areas in the county, but there are many others to discover. 

Clark County’s Legacy Lands Program, managed by the Environmental Services Department, was instituted in October 1985, when the Board of County Commissioners adopted a small property tax levy of 6.25 cents per $1,000 of valuation to protect open space from threats such as urban development and habitat degradation. Protected greenspaces provide a vital green infrastructure that connects our community, protects our water and air, preserves corridors for wildlife, and provides recreational opportunities.  

To celebrate 30 years of success, we hope to introduce you to three less familiar gems in our system. Directions to and information about sites highlighted below, and other engaging natural sites, can be found at We are also programming a series of special events throughout 2015 to pique your interest in our unique contributions to The Intertwine.

La Center Bottoms and the Lower East Fork Lewis Greenway

The free-flowing East Fork of the Lewis River is home to native runs of Chinook, Coho and Chum salmon, and winter and summer steelhead. The lower floodplain offers hundreds of acres of bottomland habitat for waterfowl and other species. Clark County and its partners have assembled more than 2,000 acres of land from the confluence of the East Fork and North Fork Lewis Rivers to Lewisville Park near Battle Ground. While much of this land is protected for its habitat value and has limited public access, La Center Bottoms offers a window into this bottomland system. 

From the trailhead on 3rd St. in La Center, follow the handicap-accessible path to a small bridge across a burbling brook in an oak stand. Past the bridge, the path turns to gravel. Soon you will arrive at a waterfowl viewing blind where you may see migrating tundra swans feeding on camas bulbs in the wetland ponds. Migrating salmon smolts also use the ponds for refuge and forage. From the large bridge across Brezee Creek, there is an expansive view of the bottomland landscape. As you look upstream, know that most of the bottomlands on the south side of the river are protected. Continuing over the bridge, the trail narrows and follows the levee, providing more intimate views of the river. 

For an on-water experience, the City of La Center has constructed a small canoe/kayak launch just under the La Center Road Bridge downstream of the trailhead. This reach of the river is tidally influenced. Time it right, and ease your upstream paddle on the incoming tide. Then drift downstream with the current back to the put-in, or, for the adventurous, all the way to the Columbia River, ducking into Lake River to a take-out at the Port of Ridgefield. 

Salmon-Morgan Creeks Natural Area

For an upland experience, explore the 81-acre Salmon-Morgan Creeks Natural Area in the southwest corner of Battle Ground. Ancient cedar stumps, harvested in the early 1900s, nurse a new generation of life. A mature mixed-conifer forest has grown up around them, offering a variety of experiences. You might hear the drumming of a pileated woodpecker echo through the forest. You might stumble across a rough-skinned newt crossing one of the soft surface trails. Trilliums brighten the forest floor in spring. From an overlook, you can view the confluence of Salmon Creek and its tributary, Morgan Creek. Western pearlshell mussels can be found in Morgan Creek, and Coho salmon smolts rear under the cooling forest canopy well into summer.

Lower Washougal Greenway

The Lewis and Washougal River systems are the two primary systems we expect to contribute to the recovery of salmon and steelhead populations in Clark County. The City of Camas, Clark County and other partners have managed to assemble an 100-acre greenway along the Lower Washougal River. The City recently completed a 1.5 mile-long handicap-accessible trail from which you can get a first-hand view of the river. 

From downtown Camas, travel east and turn right onto NE 3rd Loop, just past Lacamas Creek, to the trailhead. A short downhill switchback will take you to a boardwalk that lightens the impact of foot traffic through the floodplain. During the spring freshet you might get wet feet. Ascending out of the floodplain, a bridge leads you from the north bank to the south bank of the river. Spectacular views up and down the river await from the top of the bridge. February through May you might see salmon and steelhead spawning in the gravels below. The trail continues through a reclaimed gravel mine that is now a series of ponds connected with the river and enhanced with large wood to improve fish habitat. Shortly past the gravel mine, the eastern trailhead awaits off of NE Yale St.

For a longer outing, check out the trailhead for Lacamas Lake Regional Park and its 9.5 mile trail system, one block west of 3rd Loop on 3rd St.  

Patrick Lee is a greenspaces geezer, proud of his accomplishments to date and excited about the work to come. He coordinates Clark County’s Legacy Lands Program.



Scenic Bikeways and Bottom Lines

Oregon bike tourists impact more than singletrack

September 17 2014

Did you know Oregon is the only state in the nation with an official, state-run Scenic Bikeways program? That’s right; similar to our Scenic Byways program (which highlights key routes for cars) we also have 12 designated Scenic Bikeways.

If you’ve never ridden a Scenic Bikeway, I highly suggest you consider doing so. As an everyday bicycle commuter in the city of Portland for over a decade, I understand how easy it is to get caught in the rhythm of using one’s bicycle just to run errands or get to and from work. But it’s also important to occasionally get on your bike just for the pure joy of the ride.

This fall, why not nurture your inner child on the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway (one of my favorites for its family-friendly off-roading, great foliage and path through historic downtown Cottage Grove)?

Or better yet, head to and plan a several day trip next year on any one of the longer Bikeways such as the Old West Scenic Bikeway, Blue Mountain Century, and the newest of all—the Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway.

Trust me; your pleasure trip does your state a favor. In 2012, a Dean Runyan Associates Economic Impact Study revealed that bicycle travel spending reached $400 million in Oregon—that’s approximately $1.1 million per day! Travelers who participated in bicycle-related activities spent:

  • $72 million on motor fuel
  • $54 million on groceries
  • $32 million on event fees
  • $28 million on bicycle repairs, clothing & gear
  • $175 million on accommodation & food services

In addition, this bicycle-related travel spending directly supported about 4,600 jobs, resulting in $102 million in earnings. The spending also generated local and state tax receipts of nearly $18 million in 2012. This includes lodging taxes, motor fuel and travel-generated state income tax.

This year, in an effort to better understand the significance of the Bikeways program, Travel Oregon and Oregon Parks & Recreation Department (OPRD) are launching a new economic impact and user study—expected to be released in spring 2015—in partnership with Dean Runyan and the Oregon Department of Transportation. The goals of the 2014 Bikeway Study are to:

  • Know what the economic impacts of the Bikeways are to Oregon;
  • Provide input to help make Oregon an even better place to ride;
  • Learn more about the bicycle traveler in Oregon; and
  • Provide useful data for our partners and networks to utilize.

The study has two key components, including a Scenic Bikeway Trail Counts, which took place this summer, and a Scenic Bikeway Survey.

The Scenic Bikeway survey is intended for all cyclists to participate in who have ridden their bike, or plan to ride their bike, on any one or more of Oregon’s Scenic Bikeways during 2014. Answers supplied will be kept strictly confidential and be used for statistical purposes only; the survey takes approximately 7 minutes. Take the survey here!

Nastassja Pace is Travel Oregon’s Destination Development Specialist. In addition to supporting the sustainability program Travel Oregon Forever, Nastassja helps lead Oregon’s bike-tourism development efforts. She serves on the Scenic Bikeway Committee, convenes the Oregon Bicycle Tourism Partnership, co-facilitates Bicycle Tourism Studios, manages the Bike Friendly Business program, and aids in the development of Nastassja has worked on campaigns including “Ban the (Plastic) Bag,” and serves on the board of Portland-based nonprofit We Love Clean Rivers.

Infinite possibilities

The trail loop that could chart a new path for NW Oregon

June 25 2014

Imagine this: from downtown Portland, you head west by foot or bike along the Columbia River all the way to coastal Tillamook, then return to the city by following the wild Salmonberry River. And that’s just your halfway mark! Next, you head east through the Columbia Gorge, turning right at Hood River, up to Mount Hood and through Estacada -- still by trail -- all the way back to Portland.

This ambitious vision, a seamless system of big loop trails heading out from the metro region in a figure eight, is what we’re calling the Infinity Loop. The trails that comprise this vision cut through some of the most stunning scenery the Pacific Northwest has to offer, and could, we hope, be an economic driver capable of drawing tourists from all over the world.

The Infinity Loop isn’t new, when broken down into its trail components. Many people have invested much time developing the Salmonberry Trail, Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, Cazadero Trail, Banks Vernonia Trail, and The Coast Trail, to name but a few. The people planning, building and managing these trails deserve all the credit for creating these amazing regional tourist attractions.

What IS new about the Infinity Loop, however, is the idea of combining them into the aforementioned figure eight -- thus connecting many of Northwest Oregon’s iconic attractions and creating a potentially international tourist magnet.

At a meeting a few years ago, Portland State University’s Ethan Seltzer suggested promoting the new idea by hosting a conference in Portland in which attendees would look at a wall of screens, each projecting a live simultaneous feed from a hiker along the proposed trail equipped with a video phone. As conference-goers looked from screen to screen, they’d see someone on snow-capped Mt. Hood, another at the famous Vista Point in the Gorge, another sitting on a pier watching the seals at Astoria, another up to their knees in lapping ocean waves, and another deep in the steep-sided canyon of the Salmonberry River.

Hiking or biking the Infinity Loop in one hardcore go would be one way to experience all of these sights. Tourists might also enjoy a reward system, like a series of passport stamp, or an extended vacation, with stopping points in local downtowns offering a bed, great local food, and best of all, handcrafted IPAs that might make you want to do this loop forever.

Sound farfetched? Not to Metro, which is set to start planning the future Infinity Loop this summer in partnership with local jurisdictions, trail advocates, land trusts, businesses, health industry, chambers of commerce, tourism agencies, trail users, and the general public. The planning process will take a few years. Building and completing the new trails, like the Salmonberry and the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail, will take many years -- as will connecting those trails that already exist. It’s a plan that will be developed from the “bottom up,” with working teams of trail partners, planners and citizen advocates assembled into six or seven geographic sub-regions, and using existing trail plans already approved by government bodies and the general public.

Once complete, however, few of the world’s great trails will be able to compete with the Infinity Loop’s range of iconic elements. And beyond our natural wonders, Northwest Oregon is also one of the few rare places that has the advocates and enthusiasm to pull off a project of this scope.

With the Infinity Loop, we have the opportunity to create something amazing. So watch this space for future developments and let us know if you are interested in the effort.


Mark Davison is a Parks Planning & Design Manager at Metro Regional Government.

Unlocking Willamette Falls

Off-limits for 150 years, our largest waterfall will soon be just steps away

April 16 2014

For the past year, I’ve been the project manager for the Walker Macy consultant team on the Willamette Falls Legacy Project. This has easily been the most rewarding project of my career.

Why is this project so meaningful to me, my team, and our many incredibly committed public partners? Because of what it represents for our region and state: for the first time in 150 years, Oregonians will have the opportunity to rediscover the cultural and scenic treasure that is Willamette Falls.

We believe the project site, the 22-acre former Blue Heron paper mill in Oregon City, could someday serve as an economic engine, a waterfront destination, a unique habitat, a window into Oregon’s past – and a bold step into our future.

Located right next to Willamette Falls (the largest waterfall in the Pacific Northwest), this site was an important cultural and gathering place for Native American tribes long before it was a paper mill. The Oregon Trail literally ended here, with migrants collecting their land claims within sight of the roaring falls. And throughout the 1800s, the Falls made history by generating energy for Oregon’s early industries and cities and fueling the nation’s first long-distance electrical power transmission, including the power that lit the 1903 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition.

The former mill is for sale, but the site’s complexity and risks have required a careful and methodical transition to new uses. With the help of our consulting team, Oregon City, Clackamas County, Metro, the State of Oregon, and the property’s bankruptcy trustee, we have been working closely over the past year to develop a vision and master plan for the site.

By rezoning and providing certainty for investors, the master plan framework defines how the area can be transformed – for economic redevelopment, healthy habitats, and historical and cultural interpretation. Throughout this year-long process, we have also taken great care to make sure the plan serves to reconnect all of you with Willamette Falls – first and most importantly, by providing for public access along the waterfront.

The Riverwalk we've proposed in the master plan would be a catalyst for economic development in Oregon City, and also enhance the site's development value by demonstrating the public’s commitment to improvements. It would attract visitors and generate momentum for continued implementation of the master plan.

And last but not least, the Riverwalk would also be an important link in The Intertwine, connecting downtown Oregon City via a rail-trail with Metro’s Canemah Bluffs Natural Area, which is also undergoing ecological restoration and public access improvements. The project's partners recently agreed to seek sources of funding to design the Riverwalk – so visible change will soon be coming to this place.

You can help shape that change, by joining our next public open house for the Vision and Master Plan on April 21st. Oregon City staff will be there to discuss the proposed plan, answer questions, and hear public feedback. This is a casual opportunity to see what’s new with the project and learn about next steps. If you are unable to attend, please visit the project’s website, where you can find a great deal of project information, and sign up for public tours.

Through my work over the past year, I've been privileged to spend countless hours exploring the waterfront by Willamette Falls, a place that's been accessible to very few people over the past century and a half.

But soon, you, like me, will have the opportunity to rediscover Willamette Falls. Believe me — it’s unforgettable.

Ken Pirie is a senior associate with Walker Macy Landscape Architects in Portland, and the coauthor of the book Unsprawl: Remixing Spaces as Places. Originally from Quebec, via Scotland, Ken works on urban design and master planning projects, teaches graduate classes in planning at Portland State University, and is a member of the editorial board.

Step Aside, Tuscany

Could the Columbia Gorge offer European-style town-to-town hiking?

January 28 2014

Five years ago, the Columbia Gorge was voted the sixth best place in the world to visit by National Geographic's Traveler Magazine -- beating out places like the Serengeti and Tuscany.

Now Friends of the Columbia Gorge brings a world class vision to our world class destination: meet the Gorge Town to Trails Project.

We feel the Gorge is primed and ready for a model similar to popular European town-to-town hiking destinations like Italy’s Cinque Terre and the Czech Greenways' hiking system, both of which offer hikers leisurely treks punctuated by the best local food and drink.

Imagine lacing up your boots for a hike in the Gorge -- except this time, the incredible views and fields of wildflowers are interspersed with trailside stops at wineries and farm stands. And at the end of your sojourn, you’re rewarded with dinner at gourmet eateries, local wines and hand-crafted beer, and a night’s rest at a comfy bed and breakfast, lodge or hotel.

With Gorge Towns to Trails, launched in 2011, we envision a comprehensive 200-mile-plus  trail system that wraps around the Columbia Gorge. Our trail system will link communities with recreation, benefiting tourism and encouraging hikers and trail users to leave behind an economic footprint by making a weekend out of their play-time in the Gorge.

Some aspects are already in place, with our 40,000-plus acres of public lands and multitudes of hiking trails -- from the Dalles Riverfront Trail, to Oregon’s Historic Highway connecting Hood River to Mosier, to Washington’s Cape Horn Trail, located between Washougal and Stevenson.

But some of our most exciting work is just getting underway.

This spring, we’re launching a brand-new Play and Stay program, which upscales our hiking program with overnight incentives and evening activities -- like pairing wines and hikes in Mosier or evening education programs hosted at your hotel.

Another exciting development this year is our partnership with Skamania County Public Transit. Starting in May and running through October, you’ll have the ability to cross the Columbia to the Washington side via public transit: accessing trails, businesses, towns and lodging in Skamania County. Stay tuned, as the schedule and hike guide is still being developed for this new program.

If you're passionate about the Columbia Gorge, brace yourself -- because we think your love affair might have just begun!



Renee returned to Friends of the Columbia Gorge in 2011 as the project manager for Gorge Towns to Trails, a project that supports land protection, recreation enhancements and economic development. Renee is also a founding member of Cape Horn Conservancy and serves on the board of Trailkeepers of Oregon. Renee is eager to share with the public the ways Friends is working to promote more hiking opportunities in the Gorge.

Pearl of Clackamas

Wheels are turning in Oregon City

October 30 2013

For the past 150 years, Willamette Falls has been hidden from public view by industrial mills. In 2011, the Blue Heron Paper Mill closed its doors -- opening the way for tourists to rediscover the natural beauty and rich heritage of the area. Within 10 years, we think the opening of North America’s second largest waterfall by volume to tourism will prove one of the biggest boons for destination cycling in the Northwest.

While tourists of all kinds (600,000 each year, according to some estimates) will be drawn to the Falls, its history, and the mixed-use retail opportunities planned for this 23-acre site, cycle-tourists will be drawn for additional reasons. Wheels are turning in Oregon City -- from Trolley Trail connections to a bike-centric rail depot.

“The Amtrak station will be a hub that directs people to destinations around the city and county.” -- Adam Beykovsky, manager, First City Cycles in downtown Oregon City

In 2014, Oregon City will open a bicycle-themed bistro at the Amtrak Train Depot just minutes from Willamette Falls. Cycling enthusiasts will be able to load their bikes onto Amtrak trains from as far north as Vancouver, B.C., and as far south as Eugene, and then step out onto the platform at Oregon City.

The bike bistro will feature bicycle sales and rentals along with craft brews and gourmet coffees. Just minutes from hotel accommodations, the depot will be a perfect jumping-off point for mountain biking, single- or multi-day cycling tours to local wineries, farms, parks, and other outdoor wonders. Oregon City is also connected to several regional bikeways such as the Trolley Trail and the I-205 trail, and boasts some of the most bucolic back-country cycling in the Metro area.

From the depot, cyclists will also have access to other outdoor activities such as kayaking and jet boating to the base of Willamette Falls, whitewater rafting down the lower Clackamas, and paddling on stand-up boards in the Clackamette Cove. For those who enjoy hiking, there are numerous trails along Canemah Bluff and the Promenade overlooking historic downtown Oregon City. There are also several parks, historic sites, and museums to visit all within walking distance.

Yes, it’s an exciting time to live in Oregon City -- my home for the past 24 years. Just in the past few years, the Main Street area of this transitioning mill town has undergone a multi-million dollar revitalization. More recently, I’ve been attending hearings and open houses for the Willamette Falls Legacy Project.

It’s this kind of momentum (along with a one-day Cycle Tourism Workshop put on by Travel Oregon in 2011) that inspired me to open First City Cycles. I encourage you to get involved as well -- by visiting the Project’s website, joining the Oregon City Trail Alliance, or by cycling on over to see what’s new in the “Pearl District of Clackamas County."

Blane Meier is the owner of First City Cycles in Oregon City. He is also the founder of the Oregon City Trail Alliance, and is chair of the Oregon City Transportation Advisory Committee. For information, email Blane at blane@fccycles.


Foot trackers

Three new findings show us the way of our trails

August 28 2013

In the Portland/Vancouver region, we’re proud of the nature in our backyard. This love of nature ties our cities and counties together, literally, in the form of The Intertwine – our shared system of trails, parks and natural areas.

But who’s actually using our trails? How many of us? And why? For one week each September, Metro mobilizes a small army of dedicated volunteers for Trail Counts that attempt to answer these very questions. In a two-hour count session, volunteers armed with clipboard at dozens of key trail locations across the metro region record when someone passes their line, their mode of transportation, and their gender. Through this collective effort, we can document changing patterns of trail use, provide data to support future trail investments, and shed light on who in The Intertwine is taking most advantage of our great trails network.

Following methods recommended by the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project, Metro has collected trail use data since 2008. Recently we crunched Metro's historic trail count database to compare user volumes between trails, extrapolate two hour counts into annual totals, and tease out trail corridor trends and patterns for a just-released Intertwine trail use snapshot. What did we learn? Among other things, the following three findings:

1) Riverfront Trails are the Most Popular

Five of The Intertwine's top six highest use trails are located along the Willamette or Columbia Rivers. The Waterfront Park Trail and the Eastbank Esplanade in downtown Portland lead the pack by far, with over three times the volume of the next highest use trail: the Springwater Corridor along the Willamette River.


2) Everyone Walks

Gender is balanced among walkers on The Intertwine. While people tallied on foot are split evenly between male and female, the numbers for cyclists are significantly more lopsided, with females accounting for just 29 percent of riders. A note that this number is for the Intertwine system as a whole; data for some corridors evidenced a more equitable gender distribution. For example, 43 percent of the observed users on Clark County's Columbia River Renaissance Trail were female. 

3) If You Build It, They Will Come

The story of the Trolley Trail makes a great case for building and enhancing trails in our communities. Until 2012, the so-called Trolley Trail was a brambly pathway along an abandoned trolley line in Milwaukie. While in use by neighborhood pedestrians over the decades following the trolley era's sunset in the 1950s, the Trolley Trail failed to live up to its full potential as a transportation and recreation corridor, with a pathway muddy most months of the year and overgrown with blackberries and other weeds. 

In 2012, the Trolley Trail was developed into a fully paved shared-use path to conform to national standards. The change in atmosphere was significant, with usage levels boosted to match. The huge increase in use over 2012 offers us a promising peek at the potential of other similarly unfinished trail corridors – for example, the North Portland Greenway.

So what should we take from these three initial findings from Metro Trail Count data? We know that trails enhance communities across The Intertwine through access to nature, opportunities for physical activity, and options for transportation. And we know that counting counts – helping us track where we've been, learn from past successes, and forge ahead with new trails. We don't yet know where trail count data will lead. But if you join us Sept. 10-15, you can help inform that future.

Nick Falbo is a planner at Alta Planning + Design and founding partner of the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project. His experience includes bicycle/pedestrian master plans, complete streets, and Safe Routes to School projects. Metro contracted Nick to work on the Intertwine Trail Use Snapshot 2008-2012 as part of its Regional Active Transportation Plan

A street that ends in a wild place

Where are the Forest Parks of the future?

July 31 2013

“A street that ends in a forest—there is a magic there.” — Ursula K. Le Guin

In Portland, we can thank early urban planning visionaries, steep topography, and recent public bond measures for our fascinating and sometimes abrupt transitions between industrial spaces and wild places.

My favorite transition, Thurman Street in Portland’s Northwest District, begins at railroad tracks along the Willamette River. Initially fronted by old industrial buildings, some converted to restaurants shadowed by an overhead freeway that severs the street for several blocks, Thurman re-emerges after a few blocks as one of the most delightful urban streetscapes in the city, with a mix of uses that could never be planned—a library next to a dry cleaner across the street from a French bakery, next to a tapas bar, across from a cooperative grocery store, across from a bagel shop (Ursula K. Le Guin describes it infinitely better in Blue Moon Over Thurman Street, the source of the above epigram). After several blocks of old Victorians mixed with higher-density townhouses, Thurman climbs a hill over a rickety bridge and winds past some of the city’s grandest old mansions. Steeper it climbs, until some of the mansions become contemporary, angular boxes, with views to distant volcanoes. With one final curve, the street then just… ends.

Had things gone differently, Thurman Street would have continued into the forest as the spine of a 1930s subdivision, one that would have replaced the deep woods with large homes. The failure of this Depression-era development saw these steep lots end up in city hands as payment in lieu of back taxes, and eventually subsumed into Forest Park. Today, Thurman extends almost 12 miles through woods as Leif Erickson Trail, criss-crossed by a network of narrower paths. Where Sunday drivers looking at house lots once wound in and out of endless ravines, a gate now ensures that only walkers, runners, and cyclists can wander, their progress measured by small concrete markers every quarter mile.

But where are the Forest Parks of the future? Despite impressive land purchases for open space on the edges of some rapidly growing cities, new subdivisions in our region still often ignore wildlands, turning the backs of homes to the very places that kids (and their parents) should be exploring—the deep ravines and open fields—sometimes fencing them off altogether. It’s ignorance by design.

Richard Louv’s writings suggest that many psychological and physical problems of modern children can be addressed, at least partially, with more time outdoors. Perhaps most importantly, without access to nature, we could all lose our commitment to protecting it. As Robert Michael Pyle writes in The Thunder Tree, “only the ditches and the field, the woods, the ravines can teach us to care enough for all the land.”

As an urban planner, I often try to provide connections to nature in town and neighborhood plans. Even something as simple as a trailhead sign and a narrow path can suffice to entice us into the tangled, mysterious world beyond. A popular trend in landscape architecture features the design of children’s “nature-play” areas, which mimic unstructured, unsupervised forest adventures. As fabricated, ersatz nature, this is not ideal. But isn’t it better than screen time?

Other steps include integrating open space into parks and making these the heart of a community, rather than the undevelopable leftovers at its margins. Schools can be located adjacent to creeks and wetlands, which need not be pristine wilderness to serve as nearby ecology labs -- or provide the magic that compels Le Guin, and hopefully future generations, to the woods at the end of the street.

(Originally posted on


Ken Pirie is an associate with Walker Macy Landscape Architects in Portland, and the coauthor of the new book Unsprawl: Remixing Spaces as Places. Originally from Quebec, via Scotland, Ken works on urban design and master planning projects and is currently working on a plan for a former mill site at Willamette Falls. He teaches graduate classes in planning at PSU and is a member of the editorial board.

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