Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How well does your trail work?

I am a walker, I love to do a lot of walking. While it may not show right now with the pounds I need to do I have walked more than 15 miles in a single day.


When I visited Portland before moving up here in 2010 and early 2011, and after moving here I would do walks suggested by Laura Foster in her books "Portland City Walks" and "Portland Hill Walks" which are two books I would highly recommend if you want to do sightseeing in Portland on foot.

However there is also times I like to walk off road trails because they tend to be quieter and I can do some hard thinking along the way. When I lived in Salt Lake City I would walk the Jordan River Trail that travels the center of the Salt Lake Valley and when I lived in Spokane, WA I would often walk the Centennial trail that traveled from Spokane to Couer D' Alene ,Idaho.

Here in Portland I live realtively close to the Fanno Creek Trail which travels from Tualatin to Portland along several different rights of way and sometimes in streets. I have walked part of the trail that is along an old rail line but have not attempted to walk the who trail until last week.

One of the problems with attempting to walk the entire Fanno Creek trail is the lack of a map that is easy to access. In fact I have not been able to find any map that shows the entire trail from beginning to end that is current. I had to piece together all the information in order to find my way.

Compare that to the Jordan River Parkway which has easy to access maps:
Jordan River Parkway

Or the Centennial Trail in the Spokane area:
Centennial Trail Map

Which is part of Google Maps



Now lets talk about walking the trail from start to finish. I started off in Tualatin which is near a park but there is little to no signage to tell you direction of the Fanno Creek trail. Fortunately I new that Tualatin Neighborhood Park was the beginning of the trail so I walked from the parking lot where I was dropped off (2 blocks from the WES station and 1 block from Trimet line 76 bus stop).

The trail starts off by going under a wooden trestle that is part of the Portland & Western railway while paralleling another line of the railroad which hosts WES commuter trains. The trail continues passing the park which ends with an off leash dog park that appears to be very popular.

Next you come to a junction. If you turn left (west) you head under the Portland & Western railroad tracks and head into Cook Park. If you look at Google Maps you would see that there is a crossing of the P&W tracks up ahead that will take you to the same point as the trail through Cooks Park. However, what

Google maps does not tell you is that the road is for authorized vehicles only because it enters the Water Treatment Plant.

The walk through Cook Park is lovely but it does meander a ways around before you come to soccer fields and restrooms. It should be noted that there is not a lot of places for restroom stops along the route so you want to take them where you can especially if you don't like poorly maintained porta potties.

Once you hit the soccer fields you have to guess the right way to go because there is no signage but fortunately the path to continue on the Fanno Creek trail is pretty obvious. The trail becomes mostly pebble until hit SW 85th street where the trail dead ends.

There is no signs on what you should do from here but there is only one way to you can travel on SW 85th so the direction is pretty simple to start off with. You will pass the water treatment plant that I mentioned earlier.

You walk along SW 85th street until you reach Durham. Once here you have a decision to make and there is no signs to help you. Eventually there will be a new section of trail along this section of the road but it will be about a half mile or so away from here and along the a street that sees not a lot a traffic but people who drive the road fast. On the other hand you can continue on SW 85th until reaching the Tigard Library which is another part of the trail .However, I was attempt to use every bit of the trail I could so I walk from SW 85th to SW 79th street and headed up SW 79th to reach a small section of trail.

SW 79th which is a residential street does not start off bad with both sidewalks and bicycle lanes. However, before long the sidewalks disappear and in the next block so do the bicycle lanes. While it is a residential streets because it is one of the few through streets in the area people have the habit of traveling at high speeds which is dangerous considering there is some spots were only one car can get buy. The next street you cross is Bonita which is also the point that SW 79th become Fanno Creek Way.

After walking a few more blocks you pass a multifamily building that looks like it might be the path but it is not. You continue a couple of more blocks as the road curves to the left and finally you see a path between two homes but once again there is no signage. Once pass the entrance of the trail you encounter two high fences that have been vandalized with graffiti on a couple of occasions. While I can understand that people are afraid of someone looking in their windows the tunnel affect creates a feeling of no eyes on the walkway which creates the opportunities for those who want to damage other peoples property.

I am sure the surrounding residents like the fact that the trail is poorly mark so fewer people use it and I will not I only encountered one bicyclist on this stretch of the road. The trail then passes some townhouses and at one point there is a large no trespassing sign. I am not sure if this sign is there to intimidate people from not using the trail or just to keep off their property. The trail ends at the edge of the townhouses, once again with no sign indicating it was part of the trail, and leading you to the Tigard library.

From here the trail goes along a boardwalk next to the creek before depositing you once again at SW 85th where you need to cross the street. SW 85th is a very busy street with people often driving too fast but the city has installed a flashing yellow light for pedestrians. Once again we see an example of traffic engineers thinking two dimensional and only of the automobile because after you push the button for the light there is no way to know that it is actually been activated but by walking a few feet away and looking at the light.

Once across SW 85th the signage greatly improves as you are informed that you are on the trail and it gives you a basic map of the trail to Main Street in Tigard. Once you leave SW 85th there is direction signs pointing you to important spots such as the transit center but no more maps until you reach Main Street. Shortly before you arrive at Main Street you arrive at the property at the center of the landmark land use case Dolan Vs. Tigard. Sadly as you get to the building at the heart of the case there was graffiti on it which of leads to anti-trail feelings in residents and businesses.

 At Main Street there is a sign indicating you should cross the street but once across the street it only points you to the transit center which is on the same side of the street that you just crossed from. This will be the next section of trail completed but nothing tells you where to go. Foruntutelly I knew that I had to walk Main Street to where it becomes Johnson Street at Pacific Highway. However, this is a very dangerous intersection for pedestrians and I would not recommend it for the faint of heart.

After walking north on Johnson you encounter Woodard City Park which has a sign that says it is the temporary entrance to the Fanno Creek Trail. From here to Denney Road which is some distance the trail is all in park areas.There is a couple of minor street crossings but in both cases the trailheads are very well marked. You also have an encounter with the extremely busy Scholls Ferry Road but there an underpass (which is prone to flooding) is provided so you do not have to deal with cars. The next major problem along the trail is Hall Blvd. Currently there is no crossing at Hall and signs direct you to a nearby street with a traffic light. Orginally there was plans to put in either an overpass or underpass of Hall Blvd but it has been decided that it would be too expensive so they will not install a yellow flashing pedestrian signal instead. Hall Blvd is an extremely busy, wide road with a 40mph speed limit that is often broken, how well the flashing light will work will be interesting to see.

The next gap in the trail is at Denney Road. As you travel from the south you encounter a trailhead at Denny Raod. From there you need to cross the street and while there is signs telling motorist of a crosswalk there is nothing painted on the road. Once across Denney you head east on an overpass over the Portland & Western Railroad/WES line and Oregon Highway 217. Once across the highway you need to turn north on SW 105th Street but there is no signs telling you that. You then walk two blocks to the road ends in a light industrial area where you encounter the newest section of the trail that opened in January 2012.

From here to the Garden Home Recreation Center you only have one more major obstical and that is the Scholls Ferry Road/Allen Blvd - SW 92nd.  You have to cross both streets and walk past Burgerville and a Chinese Restaurant then cross SW 92nd. Traffic is directed from SW 92nd onto Allen but people still travel to fast in this area (despite the 30mph speed limit) and often give no indication that they are going straight on 92nd and ignore pedestrians in the crosswalk.

Here is a google view of the area:
SW Scholls Ferry Road/Allen Blvd/SW 92nd

Once you get back on the trail it is you have no more road encounters until you get to the Garden Home Recreation Center. From here SW Oleson has been redesigned with wide sidewalks and bike lanes to serve as a connection to extension of the trail and the Red Electric trail into Portland. However, almost 95% of the trial will be on streets with very few sidewalks so essentially the trail ends here.

What are some lessons that can be learned to get better use out of your trails and to make them more inviting?

1: Have someplace where maps of the trail can be accessed online either as a single map or the case of the Jordan River trail multiple maps that can be found in one location on the internet.

2. Make sure that the trails are well signed with maps. While I have a good sense of direction there is many people who do not (we used to joke my mother could get lost going around the block and that applies to some others I know). While it may be easy for you to figure out what about others?

3. If there is gaps in the trails make sure the gaps are well signed so that people know how to re-access the trail once it continues.

4. If your dealing with multi-jurisdictional trails, make sure you are working together to make the trail accessible and information about it easy to find.

Something else I found interesting while walking the trail is the people I encountered. Almost all the walkers and joggers were extremely friendly. Only one did not say hi and smiled and one woman was too busy playing with her cell phone but over 95% of those encountered were friendly. On the other hand only two of the cyclist I encountered were friendly while most of the others just go by without saying a word or were downright rude (despite the fact I kept to the very right side of the trail).

Here is some more pictures of my trip along the trail (sorry the pictures were taken with my crappy cell phone not my DSLR I normally travel with).

After leaving Cook park you encounter the dead end of SW85th 

The corner of SW 85th and Durham, no signs to tell you where to go. 

The first part of SW 79th Avenue

The sidewalks have disappeared but the bike lanes are still here

Now the bike lanes have vanished and the street narrows. 

The Fanno Creek Trail starts again but it doesn't mention it is part of the trail 

Welcome to the fence "tunnel", no eyes on the trail

No trespassing on the trail or just into the townhouse area? 

Here is the trail next to the Townhouses and the library but no signage

Tigard Library - One of the few places for a restroom stop

The crossing of SW 85th. 

How do I know the light is working? 

SW 85th much quieter than normal

Finally an area with good signage and a map 

Signs but now map


I arrived at main street

Crosswalk of Main Street

Crosswalk sign with a button for light activation but no lights 

Where to go from here? The trail you see dead ends at a car shop on other side of Pacific Highway with no access

You have to cross Pacific Highway which can be extremely dangerous 


Johnson Road

Woodard Park and it actually tells you it is the Fanno Creek Trail!

Well mark paths 


Maps that need some TLC



The crossing at Denney 

Up over the highway

Confusing signs? 

Eventually there will be a bridge over the highway for the trail but don't hold your breath on when it gets built 


No signs indicating to turn left to find the trail. 


Along the newest part of the trail. 

The new section of trail ends at the sidewalk of Scholls Ferry Road with SW Allen Blvd ahead


Sign tells you to cross both streets then walk straight ahead from this point. 


Last bad street encounter: Cars are turning off of SW 92nd onto Allen Blvd which is the main flow of traffic. The school bus is trying to turn left but almost hit a car that looked to be traveling far above the 30mph speed limit 


Barrier at SW 90th Avenue

Most of the rest room facilities along the trail are porta potties that look like they haven't been cleaned in a while

Construction for sewers

End of the line, Garden Home Recreation Center 

Oleson Street, the trail continues but from here is all on surface streets many without sidewalks 

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