The Springwater Corridor picks up just a few blocks away from where the Eastbank Esplanade dead-ends at SE Division Place, near OMSI. But to get from one trail to the other right now, pedestrians and cyclists face a gauntlet of streets winding through this heavily industrial part of Southeast Portland.
The haphazard "connection" is difficult for people to navigate: "SE 4th is poorly maintained, with gravel along the roadway, and is frequently blocked in part by large trucks during the morning commuting hours," bike commuter Matthew Picio wrote in a letter to the city. "Cyclists... must contend with gravel, broken glass, and a 'bike-eating' pothole at the road edge when SE 4th crosses SE Division Place... Cars on these streets frequently pass close by and frequently at speeds exceeding the legal limit."
Picio would like to see the two trails connected along the river—and so would the city. The city's Greenway Plan calls for property owners along the Willamette River, between the Springwater and Esplanade paths, to grant an easement and build a segment of connecting trail whenever new development occurs.
Cue SK Northwest, a Portland company that sells personal watercrafts—like Sea-Doos—and wants to build a repair facility and dock on the river, right along the city-planned "greenway trail." (SK Northwest is in the process of purchasing the property from the current owner, Wayne Kingsley, who owns the adjacent Portland Spirit cruises property.)
SK Northwest, however, does not want to build a public trail on their property. "One issue is safety and two is paying for it," says the company's owner, Shawn Karambelas. Not only is he "scared to death" that someone using a trail through his property could collide with a forklift or other machinery, he also thinks it's unfair that the city wants him to give up his land and pay for a path. "The city not only wants me to give up property that I paid for with my own money, [they want me] to actually build it. Both of which seem crazy to me." Karambelas thinks the city should improve the street connections, instead.
On June 9, the city denied SK Northwest's development proposal, in large part because it did not include a public trail (the city also noted that it received 125 written responses opposing the proposal, many because of the missing trail).
"The trail improvements on this site are needed to provide a key link toward completion of the public trail improvements along this section of the river," says the city's report.
SK Northwest, in turn, is appealing the city's decision, and plans to take their fight as far as necessary. The company argues that requiring them to grant an easement and build a trail "imposes an unconstitutional exaction"—in other words, their property rights trump the city's wish to connect the trails. A hearing is set for July 12.