Trail of the Month: December 2002
Springwater Corridor, Oregon
While all rail-trails are located in either rural, suburban or urban settings, Portland, Oregon, residents can make the unique claim that the 14-mile Springwater Corridor winds its way through all three of these environments as the trail heads east from Portland through the town of Gresham. The trail generally follows the path of Johnson Creek as it passes by employment hubs, residential areas, numerous parks and industrial yards on its way into the countryside east of Portland. On a clear day, trail users heading east out of Portland can also catch some magnificent views of Mt. Hood in the distance.
Completed in September 1996, the first phase of the Springwater Corridor is an excellent example of how a rail-trail can be used as both a recreational facility and a safe, non-motorized alternative for getting to work, running errands or just visiting with friends. The 10-foot-wide paved path provides a suitable surface for bicyclists, skaters and wheelchair users. In addition, two-foot-wide soft shoulders parallel the main path, giving walkers and runners a softer surface to use. The eastern end of the trail also allows for equestrians.
The trail lies on a corridor that was initially developed for rail service early in the 20th century. Known as the Springwater Division Line—which is believed to be the first interurban rail line in the United States powered by water generated electric current—this rail corridor once had 161 miles of track and carried 16,000 passengers each year on its city-wide system. Passenger service was discontinued in 1958 and in 1990 the right-of-way was acquired by the city of Portland.
An exciting development on the Springwater Corridor is the recent opening, on November 26, of the Springwater on the Willamette rail-with-trail project. Springwater on the Willamette is a three-mile, paved path that parallels the active Union Pacific Railroad Company tracks in a north-south direction along the Willamette River. Although this new rail-with-trail is not connected to the first phase of the Springwater Corridor, plans are underway via the "three bridges project" and a future phase affectionately known to local trail planners as the "Sellwood Gap" to connect these two trail segments. The "three bridges project" and the "Sellwood Gap" would span McLoughlin Boulevard, the Union Pacific railroad tracks just east of McLoughlin Boulevard, and Johnson Creek.
The possibility of an extension to the eastern end of the Springwater Corridor also exists. Currently, the improved section of the trail ends just past Gresham at the Multnomah/Clackamas County line. From here, the Springwater Corridor is an unimproved trail to the town of Boring. South of Boring, an additional 10.8 miles of right-of-way are owned by the state of Oregon; the development of this section of the Springwater Corridor could connect the trail to the Pacific Crest Trail via the Mt. Hood National Forest.
One of the ecological challenges of maintaining the trail is halting the invasion of non-native plant species along the corridor. To aid with this effort, last March 75 students from Portland's Kelly Elementary School planted native trees and shrubs along a section of the Springwater Corridor in the Lents neighborhood of southeast Portland. This was the 30th planting event along the trail over the last five years. With such strong community support, the Springwater Corridor will continue to be a well maintained and highly used recreational and alternative transportation facility.