Dear Mayor Hales and City Commissioners:
Here are my thoughts on the Community Initiated Trails Policy. Thank you very much for considering them.
I think that trails are very important and the more we have the better. They help alleviate congestion, provide health benefits, increase the sense of community, reduce pollution, reduce crime, increase property values and provide an equitable means of transportation for those who need them. We need to do more than just say we are going to have zero pedestrian fatalities and do some actions to make this a reality. A good Trails Policy would help and a bad Trails Policy will hurt this effort.
I think we need to be fair in making these trails and allow as many trails to be built as possible. I do not think it is fair to let adjacent neighbors or neighborhood associations decide on whether a trail should be built. A trail could benefit many people beyond their scope and since it is public land we should consider everyone. I think the decision should be made through our elected officials and the Transportation Department with an option to appeal any decision to the full City Council. I do think it is important to get input from Neighborhood Associations and adjacent neighbors but a trail could provide a safe means of transportation for many people and they should be considered. I do not think it is fair to allow a small number of people to veto the use of public land that would benefit many other people.
I know there are many good people who want to do what they can to help their community. There are people who are willing to do the hard work to build trails for free. I would hope the City would support these people as much as possible and make the process as easy as possible. One of the best things about Portland are the many residents who want to help out others.
I think it is good we provide an incentive for adjacent neighbors by giving them a special relief from liability. I have about 160′ of sidewalk along my property and I do not have the same immunity from liability. I must maintain my sidewalks. However, I am glad so many people benefit from my sidewalks and and I accept the responsibility. However, I think I should be given the same respect when I go out for a walk. I think everyone in Portland must realize that public property belongs to everyone.
In sum, I do not think the proposed Trails Policy is fair. I think with some changes it could be made fair and a great benefit to the City. I think the suggested changes by SW Trails would make the policy fair and I urge you to support those changes.