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Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 800, Portland, OR 97204

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Community-Initiated Trails Process

  • The Southwest Urban Trails Plan The SW Urban Trails Plan was adopted by Council in 2000. We're working on developing the "more formal public process" that was mentioned for trails that may not have been on the "proposed urban trail network." Take a look at the plan to get some history!


The City of Portland has undeveloped rights-of-way (ROWs) in many parts of the city that some residents are interested in turning into urban trails. Historically, many of these ROWs have been located in Southwest Portland and are identified in the Southwest Urban Trails Plan (2000). The Plan supports the City’s pedestrian transportation policy which calls for the City to complete a pedestrian network that serves short trips and transit, improves the quality of the pedestrian environment, increases pedestrian safety and convenience, encourages walking, and explores a range of funding options for pedestrian improvements.

While the Southwest Urban Trails Plan identified potential trails, it did not detail a clear process for how new trails should be proposed, permitted, built, or maintained. PBOT has put together an easy-to-follow process for community groups to propose, permit, build, and maintain trails - the Community-Initiated Neighborhood Trails Process

Why are Trails Important?

PBOT has many miles of ROW throughout the City that remain undeveloped. While some of these ROWs are merely undeveloped because adjacent properties have yet to be developed, some ROWs may not be ‘fit’ for development. 

Even though these ROW’s might be unreasonable for development into built-out roads, they may offer opportunities for valuable, and currently unmet, connections. Trails are a way to improve the connectivity while keeping the costs lower than what would be needed for full sidewalk or road improvements. Trails are also valuable as a way to provide a connection without altering the aesthetics or ‘place’ that a ROW may go through, whether that be through the woods or in a neighborhood that has a rural feel. 

The importance of trails as a piece of Portland’s transportation system is an important part of the Comprehensive Plan, Pedestrian Master Plan, and the Regional Active Transportation Plan. 

What is Community-Initiated Work?

The City strives to work hand-in-hand with community members and groups to ensure that our efforts meet the needs of those we aim to serve. While many of these efforts are led by the City, there are also some that are led by community groups with the City in a support role. These sorts of efforts take advantage of community interest, knowledge, resources, and passion, while potentially keeping costs low(er) for the City and the public. 

In the case of trails, SW Trails, a local non-profit organization made up of community leaders and volunteers, has been instrumental in identifying and building trails throughout Southwest Portland, many for a fraction of the cost and time than it would have been if the construction were completed by the City. 

PBOT’s easy-to-follow Community-Initiated Trails Process would evaluate proposals based on; 

  • Purpose of Trails: Supports livability, addresses environmental concerns, supports the economy, lessens reliable on the automobile.
  • Connectivity: Increase pedestrian connections to transit, employment and educations resources, and services such as groceries stores and community centers.
  • Resident Support: Some degree of support would be needed from residents near the proposed trail and/or the broader community.
  • Trail Design: Follows Portland Parks Trail Type B standards.
  • Permitting: The organization initiating the trail will need to obtain the permits required for the trail construction.
  • Maintenance: If a ROW is improved to recreational trail standards by a party other than the City, this party will be responsible for the maintenance of that ROW.
  • Funding: In the current financial state, the City of Portland does not have funds to dedicate to improve or maintain trails. It will be up to the party interested/acting on improving the trail to fund the surveying, engineering, material, and building of the trail through grants, fundraising, or other means.

Community Partners

Here you can find a list of Portland trail building partners who can assist your group!

Community-Initiated Neighborhood Trails Process

Step by step instructions for getting started

How To Get Involved

How to get involved in community-initiated trails process

Urban Trails Grant

Information on the Urban Trails Grant Program