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The City of Portland, Oregon

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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Ask Mrs. Trails: Interview with Nick Falbo

In this edition we interview Portland Bureau of Transportation Senior Planner Nick Falbo about urban trails, SWIM, and upcoming projects.

Southwest in Motion Logo

Could you tell us who you are?

My name is Nick Falbo. I am a Senior Transportation Planner in the Area and Project Planning Section. I work on district and corridor plans to re-envision streets and communities.

Can you tell us about your next project?

We are really excited about Southwest in Motion (SWIM). It’s a plan to prioritize and refine the projects we have been talking about in Southwest for years.

So what’s covered in SWIM?

Our project is based in past planning efforts which include the Bike Master Plan for 2030, the Pedestrian Master Plan (now PedPDX), and supportive of other ongoing plans like SW Corridor.

So why is this exciting?

We’ve been planning in SW for a long time. What SWIM does is help direct our energy. The Transportation System Plan/Bike Master Plan/PedPDX are big plans, but what SW needs right now is a plan to get started. So what SWIM is trying to answer is “what do we build next?”

What’s exciting is we are recommending a series of small projects that will have a big impact. We are also trying to solve problems in innovative ways by looking at new types of street design and facilities to give people a safer place to walk and bike. Some key projects include building a “safer shoulder” on Markham Hill Road which would provide a larger walkable/bikeable surface that would connect people from OHSU to Fairmount Blvd. We have new bike lanes proposed near Jackson Middle School and SW 45th just North of Gabriel Park. 

How does this support urban trails?

We are trying to identify safer crossing locations and are currently prioritizing SRTS crossings and important trail crossings in SW. This would improve walkability across the SW and connect to various types of pedestrian/bike infrastructure, whether sidewalks, shoulders or local urban trails.

How can people find out more about SWIM?

We are currently seeking feedback for the draft SW in Motion project list through our Online Open House. You can find the link here (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SWIM_Open_House) . We will be collecting feedback until December 17th, 2018.

Ask Mrs. Trails: Mary Moerlins

Mary is a SW resident who lives on Trail #7 and thoroughly enjoys it as a nature enthusiast. Recently, we talked to her Mary and her family.about the importance of trails in her neighborhood. 

  1. Could you tell us who you are and how you are personally connected to the trails?

My Name is Mary Moerlins, I live in SW Portland with my family in the Vermont Hills/ Hayhurst Neighborhood. Professionally, I work in Corporate Citizenship at NW Natural and volunteer with a number of environmental nonprofits in town including Forest Park Conservancy and the Oregon Environmental Council.  Personally, I’m a trail runner, road runner and all around nature enthusiast. My husband and I are parents to two Hayhurst Elementary Huskies and a 14 year old cattle dog. We live on trail #7.  

2. What is your favorite part about the trails?

Primarily convenience – we enjoy using the trail to connect us to both our neighborhood and to transit and restaurants on BH Hwy. We live on a dead end, as do many in our neighborhood. The trails prevent these dead-ends and cul-de-sacs from being incomplete streets and un-walkable neighborhoods. Rather than being isolated we have many play dates, walk down our hill on the trail rather than have to drive and we can grab the bus because with the trail, we’re only 0.1 miles from the bus stop rather than a quarter mile plus if we use the road.

3. How important are the trails in your neighborhood? Have the trails improved your community?

The trails complete neighborhood connectivity and give us all an easy way to connect to one another as well as little islands of nature to enjoy.

4. What are some major or fun destinations along the trails you use?

Most frequently we use our trail access to get to dinner at IBU : ). However we also take trails for adventure purposes to see parts of the neighborhood we wouldn’t otherwise pass through.

5. Have you been involved with the construction of any of the trails as a volunteer? If so, what was that experience like?

We haven’t yet, but would certainly be open to helping to maintain these essential arterials in our neighborhood.

6. Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience with the trails?

They are well utilized and loved.

Ask Mrs. Trails: Lucy Cohen

Ask Mrs. Trails: Lucy Cohen 

Lucy is a Trails Technician with Parks and Recreation and a wonderful partner with the Portland Pathway Program. We talked with her about how she made a 180 turn in her career from working an office job in the Empire State Building to became a trails technician in Arizona, her unique view of connection between trails and sculpture art, and her favorite trail in the region. 

What do you do as a Trails Technician at Parks and Recreation?

Empire State Building

I spend most of my time outdoors working on trails. We’re in charge of maintaining trails in natural areas in the city, so it’s less urban than city parks. We work on things like trimming bushes encroaching on the trail, repairing damaged surface, etc. I really like that my job brings me outside a lot, but it can definitely be a challenge when it’s pouring rain in winter.

There are only two technicians and one coordinator on our team, but we maintain about 180 miles of trails in total on both sides of the river. We rely heavily on volunteers and community partners like Forest Park Conservancy and SW Trails. I lead regular work parties with volunteers.  

What do you like most about your job?

I like the sculpture aspect of trails the most. I studied environmental science and visual art in college. I’m fascinated by the way trails flow through the landscape and become part of the view. We also use rocks and wood to build retaining walls, and that feels like sculpturing as well.

I also really like working with volunteers and community partners. There is so much enthusiasm from people and it makes working on trails even better.

How did you get into trails as a professional?

Hoyt Arboretum

I just fell into it by accident! Believe it or not, I was working an office job in New York City, actually in the Empire State Building. I felt really stressed out and felt like I was going a little crazy in the city, so I applied for a trails conservation position with AmeriCorps in Arizona. I got the job and really liked it. Later, I moved to the Pacific Northwest to lead youth crew that worked on backcountry trails. The youth I worked with came from high-risk backgrounds, so it was challenging at times, but ultimately very satisfying because we could focus on the manual work and work through some challenges in their life together in the wilderness.

When I moved to Portland, I first worked for Forest Park Conservancy for four, five years. Then I got this job with the City a couple years ago. AmeriCorps is a really great opportunity for young people to learn new skills and start a career.

What’s your favorite trail?

Wild Wood Trail in Forest Park is definitely my favorite. I worked on this trail for about eight years, which is about 30.2 miles. I have hiked through it a couple of times, and it takes me about 11 to 13 hours, depending how I’m feeling. My coworker and I hiked through this trail last December right after it snowed. The trail was covered in fresh snow and it was so magical!

What’s your advice to people who are interested in getting involved in trails work?

My advice is: do it! There are so many opportunities for people interested in trails. If you’re interested in working as a trail professional, volunteer first to try it out. AmeriCorps is also a good place to start for young people.

If you’re new to Portland, volunteering for trails is a great way to get to know the region and feel connected to the nature. You’d also meet a lot of people at work parties.

We have many volunteering opportunities at Parks and Rec. We lead work parties with community organizations such as SW Trails, Friends with Markham Nature Park, Friends of Woods Memorial Park, and Powell Butte. You can find our volunteer events on the Stewardship Calendar.

Where would people find you when you’re not on trails?

I like to bike around the city and explore beautiful regional trails.

 

(Interview conducted by Qingyang Xie)