Urban trails exist around the city! Urban trails are undeveloped public areas that are owned by the City of Portland’s Portland Bureau of Transportation. These undeveloped areas are often used by people to find quicker ways to local stores, places of worship, and friends’ and families’s homes. The Portland Pathways program allows for both newly developed trails and long-standing undeveloped trails to be permitted through our process.
Portland Pathways works by providing opportunities for community members to create, design and/or maintain a trail in their neighborhood within public right-of-way (ROW). Portland Pathways are also Community-Initiated trails, which are a great way to build community, use local knowledge of trails and trail-building, and generate excitement about neighborhood pedestrian connectivity. The process for applicants involves an application, community engagement, collaboratively designing the trail, a site visit, and providing updated trail information.
How can I participate?
You can participate in numerous ways as a knowledgeable trail user, a neighbor, and an adjacent property owner.
As a knowledgeable trail user, you can:
- Propose a trail and apply for a permit
- Volunteer to create or maintain a permitted trail
- Volunteer to provide technical support for new trails
As a neighbor, you can lend your voice during trail design and volunteer to maintain a permitted trail.
As an adjacent property owner, you can participate by keeping the trail clear of obstacles. You can also rest assured that you will not be liable for any personal injury or damages that occur on permitted trails under House Bill 2865 (ORS 105.668).
You want to permit a trail. Here is how to get started!
Step 1. Send in a Trails Request Form.
Step 2. Bureau Review
Step 3. Community Notification
Step 4. Design Charrette & On-site visit to proposed trail
Step 5. Obtain the applicable permits
Step 6. Construction & On-going Maintenance
For more information email or call (503-823-4414) the Urban Trails Coordinator.
Are you ready to get started? First, you must submit your application!
Application can be submitted online or downloaded to fill out offline at this link.
As the focus of Portland in the Streets Programs are community centered, the proposed trail should also connect to places people want to go, parks, schools, places of work, and transit. Additionally, the purpose of these trails is to improve the pedestrian environment, therefore proposed trails should provide a more direct, comfortable, or safer (e.g., does not require crossing busy roads) route than existing infrastructure allows to meet this requirement.
Questions to ask before applying:
How do I know if it’s public right of way?
- Go to PortlandMaps.com
- Type in the address where the trail ends or begins, OR the cross-streets
- All the areas outlined in white are City right-of-way.
What kind of trails are perfect for this program?
Trails that are great for the Portland Pathways program are ones that:
- Serve as important walking connections to parks, transit, schools, and other destinations
- Are gravel or dirt areas located in underdeveloped low-volume streets, alleyways, and urban pathways.
This form will be checked by a Review Panel made up of public agencies to see if there are any ROW improvements planned or any issues with development in the ROW. Some PBOT ROWs have utilities, such as water mains or sewer, underground. Before pursuing a trail, it is important to check with other public agencies to ensure that improving the ROW would not cause issues with the function or maintenance to utilities, if present.
Community and neighborhood support is an important part of the process. The type and degree of community notification will depend on if the proposed trail has been adopted or not. To show community support, there are two pathways:
- Simple Community Support Requirements: If a proposed trail is on a map of trails that have been adopted through City Council-adopted plans (such as the SW Urban Trails Plan of 2000), then a notification will be sent to inform adjacent neighbors within 400 ft of the proposed trail.
- Moderate Community Support Requirements: For trails that are not a part of City Council-adopted plans, then once the proposed trail has been approved by bureaus, PBOT will look to the community that is impacted by the potential trail to help decide whether the trail moves forward. A notification letter will be sent to adjacent property occupants to ask about their support or opposition for the trail. If less than 40% of adjacent property occupants voice opposition to the proposed trail, then the application will move to the next step. If you provide that letter of support, you will only need 50% of the neighborhood support to go to the design phase.
Adjacent property occupants to the proposed trail play an important role in this process. They will be the “eyes” of the trail and will help trail organizations with maintenance and safety issues. It is important that the adjacent property occupants are knowledgeable of the process to convert the undeveloped right-of-way to a trail.
Trail Design and Site Visit
Any proposed trail must, at minimum, must meet existing City of Portland “Trail Type A, C and J” guidelines as detailed in “Trail Design Guidelines for Portland’s Park System” (2009) and only use materials on the approved list. Once the review step is cleared with the public agencies, the group will be invited on a site visit with the Trails Coordinator, Permit’s Lead, and Third-party reviewer to work out the proposed trail’s design details.
Design must meet current City of Portland “Recreational Trail” guidelines. Once the trail meets the requirements of access, resident support, and design standards as observed by the Third-party reviewer, the permit process begins.
Each permit shall be accompanied by a maintenance plan that is to be completed annually by the applying organization. Regular maintenance tasks shall be defined, and individuals/groups shall be identified as to what tasks they are responsible for.
All sites will be reviewed for safety and other factors by the Portland Pathways Trails Coordinator and a third-party trail reviewer before a permit is issued.
Construction Day & Ongoing Maintenance
After submitting the application, engaging your community, and designing the trail, you’ve finally made it to construction day! It's time to build or make updates to your permitted trail. Once this is completed, please send us photos and notify us of the completion of the project. We will then conduct a post-construction assessment.