Blazing a community trail

Art Carroll and HR Parks and Recreation start to see results from nearly five years of planning

If you don’t have a road, it takes a lot longer to get where you’re going. And if that road isn’t clearly defined, you may have trouble finding your way.

That’s one way of looking at the on-going Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation project to build a three-mile cross-town hiking trail from the Port of Hood River to the high school.

“After visualizing the project for a few years, we now know where we should be going with it,” said Art Carroll, a Parks and Recreation board member who has helped the Indian Creek Trail take shape since the idea was introduced in 1998.

“Now it’s just a matter of getting all the easements and securing the funds for segment three. Then we can start putting up signs and directing people to the trailheads,” he said.

Segment three is the parcel of land that starts at Indian Creek Road, runs past Indian Creek Golf Course, and ends at Hood River Valley High School. Part of the trail is already being used by the public, but it won’t officially open until 2004.

Carroll is still working to secure written permission from the adjacent property owners, and if the easements are granted, segment three could be completed by the end of the calendar year.

“We can’t apply for grant money until the easements have been completed,” he said, “and we’re still working with a few property owners so we can move ahead.”

However, the many legal hurdles aren’t preventing the public from using the Indian Creek Trail.

Part of segment three (behind the high school) is already in use, while the entire segment one — from Third and E. Hazel to Pacific Ave. on The Heights — was completed in the winter of 2003 through help from the Wyeth Forest Project Crew.

Segment two, the trail section that begins on the west side of 12th Street, will run to Indian Creek Road, where it will adjoin with segment three.

“In some respects, it’s a three-mile trail from town to the high school, as originally proposed in 1998,” Carroll said. “But, at the same time, each segment will have a fair amount of its own users.”

Carroll said the goal of the trail is to accommodate all the runners, walkers and bicyclists in Hood River, as well as their pets. But, based on recent public feedback, a dog leash ordinance may have to be imposed so that the trail can fit everyone’s needs.

“We’re not building a trail for dogs,” Carroll said. “We’re trying to accommodate the recreational needs of as many people as we can, and we don’t want to ruin their visit by inviting dogs to run loose in a place that is supposed to offer forest-type environment.”

Another challenge facing the project organizers is to take all the necessary steps to comply with the American Disabilities Act.

Carroll said that some modifications can be made to segments two and three to make the trail wheelchair accessible. But the majority of segment one “is what it is” because of the existing landscape.

“There are some narrow spots and some hills that we can’t really fix,” he said. “That’s not to say that segment one can’t be used by people who use wheelchairs. But there will likely be less limitations on the other two segments.”

One major project that still must be completed for segment three to comply with ADA guidelines is the building of a bridge over Indian Creek. Carroll said the bridge is the “most costly part of the whole project,” and will require grant money to be completed.

To ease the financial burden associated with this final phase of the project, Hood River Parks and Recreation has applied for a $24,900 grant through the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

A formal decision is expected by Aug. 7, and once that ruling is made, Carroll and the city parks officials will have a better idea of how the project will move forward.

“It’s really going to be special once the final phases are complete,” Carroll said. “A trail like this is something the community has wanted and needed for many years.

“There is a definite shortage of trails here in town, and I hope this trail will help people enjoy the many natural areas we have in our own backyard,” he said.

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