Critical Connection: New Bridge to Span Wildwood Trail’s Most Troublesome Gap
Whizzing traffic, blind corners, a jarring jolt of urban congestion: It’s one of Wildwood Trail’s most treacherous gaps.
The Burnside Wildwood Trail crossing is enough to strike fear in the heart of runners, hikers and motorists alike. As Portland grows, navigating this tricky section is only getting more difficult and dangerous. But a solution is near, thanks to a grassroots effort led by Portland Parks Foundation: Construction on a beautiful new pedestrian bridge across Burnside is about to break ground this summer.
Years in the making
Since the 1960s when Portland was about half the size, ideas for the best way to safely connect Wildwood Trail across Burnside have been debated. From traffic signals to tunnels, the city determined that while a pedestrian footbridge was more expensive, it ultimately would be the best solution for maintaining the integrity of the Wildwood while maximizing safety in the long run.
“Amazingly, there’s never been a serious pedestrian injury at that area, but certainly no one wanted to wait until that happened,” said Portland Parks Foundation Executive Director Jeff Anderson. “Traffic in that area is only getting worse, so it’s time to bridge the gap and do it in a way in keeping with the beauty of the Wildwood and ensuring the safety of both pedestrians and motorists.”
Groundswell of support
Based on a stunning design inspired by the concept of a “bridge floating in the woods” by Ed Carpenter, an artist from Portland, the Foundation began the effort to raise the estimated $2.5 million needed for the bridge in earnest starting in 2013.
Support began to roll in from a myriad of sources, including Portland Parks & Recreation and Metro, each of whom made significant contributions to this project, major family and public foundations and private donations. But it wasn’t until a crowdsource fundraising campaign kicked off in 2016 that it came to light just how many in the community cared about turning the concept of a new pedestrian bridge connecting the trail into a reality. The Foundation set a lofty goal to crowdsource $150,000 (less than 1 percent of causes raise more than $100,000). That goal was reached in just 11 days. In the end, from $5 to $50,000 contributions, more than 660 crowdsourcing donors gave a total of $185,000 in support of the effort.
In all, 950 donors have helped raise a total of $2.7 million. And while final construction bids have yet to come in, Charlie Swindells, the chair of the Portland Park Foundation capital campaign who led much of the fundraising charge, says there’s no doubt the project resonates with donors large and small.
“It’s not just people who love the Wildwood Trail and the park, but also those who are truly concerned about the community’s safety and want to contribute to this amazing city legacy,” said Swindells. “The outpouring of support has been outstanding, and incredibly gratifying.”
A bridge is finally born
While the permitting and review process is underway now, it is expected that construction will begin late summer 2018. From there, it will be an estimated six to nine months, from fabrication to construction, before the new bridge is complete. During that time, public meetings will take place regarding potential trail and traffic construction disruptions while final costs are evaluated and adjusted as necessary.
In the meantime, the new bridge already has a name. Suggested by Mayor Hales and endorsed by many who admired her, the bridge will honor the memory of Barbara Walker, a tireless volunteer and advocate for some of Portland’s best-loved natural areas and city parks. The Walker Family Foundation is a major supporter of the project, and Barbara’s spirit of making a powerful, positive impact on the city of Portland be honored indefinitely, thanks to the new bridge.
From an experience not for the faint of heart, to one that truly demonstrates Portland’s love for its community and natural areas, the bridge over Burnside is a major step forward for the city. Stay tuned for more details as this exciting project gets underway.