Bridge to Forest Park appeals to Montgomery Park developer
Pedestrian bridges are big in Portland these days. A year ago, the Barbara Walker Crossing taking the Wildwood Trail over West Burnside Street was dedicated with dancers, dignitaries and music. Crowds are expected to watch cranes raise the span of the long-awaited Flanders Crossing over Interstate 405 later this month.
And developers of Montgomery Park envision a pedestrian bridge over Northwest Wardway Street to connect residents, workers and tourists to a promised urban hub near the Forest Park entrance at Lower Macleay Park.
“We understand the real benefit to creating a public gateway to Forest Park that doesn’t currently exist,” said Cody McNeal, development manager for Unico Properties.
A trailhead lodge at the east end of the bridge, where the current parking lot would be replaced by midrise housing and shops, was also pictured in a presentation released last June.
“We’d like to help establish a pedestrian bridge that offers direct linkage to the incredible natural resource that is Forest Park,” McNeal said.
The project may depend on public funding.
“We feel the best way to deliver that bridge is a public/private partnership,” McNeal said. “We have no other details or updates on the bridge at this time, but we look forward to working with public organizations and agencies to explore this concept.”
Portland Parks & Recreation is aware of the scheme, which was discussed at the July meeting of the Parks Board.
“There are plans introduced for a new entrance to Forest Park, but it may be years off,” minutes of that meeting state. “The new streetcar expansion from the Hollywood District to Montgomery Park would increase transit access to Forest Park. [PP&R Capital Planning Manager] Lauren McGuire clarified there are no plans yet within the bureau to support that plan.”
Last month, PP&R spokesperson Mark Ross confirmed that the bureau “has not made any commitments regarding any potential future change to nearby properties of the park. PP&R will evaluate and prioritize investments through many lenses, including equity, environmental impact, funding, capacity, and the nature and scope of any ongoing care which would be needed, including traffic and usage patterns involving people and/or vehicles.”
Unico spokesperson Erica Perez would not even confirm that the bridge is part of the company’s current thinking. She called the May renderings “very outdated and highly conceptual.”
The bridge may go the way of the Con-way canals, which were prominently featured in initial renderings of Con-way Inc.’s redevelopments plans centered at Northwest 21st and Raleigh streets in 2007. The canals promptly disappeared from future documents.
Though neighbors share Unico’s appreciation of the 5,200-acre semi-wilderness park, they worry that Unico wants to turn it into a marketing asset while diminishing its fragile ecosystem.
Janet Schaefer, a co-founder of Friends of Wallace Park, is concerned about possible overuse of Forest Park.
“Because of the increase in numbers of people, what is needed far more than a bridge to Forest Park is dedicated land for a park where there’s play structures and people can sit on the grass,” Schaefer said. “There’s not much chance of that in Lower Macleay.”