A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

A safety issue along the riverfront path

Written May 22nd, 2020 by Hasso Hering

A CARA board member was accosted here, where the Clark path goes under the Lafayette Street trestle.

Security is one of the subjects that will need attention as Albany contemplates adding various enhancements to the Dave Clark Path and other public property along the Willamette Riverfront.

What happened to Maura Wilson illustrates the issue. She’s a member of the advisory board of the Central Albany Revitalization Area, the downtown urban renewal district that intends to spend millions on riverfront changes.

About two weeks, she told the CARA board Wednesday night, she was riding her bike on the Clark Path to the Willamette Community Garden at the end of Main Street, where her husband was waiting.

Where the path goes under the trestle, she said a disheveled-looking man, also on a bike, swerved in front of her, spit at her and shouted an insult. She rode on but could not avoid going through the mist of spittle. Afterward, she called the police but was told nothing could be done unless she could state that the spit had hit her. And of that she could not be certain. But she’s had to be tested for hepatitis. And she’s not riding her bike on that path again by herself.

It is not unusual to encounter people in various mental states on the riverfront path, some of them apparently under the influence. Some live in the brush on the riverbank. And judging by the tobacco smoke drifting up from below, some spend time in a cave under the path east of the Wheelhouse parking lot.

The path is on one of my bike routes, and I’m on it often. I’ve never had a problem with anyone, though recently it was a little tricky to get around a woman who was dancing from one side of the path to the other and shouting — maybe singing — at the top of her voice.

The conventional wisdom used to be that the more the general public uses a place, the less there are problems with undesirable behavior. That no longer seems to be true. But even if it is, how do you get the general public to frequent a place that acquires a bad reputation?

As CARA and its consultants continue kicking around ideas for Albany’s Willamette Waterfront Project, this question will hang in the air: What if we spend a few million dollars to add river views and art displays and whatnot to the Dave Clark Path, and then people don’t go there because it isn’t reasonably pleasant or safe? (hh)

Trampled weeds and trash mark a hangout off the riverfront path under the trestle.


11 responses to “A safety issue along the riverfront path”

  1. Rick says:

    Maybe the path area doesn’t justify the expenditure of millions? Maybe thousands would be adequate? Maybe nothing? Alas we will never know as millions will be spent.

  2. Jaycee says:

    I live in the houses along the trail. I can say myself i feel unsafe a lot of the times especially because the only fence that is up is a metal one that is see through. They could at least build mesh covering over the metal fence that you can’t look through or another fence to make people feel a lot more safe in their own home.

    • Jennifer Stuart says:

      Jaycee, if you are talking about the fence along the path as it passes through the Edgewater Village property, it was erected to provide a river view to the occupants of the homes along the Dave Clark Trail. When we moved to that area almost four years ago my elderly mother used to walk her dog at least twice a day along that trail and watch birds that would nest on the trestle. Now she avoids the path, largely because of the occasional person on the trail who acts strangely. It makes her feel uncomfortable. We are hoping that once the new homes are fully occupied this sort of thing will stop happening.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Is that fence “city owned” or is owned by the developer of the property?

      • Jennifer Stuart says:

        It is owned by the HOA, installed by the developer, and the design was approved by CARA, according to the Edgewater Village CC&Rs. Those homes have a premium price because of the river view.

  3. John Klock says:

    If you follow that same tressel across the river to the other side, you will find homeless living on the river side of the concrete abutment.

  4. Patricia Eich says:

    I definitley pay attention when I walk in that area. A few weeks ago I passed a man asleep in the middle of the sidewalk. On my return he was awake, standing in the grass, talking loudly to himself and glared at me as I walked by. Was very happy to see another walker headed my way, Still feel bad for people that have to live on the streets no matter what the reason.

  5. Billh says:

    HH I have been walking DC trail for years. The homeless are always there. They live in caves under the path, they have camps along the riverbank. Mostly harmless, but when they threaten people the APD needs to take action.

  6. Jim Engel says:

    To Bill…therein is a glaring problem..NO consistent/timely police patrols ever! With a grandiose development down there all the more attraction for the “homeless/deadbeats” in the area to congregate. Leave it as it is…a bucolic no account riverbank.

    • Thomas Middlestadt says:

      I agree. Maybe a regular bicycle patrols would help address issues as they arise and these patrols could also follow other bike lanes and recommend pruning trees and shrubs as needed. See earlier post regarding intersections and the need for caution. Garbage cans and recycle bins also regularly block bike lanes.

  7. kathy says:

    Perhaps a dog area would attract enough folks to dissuade unsavory ones. Not a large dog park but something for the multitude of downtown dog owners to appreciate and utilize.


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