A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Citizen asks city to reopen useful shortcut

Written March 15th, 2024 by Hasso Hering

Looking south from Ermine Street: Beyond the unusable path, the Albany Community Pool.

There’s a short foot and bike path from 36th Avenue to Ermine Street, but this 50-foot shortcut has been unusable since the Albany City Council ordered it to be blocked in 2009.

Now a resident of South Albany, Alexander Rice, has asked the council to reopen it as a safer alternative for people, especially high school students, walking or biking on nearby Waverly Drive.

YouTube video shows Alexander Rice addressing the council on March 13.

A natural resource manager by profession, Rice spent the last few years managing river restoration projects in Eastern Oregon and moved to Albany last November.

On March 13 he addressed the Albany council, spending his allotted three minutes under “business from the public” to ask that the path between 36th and Ermine be reopened. The path is across 36th from South Albany High School and the Albany Community Pool.

In 2009, in response to a request by neighbors to keep out unruly teenagers, the council put temporary fences on the ends of the path. In 2010 it made the closure indefinite.

The fence on the north end did nothing because anyone could walk around it. It has since been replaced by a “closed” sign. But the south fence still keeps the path from being used.

Rice described himself as a “huge believer in public transit, pedestrian rights, and just generally promoting means of getting around other than private automobiles.”

The path, he says, would be a great gateway (via Ermine Street and Grand Prairie Park) to the Periwinkle Bikepath, which connects South Albany to the commercial center of town near Santiam Highway.

He told the council he was sure that any high school students causing trouble on the path have moved on since the council ordered the fencing.

When the council acted 14 years ago, it was unaware of a 1975 ordinance which vacated that block of Ermine Street but dedicated the center 10 feet “be permanently maintained as a pedestrian walkway-bicycle path.”

(I discovered the ordinance in 2019 when I last wrote about this little path, but it made no difference to city officials.)

After his council appearance, Rice told me in an email that a city would rarely think of closing a public street because drivers misbehave.

“So to me,” he added, “shutting down a public right of way over the behavior of individuals simply because that right of way is only used by nonmotorists feels, frankly, discriminatory.”

Now that a member of the public has come forward, we’ll see whether this council (not the same members as in 2010) will open this useful shortcut back up. (hh)

The fence at the south end of the unusable path has been heavily vandalized but still keeps people out.

16 responses to “Citizen asks city to reopen useful shortcut”

  1. Will Peterson says:

    Yes, I’m sure that the kids have moved on. But, I remember them blocking the street so that I couldn’t leave the cul-de-sac to get to work. The harassment of our kids trying to walk to school. Fights, drug use, urination in the middle of the street, and let’s not forget the insane amount of garbage that included lots of drug paraphernalia. We worked with police and city council member to close it, and yes our kids had to walk further, but with everything on main streets there was no gathering of kids, because it was in plain sight.

    • Bessie Johnson says:

      I agree wholeheartedly with Will. I was on the Council at the time and helped the neighbors get the opening closed. They dealt with the unruliness for a long time to the point where it got dangerous.
      Yes those kids who were involved have moved on, but you can be sure there are some to replace them.
      As Will said, yes their kids had to walk around after it was closed, but it was the right thing to do to make their neighborhood liveable.
      It should stay closed..

    • Alex Rice says:

      Hi, thanks for your comment. So when I started looking into this I was told that there were some issues when the path was open but was not aware of the gravity of those issues. My concern is with making it easier and safer to be a pedestrian and/or cyclist in Albany but I definitely don’t want that to come at the cost of anyone’s happiness, safety, or wellbeing. I’m not out here trying to start fights. So with that I’m wondering if you would be willing to talk with me about it and talk about your first hand experiences from when the pedestrian path was open?

      If you’d be okay talking about it more please shoot me an email at alexandercarlosrice@gmail.com


  2. Al Nyman says:

    Does Albany still have a police force? Send a cop over there and take the students name and call their parents and see if that does any good. From personal knowledge, both as the student and the parent, I didn’t like it. Just to ignore these problems gets us to present day society.

  3. George van Keulen says:

    The problem is not the access, it’s people misbehaving. If people gather in a park or parking lot and misbehave, do you then close the park or parking lot, no you take preventive action. The solution could be a camera and school/ parents intervention.
    There are new and older neighborhoods in town where the developments are not connected by a sidewalk from one neighborhood to another, the city has no mechanism that I am aware of that makes neighborhoods connected in their design requirements, like the new neighborhood being developed on Lochner Road. Kids and parents need to go a much larger go around to like South Albany High School, and I thought the city was about promoting walking. Kids wandering to other neighborhoods is good for learning to be independent.

  4. Julia H says:

    I would love to see it reopened. I live nearby and would love to bypass walking along busy waverly. From the photo here it looks non secluded with an open view. Technology has changed a lot since it closed. The popularity of inexpensive home cameras would make it much easier now to spot and record troublemakers. Plus cell phones and social media to share photos.
    On a related note, Hasso, I’d love to see the Vine Street canal routes improved for a bike and/or pedestrian path.

  5. chris j says:

    The city only cares about select areas to protect from crime and neglect. They have caused problems for the businesses around the over pass and residents such as I who drive by the shelter 2 times a day to go to work. By promoting the growth of the shelter the city has created a bottle neck and hazardous area to drive or walk. The access to 9th is a main route that needs to be available for everyone instead of making it easier for the homeless to cause problems for businesses that contribute a great deal to Albany’s economy. Some businesses are trying to relocate to other cities due to lack of respect the city has for business in that area. They are left suffering the consequences of the city’s ill advised decisions.

  6. Richard Vannice says:

    Do you happen to have the AMC number you mentioned? If it is an ordinance how can the council ignore it? I agree with Mr. Nyman, the behavior that was occurring then, is not happening now, reopen the walk way and if it begins again call the police. Disorderly conduct is within their responsibility and referral to juvenile court and notifying parents should be done.

  7. JS says:

    I honestly would prefer a taller fence. I live in the area and we have heard kids arguing and fighting in the parking lot. We have also had issues with kids throwing rocks in pool in our yard cause they thought it was funny. The fence that is there currently is getting worn out from kids jumping the fence. The top rail has currently been knocked off the fence and is laying on the ground.

  8. jls says:

    I remember when that walking path was open. I would see kids smoking (not just cigarettes), eating, fighting and building small campfires in the area. There were at times large groups of teenagers hanging out before school started that would actually block the street and not allow vehicular traffic to exit the cul-de-sac in a timely manner to get to work. There was a blatant disrespect for private property and a “screw you” attitude from the kids when they were asked to please use the walkway for what it was for and not congregate there.
    Kids will be kids, and sadly, I feel if the pathway was re-opened this behavior and possibly even worse behavior would occur again. For those people who feel that contacting law enforcement and the parents would be beneficial, I wished I still believed in a society where parents still had that level of involvement in their children’s lives and that the police would actually respond to, let alone investigate these type of incidents. Cameras can capture the “trouble makers”, but who is going to provide the resources to investigate/prosecute any wrong doing. In 2009, there were 63 APD officers when the problem was occurring. In 2021 (the most recent stats I could find online @ https://www.city-data.com/crime/crime-Albany-Oregon.html) there are now only 48 APD officers. I can only assume with 15 less officers on staff, that a call regarding an incident in our cul-de-sac involving the walking path would not be given a high priority status. Per the comment by JS on 3/17, “The fence that is there currently is getting worn out from kids jumping the fence. The top rail has currently been knocked off the fence and is laying on the ground.”, there is already bad behavior occurring.
    So, if the walking path is opened, what is the next step going to be? You would be encouraging pedestrian access to city streets without sidewalks rather than walking an extra block on already existing sidewalks. Will the city then force home owners to give up their property to put in sidewalks? If you don’t want to jeopardize people’s happiness, safety or well-being, then leave things alone and allow this walkway to remain closed.

    • Marilyn Smith says:

      Current data about Albany police is on the City of Albany website: albanyoregon.gov

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      I agree a lot about the type of parents? that seem to have “few” actual parenting skills other than knowing how to live off the system.

      As far as policing? Just look at the chronic trouble areas such as behind Lowes and other Multi Use Paths. IF they were adequately policed, they wouldn’t be CHRONIC!

      It’ll just become another chronic problem area until we have a police force that will actively deter unruliness.

  9. chris j says:

    I looked it up, Mrs. Johnson voted to extend the shelter. Did she consider how it would affect the businesses and the surrounding community? Maybe the city council should revisit their decisions concerning the shelter due to the negative affects on the area. I think that decision was discriminatory too. I absolutely wish the city was against creating slums anywhere in Albany. Creating a bigger shelter will just make the problem worse for everyone including the homeless.

  10. Dennis says:

    I shut them durty kids down from coming through there years ago and still proud of it. I’d trade opening the path for proper management of those pesky football field lights.

  11. david pulver says:

    absolutely hilarious!! a dedicated path shut down because APD has no ability to control a few high school kids from drugs, fights, littering, etc. the homeless do the same thing to the entire town 24/7.

  12. david pulver says:

    lets relocate the high schools a few miles out of town. we can reopen the path and the football lights wont bother anyone.


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