A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Just how is this a ‘permanent’ path?

Written August 19th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

This path in South Albany was closed in May 2009. Here’s a view of it on Aug. 14, 2019.

Ten years ago, the Albany City Council closed a short bike and walking path near South Albany High School to cut down on teenagers causing trouble. The city says neighbors are still grateful, but the continued closure appears to violate a city law passed in 1975.

Only 50 feet feet long, this little path runs between 36th Avenue, across from the Community Pool and South Albany High, and Ermine Street to the north. The council fenced it off in May 2009 and voted to close it permanently in July 2010. This was in reaction to complaints about “vandalism, littering, loitering, and other unwanted activity on streets and other property near their homes,” as a memo to the council put it.

Why bring this up now? Because of an email from Julie Van Hoosen, who has lived in Albany most of her life. “Beginning in the 1980s,” she writes, “we used to enjoy biking or walking the Perwinkle Path, beginning at 36th (Avenue) …and traveling north through the neighborhood and Grand Prairie Park…”

She was “disheartened” when the path was closed, she writes. “As a resident of South Albany (Deerfield Park area), it would be wonderful to avoid walking along Waverly (Drive) to access Grand Prairie Park or to begin the path.”

She wondered about the process. “Was there a public hearing or meeting, or can the council just decide to close a public path based on a few complaints?”

No, there was no formal hearing. On July 28, 2010, Councilwoman Bessie Johnson “moved to retain the temporary fence that closes the pedestrian path at Ermine Street and 36th Avenue S.E.,” the minutes of that meeting say. “Johnson said she had talked to the neighbors in the area. It is not perfect, there are still problems but overall they are pleased.” Her motion passed 5-0.

At a “National Night Out” gathering this month, the city officials attending said, they got renewed thanks from nearby residents about the closure.

How did that short path come to exist in the first place? Turns out that according to the 1973 plat of the Case Addition in South Albany, Ermine Street was intended to go through to 36th. But the council vacated the 50-foot section from Westwood Place to 36th by passing an ordinance following a public hearing on Jan. 8, 1975.

That ordinance says: “The people of the city of Albany ordain … that the center 10 feet of deemed right of way be permanently maintained as a pedestrian walkway-bicycle path.”

According to its minutes, the council was not made aware of that phrase in the law –“permanently maintained” — when it took its vote to do the opposite in 2010.

So now what? Maybe the council, in cooperation with school authorities, could figure out a way to discourage whatever problems the neighbors had experienced before, without depriving the South Albany public of a convenient route for active transportation, either on a bike or on foot. (hh)

This crosswalk on 36th leads straight to the path, which can’t be used.

18 responses to “Just how is this a ‘permanent’ path?”

  1. Mac says:

    Sounds to me they have no choice but to immediately open the path. Has been illegally closed this entire time. Have the administrators/parents/police do their job instead as should have been done in the first place.

  2. Kelli pape says:

    I happen to live on the corner of Westwood and Irmine and the things I have seen in that path no person should have to see,

    • J. Jacobson says:

      No one is immune from the brutal ugliness that is Homo sapiens. It seems odd – a single block spared the godawful stench of human behavior while the rest of us are squeezed by the squalor. In her eagerness to maintain a firm grip on the reigns of power, Council Woman Johnson granted favorable status to a few lucky residents of one block, essentially ignoring the law of the land, while simultaneously betraying the entire city. Thankfully, the Councilor’s perfidy is public record and thankfully there are some with sufficient institutional memory to call this malfeasance into question.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        Wrong! “Council Woman Johnson” did NO such thing! She did bring it to the attention of council. It took 4 votes to make it so. It will take 4 votes to change the underlying ordinance…

      • Omo says:

        Probably because she lived down the road.

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Back in those days Jim Delapoer was the City Attorney and Wes Hare was the City Manager.

    Clearly, they failed to perform due diligence on the “permanently maintained” language in the ordinance. The result nine years later is a City Council that looks like fools.

    Is it too late to ask for a refund due to incompetence?

  4. Will says:

    It got so bad that we couldn’t have our kids walk to school because of the drug deals, urination and just lewd behavior. The high school did nothing, police couldn’t be there every morning and afternoon. And the high school age kids threaten my wife when she honked for them to get out of the middle of the road. I hope they never open it.

  5. HowlingCicada says:

    That spot is well documented on Google Maps. The “satellite” view is very clear. Street View is from 2012, but looks very much like Hasso’s photos. There are clear sight lines from almost any angle on both 36th Ave and Ermine St. There’s a tall street light just across Westwood Place and another one on 36th Avenue about 30 feet to the west, so this should be one of the best illuminated paths in Albany.

    I find it very hard to believe there would be any more “problems” on the path than on the neighboring streets.

  6. Luke says:

    I’m impressed by the thoroughly short sided viewpoints both in this article and in the replies. How does one justify making a case for ignoring the the pleas for city help by the people who live in the neighborhood? Instead, making a case for why their walk would be better if they could avoid Waverly for 200 yards. Completely disregarding the work the High school, Police Department, the neighborhood, and city HAVE put in to ensure the safety of the people who live here. Big thanks to the city council for your help with this issue, you are appreciated.

    • Brian says:

      People seem to lose sight of the bigger picture when they are inconvenienced. Where was all the outrage when it was originally closed? It seems to me that everybody went on with their lives without comment until this article surfaced. I wonder how many of these people have ever walked this path. No. Just another thing to be outraged about which is par for the current state of society. Safety of the direct neighbors should not be compromised for the convenience of the few who actually used the path especially when those who did frequent the path used it for ill purposes. My kudos to the city council who did the right thing.

      • Albany YIMBY says:

        “People seem to lose sight of the bigger picture when they are inconvenienced” I couldn’t agree more, Brian, the big picture here is that some kids cause trouble, and as a result, every bicyclist or pedestrian in the area now needs to do a long, and maybe even, dangerous detour because neighbors have no tolerance to the youth, or poor people. I thought that boomers where a resilient generation (note the irony). And what about proportionality in measures?

        I see stupid people doing stupid and dangerous stuff with their cars and trucks everyday in Albany. Should we close the roads too?

  7. Fred says:

    As a matter of housekeeping the council could resolve the inconsistencies by revising the 1975 ordinance on a simple majority vote. As to the policy decision, it has now been 10 years and a number of the impacted homes have changed hands in that timeframe. It would seem unfair to them to reopen the path thus changing their neighborhood in a negative way.

  8. HowlingCicada says:

    For every way of getting around, there are good routes and there are bad routes. Waverly and Columbus aren’t too horrible on a bike, at least for an experienced adult. Maybe not so good for kids going to the pool, or even some students getting to school.

    Walking there is too unpleasant and dispiriting to bother with at all.

    That leaves cars as the most-likely-used way of getting around suburban areas like this. Worst of all, it means parents chauffeuring their kids everywhere, instead of kids learning self-reliance. So, kids stay home and play video games all day, getting fat (with help from food-marketing hucksters) and coming down with Type 2 diabetes. Is it any wonder that some of them revolt by becoming troublemakers? Then you get a vicious circle of more pathway closings, leading to alienation and loss of autonomy, leading to even more trouble.

  9. Jeff Senders says:

    Video with recording is so common now, from doorbells to police vests, and not expensive. ……

  10. HowlingCicada says:

    Either of two things is happening here:

    1 – The high school and 36th Avenue are really such troubled places that they need to be isolated. Back when the path was open, trouble spilled over into the cul-de-sac. Those who wanted the path closed backed-up their claims with police reports (especially claims of path and cul-de-sac vandalism and claims like “the things I have seen in that path no person should have to see”).

    2 – The real issue is that cul-de-sac residents simply don’t want kids/walkers/bicyclists going through their “private” street, but can’t state this publicly because it’s a less sympathetic cause than crime or fear of crime.

  11. J. Jacobson says:

    Leadership is a funny thing. Good leaders don’t need explaining They excel at leadership. Poor leadership, as is evidenced by this City Council refusing to obey duly-ratified City Code, leads to precisely the kind of ugly situation this “closed Path” incident has brought to residents of Albany. The end result, a further widening between residents and their elected leaders.

    The failure to lead might best exemplified by the Mayor’s response to recently-passed legislation which would open up home-construction to more than just single-family housing.

    Here is the Mayor’s take on leadership in regards to the issue:


    If this is how the City Moms and Pops react to state-passed regulatory efforts, then it seems that City Moms and Pops will do little to protect the rights of the greater population. Discouraging is the word best used to describe current City Leaders.

  12. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “Discouraging is the word best used to describe current City Leaders.”

    Three points to consider…
    1. If you’re not getting involved *directly with your specific councilors*, they have no way of knowing your feelings…
    2. Help elect those folks who toe-the-line with your ideals…
    3: Run for city council yourself…


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