A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Opening up Vine St. along canal? Not really

Written December 11th, 2022 by Hasso Hering

A city dump truck brought gravel to cover this section of the eastern Vine Street right-of-way on Dec. 9, 2022.

For a moment there, it looked as though the City of Albany was making progress in opening up, for public use, sections of the Vine Street right-of-way alongside the Santiam Canal.

But as it turned out, only a small section of the eastern Vine Street right-of-way (ROW) south of Sixth Avenue was involved.

The canal runs down the middle of the Vine Street right-of-way from 12th Avenue to Third. Some parts of the street are open on both sides of the canal. On others, the street is not developed. And on some of those, neighbors have utilized the unused right-of way for things like landscaping, outbuildings, or storage.

Some 20 or more years ago, people working on Albany’s downtown urban renewal plan had the vision of turning the canal into an attraction by making Vine Street into some kind of “esplanade.” This would have meant opening up both sides of the street. But leaders in city government never followed up, and the idea was forgotten.

Vine Street came up a year ago when a property owner asked to put a gate on the eastern right-of-way at Sixth Avenue to protect personal property stored there. The city staff was ready to allow it with a “license to occupy,” but the council said no because it didn’t want any permanent obstructions in the right-of-way.

The city staff followed up on the council’s wishes last spring, sending out letters that gave property owners until the end of September to remove any encroachments in the right-of-way.

In the weeks that followed, though, one or more owners talked to the council as a whole or to individual members. The upshot was that the September deadline was pretty much forgotten. The city has not insisted that all obstructions be removed.

Last Friday, a city crew showed up on Sixth Avenue with heavy equipment. A neighbor let me know, and I asked Kristin Preston, the operations manager in Albany Public Works, what the plan there was.

“The street maintenance crew put some gravel down because it was getting too muddy on that section of ROW,” she told me. “That was the extent of the work.”

This section of Vine Street now has a layer of gravel, and that’s it. At the south end of the block, on Seventh, the section on Sunday remained blocked by a parked pickup and trailer.

Public Works Director Chris Bailey has said the undeveloped right-of-way needs to be clear to give city crews access for canal maintenance. For the public, complete access on both sides of the canal is no big deal since the “esplanade” idea is dead.

If people want to walk along the canal, gazing at the water through the chain link fence or over the barbed wire, they can do so on the other side if one side is blocked.

And because the cross streets are so close together, for cyclists even an unobstructed Vine Street would not make for an ideal route. (hh)

Newly graveled, this block of Vine was still blocked at the southern end Sunday.

4 responses to “Opening up Vine St. along canal? Not really”

  1. LONNIE ROVIG says:

    The south end of Vine was vacated in 1947 for DR.Wade to build the house right up to the ROW line. I purchased the house in 1984. I received the blueprints for the house, as I was going over the prints (from 1947) I found a paper doucument with them stating that it was vacated to the ajoining property.
    I have lived at this property since Nov. 1984 . I wanted to know what it meant so I went to the county records to see if it was a legal document in 1985. They wanted to copy it, being after 4 pm they said they would send it back to me after the person who did copies was there.
    I completely forgot about it till this come up, and remembered it. I never received the paper back.
    I have maintained the ROW for 38 years and always made it available to the city for any canal work, which they only came a few times. I even fixed the planks on the canal. As far as graveling and cleaning I have done it all.
    The city did not have to do any maintenance when this was just done.I planted the tree along the fence when Albany was up for the national tree award. Also the trees made the canal wall more stable.

  2. LONNIE ROVIG says:

    As far as the northern side of the right of way Vine Street came up a year ago when a property owner asked to put a gate on the eastern right-of-way at Sixth Avenue to protect personal property stored there. The city staff was ready to allow it with a “license to occupy,”
    you show nothing what was their PERSONAL PROPERTY it took them 3 big dumpster’s and multiple pick up and trailer loads to remove.
    also a tin shed that was infested with rats

  3. Suebee says:

    This is legally city property that hasn’t been enforced for many years…the city didn’t bother with it then, and now expects to have access… shame on the city for not enforcing ROW then, and now.

    So now taxpayers will be involved with legal issues that should have never been.

    If I were a property owner there I’d be expecting status quo as well. ‍♀️

  4. Julie H says:

    As a kid in the 70s and 80s I rode my bike the length of vine street often.
    My favorite part was just south of calapooia st ( across from Henderson park) where the little narrow wood bridge crossed the creek. And of course, riding across the canal at the waterworks plant where the water wheel spun next to the little bridge.
    I too wish it was improved a bit open for bicycles and foot traffic clear through.
    That would be a great way to get folks exploring Albany.


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