UMATILLA — The city of Umatilla is finalizing a trail plan that will eventually bring the city’s three distinct sections of town together.
The city’s parks and recreation committee and community development department have been working for two years on the City of Umatilla Trail Plan, narrowing down ideas into 11 different trail projects, which the public was asked to help prioritize last month.
“The overarching goal is to connect the three neighborhoods,” said Tamra Mabbott, the city’s community development director.
The plan, which will go to the city council for approval at the beginning of January, gives top priority to the South Hill Connector project. That trail would create a walking path parallel to Powerline Road, from Tyler Avenue to the existing trail near Jackson Street.
Mabbott said the city feels optimistic it will be able to get at least some of its funding for the project from the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School fund. Students living in the South Hill neighborhoods frequently walk to school along Powerline.
Those students used to cross a footbridge to reach Clara Brownell Middle School and Umatilla High School downtown, but the bridge was destroyed by flood water last spring. Mabbott said the city is working with FEMA and their insurance company on replacing the bridge, but due to all of the utilities that the bridge contained it will likely take two years for a new bridge to open there. The second project listed in the Trails Plan would improve existing dirt trails around the foot bridge.
Residents ranked their third priority as a trail in the McNary section of town, connecting the Lewis and Clark trail with trails along Bud Draper Road and the golf course.
Other trails farther down the priority list of 11 projects includes one linking McNary to downtown, one linking McNary to McNary Beach and a trail linking Sixth Street downtown to Third Street by the river.
Mabbott said bicycle/pedestrian trails are a priority for the city because of their many benefits. They provide residents alternatives to driving, promote health, increase livability, increase safety by moving pedestrians and cyclists away from car traffic and provide economic benefits by making the town more attractive to tourists, developers and potential new residents.
“The council sees value in alternative modes of transportation, but also for recreation and exercise,” she said.
It will take a while, in some cases as much as 10 years, for all of the projects to be built. But Mabbott said having a written, formalized plan is a key step in seeking grant funding from sources like ODOT and the state’s parks and recreation project.
Mabbott is seeing the creation of the plan through, but won’t be around to implement it. She is leaving her job at the city of Umatilla on Dec. 11 in order to become the Eastern Oregon representative for the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development.
“It’s kind of my dream job,” she said.
Mabbott will continue living in Umatilla and said she hopes to continue contributing to the community through volunteer work. But her job will include traveling to 10 counties to assist them and their cities in land use issues, and she will serve as the land use representative on the governor’s Regional Solutions team.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.