New Path to Connect Universal Plaza with Fanno Creek Trail

Universal Plaza, slated to begin construction this year, will include an interactive water feature, porch swings, restrooms, a concession stand, lighting, and a Fanno Creek entry art piece.
Universal Plaza, slated to begin construction this year, will include an interactive water feature, porch swings, restrooms, a concession stand, lighting, and a Fanno Creek entry art piece. Courtesy/City of Tigard

Tigard is one step closer to realizing its vision of a fully interconnected regional trail system and community gathering space.

Shown here, an existing pedestrian bridge connecting Ash Street to the Fanno Creek Trail.
Shown here, an existing pedestrian bridge connecting Ash Street to the Fanno Creek Trail. File Photo/Tigard Life

During the first meeting of 2022, Tigard City Council greenlighted an ordinance that allows a path linking Universal Plaza Path with Fanno Creek Trail to cut through two small sections of protected lands, making the new park an easy, ADA-accessible walk from Washington County’s extensive regional multi-use trail system.

“We want people to enjoy both the plaza and the trail and to get back and forth safely and easily between the two,” Tigard Assistant Development Director Tom McGuire said, adding “If you don’t make this connection, the only ADA route from the Plaza to the Trail would be all the way around the block.”

The design impacts .004 acres of Tigard Significant Wetland and .13 acres within the wetland’s 50-foot protected buffer, however city planners and council members agreed failing to formally connect the two spaces poses a greater health risk to the environmentally fragile area between.

McGuire, who presented the plan to Council in a public hearing Jan. 4, noted that the proposed path, which will take pedestrians over the wetlands on an elevated boardwalk, allows the city to control and contain the flow of foot traffic, protecting the area from the greater harm bushwhacking through without a trail would cause. 

“The crux of the issue is as we develop Universal Plaza, as it becomes successful and things really begin to happen there, you’ll see it will be very prominently viewed from the Fanno Creek Trail,” he said. “I pushed our team really hard (to reduce environmental impacts) when this was being designed. We came to the conclusion that there just will be people coming from the trail walking across this area (no matter what) to see what’s going on at the plaza.”

The path passes through the wetland and buffer on one end in a section near the park that includes the boardwalk then passes through the buffer again in a shorter section near the Fanno Creek Trail juncture to avoid a steep climbing embankment. A little more than half of the nearly 500 ft. path will be elevated boardwalk.

The Project will connect Universal Plaza Path with Fanno Creek Trail.
The Project will connect Universal Plaza Path with Fanno Creek Trail. Courtesy/City of Tigard

Councilor Liz Newton praised the solution, saying “I think a good job was done trying to limit the impact. We would have had an eroded hill if we didn’t have a path because we would have had people just scrambling back and forth.”

Designers faced multiple complex challenges to create the rouse: in addition to the protected wetlands and surrounding 50-foot riparian buffer, and the steep embankment below Ash Street, the area lies in a floodplain. 

The raised boardwalk leaves space for water to flow unimpeded and plant life to grow beneath it and routing the trail along the bottom of the embankment reduces the possibility of flooding. 

Another route the city considered for the plaza to trail path would have avoided the wetland by cutting through neighboring land that houses B&B Print Source, but the property owner denied the city’s request for an easement.

A new storm water system facility to serve the park also lies within the buffer. That area, which is currently paved, will be restored to natural landscape and replanted as part of the Plaza and Path project. 

“We’ll be removing the pavement and restoring the buffer (by replanting.) That reduces the impact to existing resources that are out there,” McCarthy said.

Planners faced similar challenges and council approved a similar ordinance last summer when it gave the go-ahead to a project that will add 1.39 total miles of hard-surface path to bridge gaps between four segments of Fanno Creek trail. That plan, which also uses elevated boardwalk to traverse wetlands, includes two bridges spanning Fanno Creek. 

The long-term vision for Fanno Creek Trail is multi-use regional path that connects its headwaters in the West Hills of Portland to the Tualatin River in Durham, but the trail presently remains riddled with gaps.