The path to nowhere, and I mean that in the nicest possible way

I thought it might be nice, once in a while, to tell you about a nice ride I took.

So over in Springfield, you may have heard, they have a new stretch of path along the Middle Fork of the Willamette River. It’s been open all summer, so I’m hardly breaking news here. In fact, they celebrated the grand opening last April 26, with a big wing-ding that was attended by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio and other peoples of official-dom.

As is often the case with this sort of thing, DeFazio was a key player, having smuggled something like 2.7 million bucks out of Washington, D.C., using that same wheelbarrow he pushes in the Eugene Celebration Parade. Speaking of which, here he is, just a couple of weeks ago:

Anyway, he dumped the cash in Springfield, and the Willamalane Park and Recreation District then used it to build this path, chipping in $300,000 of local money.

And they did a heck of a nice job. That’s what I think. I can tell that the people who made this happen are proud of this path, because for that grand opening ceremony, guess what they did?

They got out the Big Scissors.

(thanks to Guy Hakanson of OBEC Consulting Engineers for allowing use of the photo. OBEC engineered the path.)

Where do you suppose they keep the Big Scissors when they’re not using them? Is there a really big coffee cup on somebody’s desk? Does the Willamalane parks district have its own set of Big Scissors? Or do they have to run over and borrow them from the city of Springfield? Or does DeFazio bring them, since he finds himself at a lot of these things?

DeFazio chief-of-staff to aide: “OK, make sure you get Pete and the Big Scissors over to Clearwater Park by 4:45 p.m. Whatever you do, don’t forget the Big Scissors. You can even forget Pete if he won’t fit in the car, but make sure you get the Big Scissors over there.”

By the way, if you need some Big Scissors go here. It’ll cost you $175 for a standard pair, $275 if you want the deluxe version with the gold-colored blades. But I’m digressing again. Where was I?

Oh, yeah, I was in a really lovely spot by the Middle Fork. And aside from the fact that this path doesn’t go anywhere, it is a really nice ride. But maybe that’s why it’s a nice ride.

Here’s how I got to the new path from downtown Eugene:

Leaving from Broadway and Willamette Street, it’s about 9.5 miles to the beginning of the new path. The new path itself is 2.5 miles, so this hardly seems like a logical thing to do. But what the hell. I had a free morning.

So round trip it was about 24 miles. The worst part, without a doubt, was the stretch on Main Street in Springfield from 28th to 32nd.

The new path begins at Clearwater Park, which is as about the equivalent of 45th Street or so, a couple of miles south of Main Street.

From here on out, I’ll stop rambling and just show you what I saw.

Here we are on the approach to Clearwater Park, a quiet country road known as Clearwater Lane:

Clearwater Park is mostly just a boat ramp, a parking lot, some restrooms — and the start of the path:

And as soon as you are clear of the parking lot, you realize how relatively quiet and undeveloped this part of Springfield is.

There’s a nice canopy above, dappled sunlight below:

It’s really green:

There are wildflowers — lupin, maybe, but I’m not much of a naturalist. [update: Foxglove, I hear]:

Nice views of the river and the Mount Pisgah area on the other side:


Raptors, circling for collapsed cyclists:

Again, I’m not a birder, either, so I can’t tell you what kind of raptor this is. Maybe one you knows:

Alas, there are some signs of civilization, as you come upon a chain link fence meant to keep you out of some electrical facility run by the Springfield Utility Board:

And at the expense of bumming your blissful, pastoral high, they really, really mean it:

By the way, I’m not sure bike paths need stripes, but …

And it is as well signed as the highway over Cape Perpetua:

And we should remember that it is a multi-use path:

Where is DeFazio with that wheelbarrow when we really need him?

It’s also family friendly, which means it’s probably not the place to go with your roadie pals for a 25-mph paceline.

But there are times when it seems fine to open it up a little:

And then you come upon a picnic area, so bring a snack and a bottle of wine.

Actually, I’m not sure wine is legal, but I really don’t think anyone is going to mind too much.

And then, you come to a bridge across Quarry Creek, and …

Like that slurping sound when you get to the bottom of a milk shake, it all comes to a sudden and heartbreaking end:

They mean it here, too:

But don’t fret, because this is just the beginning. What I have just shown you is Phase 1, beginning at the right of this map and moving left to the end of the solid line:

I am told by Willamalane planner Rebecca Gershow that the cash is in hand for Phase 2a (thanks again, Pete!), which will take the path around Quarry Butte to Dorris Ranch. Willamalane is hoping construction begins early next summer, as soon as things dry out enough.

When it opens, you’ll then be able to pass through to Dorris Ranch, where you can use the existing gravel roads to emerge near downtown Springfield. So the path will indeed go somewhere at that point.

Willamalane is still working on getting the money for Phase 2b, which will pave a path through Dorris Ranch and build a trailhead at the west end. So if the path is a bit isolated right now, you have to remember this is just one piece of the big picture.

In fact, if you look on the map, you see a dotted black line labeled “Possible future bridge.” This would link the path with the Mount Pisgah area.

It’s a pretty cool idea, but I am told that this is a long-range project that involves some complicated environmental issues. Don’t expect it to be built anytime soon. Still, Gershow said Willamalane is trying to find some money to study the feasibility of the bridge.

10 thoughts on “The path to nowhere, and I mean that in the nicest possible way

  1. You rode past my house! I love that more bikes seem to pass my house than cars. In Springfield no less, who’d have expected that…

    My least favorite part about riding out to the path is that little section of Jasper Rd between the traffic circle and Clearwater Ln (and the one house that always seems to have a trash can on the road shoulder).

    I’ve ridden that section of Main St lots of times on my way out to Weyerhauser Rd (where I once saw Pete out running!), the amount of traffic is unpleasant, but somehow the bike lane is wide enough that it doesn’t feel unsafe to me.

    Another great ride on the Springfield side of things is to head in the direction you went, and then from 32nd take Virginia/Daisy past Bob Straub and take Weyerhaueser to Hills Creek, then turn left on Hills Creek and ride until it’s closed off as a gravel logging road.. (or keep going!) .. it’s shady, has nice new pavement, and there are only a few houses up there, so there isn’t much traffic.

    If you want to suffer, turn left off of Weyerhaueser on to Wallace Creek road… there’s a half mile in the middle of the climb that Strava tells me is 12.4% avg grade.

  2. I emailed Willamalane about cycling in Dorris Ranch a little while ago and got a friendly non-answer – all that they would say is that people do ride their bikes there – not that it’s explicitly allowed or not allowed. I figure that means you can ride back there, but should be on your bestest behavior.

    I eventually found the no-trespassing sign at the back that I assume is where it’ll all connect up. It’s gonna be pretty cool when it’s all connected.

    Oh, those SUB fences aren’t for electrical stuff, I believe those are the wells that supply drinking water to Springfield.

    Either that, or it’s the spot where Jebediah Springfield made his first batch of “root-marm”

  3. I’m the guy in the yellow in the big scissor picture. I was kind of disappointed at the fence at the end of the path, I wanted to continue along to Dorris Ranch whether there was a route or not.

      1. It’s entirely possible that I might have accidentally not seen a fence with a no tresspassing sign at the back of Dorris Ranch and through no fault of my own explored a little back there. on accident.

        If that happened, and it probably didn’t, there would have been some single track back there that as I would have gone on would have increasingly had lots of grabby blackberry branches. There also might have been a really steep double track that looked like it was going to lead all the way up on to Quarry Butte. Or at least, it’s possible that there would have been something like that….but it’s just a guess.

        I’ve heard rumors of groups trying to get bike access somewhere back there – and I wish I knew who was involved so that I could better lend my support.

        WIllamalane did tell me that they’re considering adding some flat singletrack beside the clearwater path.

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