PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A new structure in West Portland is bridging the gap between safety and adventure.
Construction was completed over the weekend on the Barbara Walker Crossing. It ensures a safe crossing of West Burnside Street for walkers, hikers and runners on the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park.
The trail is 30 miles long and connects pedestrians to destinations like the Hoyt Arboretum, Washington Park and the Pittock Mansion, making them more accessible.
Officials closed West Burnside from Friday night to Monday morning between Northwest Hermosa Boulevard and Northwest Barnes Road to install the final pieces of the footbridge.
The long-anticipated crossing cost $4 million and took 4 years to complete. The nonprofit Portland Parks Foundation spearheaded the project and the fundraising. More than 60% of the total cost was paid for by private donors with government entities, including the parks bureau, footing the rest of the bill.
Designed by Ed Carpenter, the Barbara Walker Crossing is a study in the marriage of art and practicality, with forms along the side of the bridge mirroring the shape of native sword ferns.
It’s an elegant piece of architecture to be sure — but safety was the main priority.
Before now, pedestrians had to dash across a curvy West Burnside (one of Portland’s busiest roads with an estimated 20,000 daily drivers) to continue on the forest path.
“It’s been an accident waiting to happen and we’re really lucky that nobody’s ever been killed here,” said Carpenter.
Though the footbridge isn’t yet open to the public — that won’t happen until later this month — it’s already a landmark in West Portland.
“It’s a gateway to the city,” said Randy Gragg with the Portland Parks Foundation. “It will be the first thing you see as you come into the city.”
The bridge is named for one of Portland’s leading green space activists. Barbara Walker successfully fought against a big development in her Southwest Portland neighborhood, then helped drive the creation of public spaces including Tom McCall Waterfront Park and the Springwater Corridor.
Walker died in 2014 at the age of 79.
“That vision for a connected park system was hers and this is a critical connection within that system,” said Gragg.
Pedestrians will have to wait to use the footbridge until the grand opening ceremony on Sunday, Oct. 27. West Burnside will be closed to traffic between NW Hermosa and NW Barnes for the celebration, which kicks off at 8:30 a.m. with a parade and fun run (Wildwood-themed costumes are encouraged). Donuts, drinks and all-you-can-eat pancakes will also be served for a small fee. Register here.
From that day on, the Barbara Walker Crossing will offer safe passage for all who tread the shaded path through the country’s largest urban forest.
“To be able to live in a city — a thriving metropolis — at the same time that we have access to solitude and to nature uninterrupted like this is an incredible gift,” Carpenter said.
And now the tranquility that awaits along the Wildwood Trail is complete.