East Bank Trail

Mark Schoening, P.E.
City Engineer
City of Eugene, Oregon

In the heart of metropolitan Eugene, Oregon, bicyclists, walkers, joggers and skaters enjoy the use of more than 12 miles of trails along the Willamette River for recreation and transportation. Constructing this wonderful piece of community infrastructure was no simple feat for the Eugene Public Works Department.

Construction of the riverbank trail system began in 1971, and the final segment was completed in 2003. The first section of trail built in 1971 is eight feet wide and constructed of asphalt. The final segment, called the East Bank Trail, is a 12-foot-wide concrete structure approximately one mile in length. The East Bank Trail includes an 800-foot-long concrete causeway through a series of open waterways and wetlands within a Willamette River riparian area called the Delta Ponds.

The East Bank Trail is located entirely within the Willamette River Greenway. The Greenway is designated by state planning goals to protect, conserve, enhance and maintain the natural, scenic, historical, agricultural, economic and recreational qualities of lands along the Willamette River. A Willamette River Greenway permit was issued for the East Bank Trail consistent with the City's land-use code.

Because portions of the East Bank Trail were located within wetlands and below the ordinary high water of the Willamette River, a wetlands permit was needed from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Oregon Division of State Lands. Furthermore, because of the Endangered Species Act listing of Upper Willamette River chinook salmon, formal consultation between the Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service was required.

  The causeway under construction

Local, state and federal regulatory permits imposed several stringent requirements on the construction of the East Bank Trail. A pollution and erosion control plan was developed for the project to prevent point-source pollution related to construction operations. The plan contained measures to prevent erosion and sedimentation; confine, remove, and dispose of excess concrete; describe the hazardous products or materials that would be used and develop a spill containment and control plan; and prevent construction debris from falling into any aquatic habitat.

A tree protection plan was developed for the East Bank Trail project. The plan required that orange plastic safety fencing be installed around each tree to provide a protective zone where the contractor could not perform any work or store material or equipment. As an extra precaution, the contractor could not strip the organic layer of soil in this area to avoid damage to tree roots located in the upper soil horizons. Also, the contractor was required to have a certified arborist onsite to regularly monitor the construction of the trail to ensure that tree and natural vegetation disturbance was minimized. Trees that were cut down were strategically placed in the Delta Ponds to provide wildlife habitat.

Eugene is famous for its environmental activism and protection of natural resources. Environmental activists regularly protest and use a variety of legal challenges (uniquely available in Oregon) to slow or block development that would impact natural resources. Despite the impacts from construction to trees, wetlands and the riparian zone along the Willamette River, there were no objections by environmental groups to this project. This is a testimony to the amount of community-wide support for the riverbank trail system. It is also evidence of the environmental value placed on providing an important link for alternative modes of transportation, because along with providing great recreational opportunities, the riverbank trail system also provides very efficient and direct connections for pedestrians and bicyclists between downtown and north and east Eugene.

Construction management techniques used on the East Bank Trail project included establishing a critical path schedule, two-week work schedules, daily documentation of the construction process, and weekly onsite coordination meetings with contractors and other interested parties. In addition, the construction contract includes liquidated damages clauses for the completion of the causeway and the completion of the overall project.

Each week, representatives of the City and the contractor met onsite to review progress completed during the week, review any unresolved or new issues, review the contractor's two-week work schedule, and review the overall project schedule. The City's construction inspector took notes at the weekly meetings and the notes were shared with the contractor.

There were numerous unusual conditions encountered in the construction of the East Bank Trail. The instream work period of June 1 to October 31 required careful construction scheduling by the contractor. Access to the trail work zone was restricted and required the contractor to complete the work from one end of the trail to the other. This included using the completed deck of the causeway as a working platform to drive piles and construct the next section of the deck, allowing the causeway construction to move across the wetlands without running construction equipment on the wetlands as construction progressed. This method of construction protected the sensitive wetlands that the causeway crossed. The causeway was constructed of precast concrete members that limited the amount of concrete to be poured in place to the pile caps.

The East Bank Trail passed through the grounds of a senior assisted living center. Both sides of the work zone were enclosed with chain link fence. The fence provided security to the assisted living center and also prevented residents from accessing the construction area. At the completion of construction, a permanent wrought-iron fence was constructed with an electrically-assisted gate to allow seniors access to the trail and the river while maintaining the security to the grounds of the assisted living center.

Over its one-mile length, the East Bank Trail crosses five separate commercial properties and property owned by the City. After a long and sometimes contentious process, an agreement between the five property owners and the City was negotiated and executed. The agreement identified special conditions of importance to each of the property owners. Additionally, as a result of the negotiations with the affected property owners, the City agreed to alter the alignment of portions of the trail to minimize impacts on private property. To accommodate the realignment, a concrete causeway was designed. Three of the property owners agreed to share in the cost of the causeway through the Delta Ponds to provide separation between their businesses and the trail. The causeway became a unique and popular feature of the trail by providing access to a unique wetland environment without adversely affecting the environment.

  The opening celebration

At the completion of construction, a community event was held to celebrate the completion of the East Bank trail and officially open the trail. Despite cold, gray Oregon winter weather, the event was attended by hundreds of citizens. The event was also used to honor Ruth Bascom, a Eugene resident and former mayor instrumental in creating the Willamette River trail system beginning in the early 1970s. The trail system was officially named the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Trail System.

For information on the East Bank Trail contact Steve Gallup, Project Manager, at (541) 682-8460 or at steve.s.gallup@ci.eugene.or.us.

Mark Schoening can be reached at (541) 682-5241 or at mark.a.schoening@ci.eugene.or.us.

Editor's Note: The following publications are excellent resources in the area of sediment and erosion control: Designing for Effective Sediment and Erosion Control on Construction Sites and Field Manual on Sediment and Erosion Control: Best Management Practices for Contractors and Inspectors. Both of these publications can be ordered online at www.apwa.net/bookstore or call the Member Services Hotline at (800) 848-APWA, ext. 3560.