Portland Pathways FAQ


How does Portland Pathways work?

In the Portland Pathways process, community members and the City collaborate to create new trails. Community members propose their idea for a trail and contribute local knowledge to the trail design and development. Meanwhile, the City will provide guidance through the permitting and trail design process. During the permitting process you will be contacted by a PBOT staff member with an update on the status of your project.

How do I know if the trail I have in mind is on public right-of-way (ROW)?

  • Go to PortlandMaps.com
  • Type in the address where the trail ends or begins, OR the cross-streets
  • All the areas outlined in white are City right-of-way.
  • Email PBOT staff to confirm that the undeveloped ROW is under PBOT jurisdiction.

What kind of trails are perfect for this program?

Trails that are great for the Portland Pathways program are:

  • Trails that connect people to places they want to go, like parks, schools, work, and transit.
  • Trails that create a more direct, comfortable, or safe walking option.
  • Gravel or dirt areas located in underdeveloped low-volume streets, alleyways, and urban pathways.

I want to get involved! How can I participate?

You can take part in several ways!

  • Propose a trail and apply for a permit
  • Lend your voice during trail design
  • Volunteer to create or maintain a permitted trail
  • Volunteer to provide technical support for new trails

What are the benefits of receiving a permit through this program?

A permit allows those who are not adjacent property owners to construct and maintain trails in the ROW. Under House Bill 2865 (ORS 105.668), adjacent property owners are also protected from liability from possible injuries or damages that occur on permitted trails.

What is the difference between the simple and moderate community support requirement?

The difference between the simple and moderate community support requirements stems from whether the proposed trail has been adopted by City Council from a PBOT plan.

  • Simple community support requirement: Portland Pathways on an approved map follow the simple community notification process. This option includes mandatory notification of occupants within 400 ft along the trail with the option to host a public open house. If objections are filed, applicants must follow the moderate community notification process.
  • Moderate community support requirement:
    Portland Pathways proposals not on an approved map follow are subject to review and objection by adjacent occupants. If no objections are filed during the initial mailout to neighbors within 400 ft of the trail, applicants may follow the simple community notification process above. If objections are filed, applicants must follow the moderate community notification process whereas 60% of adjacent approval is needed. The adjacent occupant signatures requirement may be reduced to 50% if a letter of support from the neighborhood association/business association/or local community group is provided. Hosting a public open house is optional.

PBOT has the authority to not issue a permit in cases of harassment, environmental damage, and/or needs of the bureau to otherwise utilize the right-of-way arise. PBOT also has the authority to deny or revoke a permit if the Portland Pathways' Code of Conduct and/or Acknowledgements are violated.

What does it mean for a trail to be “City Council-adopted”?

For a trail to be “City Council-adopted” or, “adopted by City Council,” it means that the trail was a part of a plan that was accepted by City Council as an official City of Portland plan, and included community engagement as part of the plan. 

For example, the Southwest Urban Trails Plan from 2000 was adopted by City Council, so trails on this map (Map 3.1) are considered "adopted":

A map of trails

Is there a Code of Conduct for Portland Pathways applications?

Yes! A Portland Pathways application requires applicants to adhere to a Code of Conduct and signed Acknowledgements for the benefit of themselves, the community, community partners, and city staff. The Code of Conduct is as follows:

  • 1. No person shall violate any Federal, State or City of Portland Laws.
  • 2. No person shall take, deface, degrade, damage or destroy any personal property located in or upon this location. 
  • 3. No person may light any object on fire except for smoking devices designed for smoking.
  • 4. No person shall engage in behavior that constitutes as harassment toward private property owners, residents or neighbors regardless of their support or opposition of the proposed trail.
  • 5. No person shall engage in behavior that constitutes as harassment toward City staff.
  • 6. No person shall engage in unsafe action during trail construction or during trail maintenance.

Consequences for not abiding by this Code of Conduct may result in the termination of a trail application or the removal of an existing permit.

How does Portland Pathways make sure trails do not harm the environment?

The Portland Pathways program has several ways to make sure trails protect natural resources and comply with environmental rules. Projects must meet the requirements of applicable land use and overlay zones, and all trail proposals undergo review by several bureaus include Bureau of Environmental Services and Bureau of Development Services. Trails must also meet existing City of Portland Trail Type A, C, or J guidelines as detailed in the Trail Design Guidelines for Portland's Park System (2009)

Do tax payers have to pay for newly permitted trails? 

No. Trails that are permitted through this program are not provided with funds for trail development. This program provides technical support as well as a pathway to permit for eligible trails. However, we do work to inform those who subscribe to our eNewsletter and who inquire with us directly about grant opportunities to support trail development and maintenance across the City of Portland. 

Still have a question? Email us at trails@portlandoregon.gov and will add your question to the FAQ page!