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Volume 11, Issue 9
September 2013

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Saltzman Road, Past and Future
By Nancy Olson, co-author, Cedar Mill History, with updated info by Virginia Bruce

Like so much of Cedar Mill, NW Saltzman Road has changed with the times. Originally it was a dirt track leading from Peter Saltzmann’s homestead, just west of the summit of Skyline Ridge, to NW Thompson Road. His descendants later changed Saltzmann to Saltzman, accounting for today’s spelling.

s signThe road has had a long history serving the comings and goings of the community. Parts of the road had been carved out of the wilderness prior to Peter Saltzmann’s homestead trail. In 1853 James Flippin claimed 320 acres on upper Saltzman near Burton Road, and John B. Hall settled a Donation Land Claim nearby, as did the Nickum family. The area was described in John Nickum’s will as “wild land covered with brush and timber, except for about 8 or 10 acres that has recently been slashed and no part thereof is in cultivation except a small patch of garden. There is a small house and barn on the premises.”

In 1892, Washington County surveyed the road. The group recommended adopting it as a County Road, stating, “A good road can be made at reasonable expense…It reaches and gives outlet to several farms not otherwise accommodated, and also gives convenient passage for the neighborhoods to each of the roads with which it is connected.”

By 1896 the road was finished down the east side of Skyline. The steep stretch between Saltzmann’s place and Laidlaw, though still traceable in the 1970’s, fell into disuse quite early. The steep eastern branch served as a fire road in Forest Park.

In the 1880’s the Hamel family purchased 149 acres just off Laidlaw Road, first living in a log house and later building a large family farmhouse. In 1903 they expanded their property by purchasing part of the old Nickum Donation Land Claim. The Henry Bauer family purchased acreage in 1929 that they farmed. It was developed in 1982 and is now a housing development called Bauer Woods. In 1940 Joe and Bertha Peterkort purchased 131 acres bordering Saltzman Road and harvested wheat and hay in the area until the close of World War II.

Earlier travel along the road posed challenges. Mail was difficult to deliver so a community drop-off box was established. In 1915, Edna Graves Berger aided in distributing mail from the box located on Saltzman Road near Burton Road. On her way home from school she picked up mail and delivered to the Wismers on Burton Road, then walked up Saltzman to the Owens’ house, the several Hamel homes, the Thompsons and Findleys before arriving at her home on upper Saltzman and Laidlaw roads.

The southern end of Saltzman joins Cornell Road near Leedy Grange. Up until 1990, the road had three right angle jogs between Cornell and Thompson to avoid cutting through old farms. Forty years ago, there were many accidents as modern day drivers met with the past.

In 1990, the County used MSTIP II funds to reconstruct the road between Burton and Marshall on a new alignment that eliminated the dangerous right angles. Cut-through traffic in Terra Linda had been a problem, so at the same time, the corner that connected with the Terra Linda neighborhood was vacated and access was closed off.

There was a fairly contentious series of public meetings at St. Pius while the improvements were being planned, leading one county official to proclaim that he would never again schedule a public meeting in a building without a back door!

saltzman n
At the top end of Red Cedar, looking north toward Springville.

Recent development

In 2003, the county addressed a problem at the intersection of Saltzman and Thompson. The two sides of Thompson didn’t line up, and it was an unsafe condition with the nearby, newly-built Findley Elementary. The ultimate alignment of Thompson is supposed to angle to the southwest through the subdivision, but that won’t be opened until the former Lehman property (now owned by THPRD as a future park site) is developed.

studyMore importantly, with North Bethany rapidly becoming a reality, and Area 93 poised to join Washington County and begin development, improving the stretch of Saltzman between Thompson and Laidlaw Roads as a Collector—and eventually connecting it with Springville Road and beyond—becomes more urgent. Even if the northern extension to Springville Road isn’t built for 50 years, we need to plan now to dedicate right-of-way, so we don’t preclude that connection.

In 2004, Washington County adopted an ordinance calling for a study area—facilitating realignment of Saltzman Road to remove the “thrill-ride” upper end of Saltzman south of Laidlaw Road, and providing for a planned extension of Saltzman Road north of Laidlaw Road. Approximately $6 million was earmarked from the MSTIP Next Steps program “to design future improvements and acquire right-of-way.” Apparently the ordinance was never “programmed” into the budget, the study called for in the ordinance was never completed, and needed improvements aren't currently on the county’s list of road projects.

From the 2012 development application for the property at the top of Red Cedar

Typically, the county waits until development is proposed to create roads. New development determines where roads will go, and the county depends on developers to pay for both the design and construction of new roads. A 2012 development proposal for parcels north of Laidlaw mentions the above ordinance, saying, “The term ‘Saltzman Road’ Extension Study Area can be misleading and is somewhat of a misnomer especially when reviewing the existing alignment of NW 130th Avenue in relation to ‘Saltzman Road.’ The section of NW 130th Avenue north of NW Laidlaw Road is the eventual continuation of realigned NW Saltzman Road.”

“The Study Area anticipates the future realignment of NW Saltzman Road from its current easterly location west, to where it will line up with NW 130th Avenue...NW 130th Avenue is proposed to eventually continue on into Multnomah County. The exact alignment of NW 130th beyond the current project site is not yet fully established.”

Al Boesel, the county planner who worked on that development application says, “However, because properties in Multnomah County north of Laidlaw Road are in the Rural Reserve, the study of Saltzman Rd. will be primarily limited to lands south of Laidlaw Road.” Springville Road leads directly to North Bethany, and it might be prudent to plan for at least that connection by preserving sufficient right-of-way.

salt s
Looking south from the top of Red Cedar. The circled white dot is headlights from a car just ready to head down the "thrill ride."

When the first version of the Paul development (north of Thompson along the west side of Saltzman just before it begins to curve downhill, see May 2013 CMN) was proposed, drawings showed the stub of the Saltzman realignment that would drape the road over the steep slope heading down through Ken Findley’s property along Laidlaw west of Saltzman. If the road were built along this alignment, it could require a 40 ft.+ high pile of fill that could be 250 ft. wide—more like a freeway overpass than a county road. The Paul development application has been withdrawn for technical reasons, but will undoubtedly be resubmitted.

Development currently occurring at the north end of Red Cedar/130th suggest future road alignments that might prevent a direct connection to Springville.

A group of community members from the Saltzman Road area is concerned about the lack of direction from the county. They feel the county must step in and make a final determination about the Saltzman extension and stop letting developers make the decisions. They have been investigating an alternative route that would avoid the steep slope. The group has a FaceBook page (Solving Saltzman) and is communicating with developers, county staff and elected representatives, and others, to focus attention on this future road and road realignment.


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Published monthly by Pioneer Marketing & Design
Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
PO Box 91061
Portland, Oregon 97291
© 2013