How It All Started

"We try each time to improve some specific things, such as traffic management," says Steve Dotterrer, chief transportation planner for the City of Portland and former WPC board member.

Dotterrer says the Parks Bureau was the first agency to suggest that walking might be just the issue to focus on that year, as significant numbers of people were registering concern about their desire for more pedestrian facilities in both parks and neighborhoods. "That was the first of many warnings we received about walking," Dotterrer said.

So when the city started looking for people to be members of the arterial policy citizens advisory committee, he says, they targeted people who were interested in pedestrian issues.

In addition to Vanderslice, who was representing the NW Neighborhood Association, one of the people sitting around the CAC table was Doug Klotz, a longtime pedestrian advocate who had been active in the Brooklyn Neighborhood Action Corp. That's when talk of a pedestrian advocacy group first surfaced. The crucial moment came when Klotz was invited to speak at an upcoming neighborhood traffic summit. "They said it would be better if I had a group behind me," he says. "So Ellen and I formed the organization, the first one in the country to focus on pedestrians."   

Vanderslice tells a slightly longer version of the story. "I remember answering the phone and it was Doug, and he said: 'I would really like to get the group started.' I said: 'Doug, I will give you anything, money, resources, but the one thing I don't have is time.' Well, the next thing I knew he was calling me up saying we're going to have a meeting in his living room. There were seven of us, but some didn't stick with it."       

With the neighborhood traffic summit as their target date, Klotz designed a logo and made buttons, while Vanderslice and Bob Elliott laid out the brochure. Voila!  With their wares spread out on one of the tables, the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition made its debut at the city traffic congress in September of 1991.   

Four months later, after receiving some capacity building assistance from Howard Shapiro, WPC incorporated as a non-profit.  Klotz was president, Vanderslice secretary and Bob Elliot, Treasurer. By the end of the year, the organization had about 60 members.   

Twelve years after they started the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition, Klotz and Vanderslice were still at the helm: Vanderslice as WPC president and Klotz as the policy guru who establishes positions on sidewalk and crossing designs--the guy, as he puts it, who specializes "in reading and analyzing documents."