Nixyáawii Watikš Trail Project

Planning a trail connecting the Mission Community to Pendleton

In early 2023, a group of six Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students from Portland State University joined CTUIR Planning staff to plan a multi-use trail to improve walkability and connectivity within the community. The trail was intended to encourage physical activity and enable people to enjoy the natural environment of the Reservation, and especially, to serve as an active transportation corridor between Mission and Pendleton. Nixyáawii Watikš aims to improve access to essential services, promote economic opportunities, and preserve the community's cultural and environmental heritage.

Planning & Engagement

Originally the trail was envisioned to be located in part along Mission Road, and in part along the south side of the Umatilla River, as a means of removing trail users from the risk of high speed traffic and provide wheelchair-accessible river access for disabled Tribal Members.

From March to May 2023, CTUIR Planning Staff and PSU Students conducted community engagement at five local events, which expanded our ideas of the possibilities and desires of the community. This outreach focused primarily on tribal elders, tribal youth, Commissions and Committees, and property owners adjacent to the trail areas. During this engagement, a number of Riverside area residents came forward to express their disappointment that Riverside was not considered, which led to the inclusion of the Riverside alignment among the options we reviewed. This quickly became the option preferred by many community members at outreach events, eventually becoming the preferred trail alignment.

Final Report

The final project report, provided below in the “files” section, provides some analysis of the four trail alignments considered. The Riverside Trail connection is the preferred trail for a number of reasons, including community preference; the high cost of completing the Mission Road alignment in the area around the Highway 11 interchange; and the connection between the Mission and Riverside areas which would provide new value to a neighborhood with growing Tribal Member homeownership.

Next Steps

There are many challenges to overcome to make this trail a reality. Primary among them is the process of finding funding for a new trail which will serve the community. Once funding is secured, this ambitious project will likely take 4-6 years to complete due to the length and complexity of the project. The ongoing process will include these considerations and others:

  • Grant funding – the Planning Office is currently seeking funding for completion of the trail. The portion located on the Umatilla Indian Reservation is anticipated to cost approximately $4 million due to the length and bridge construction. It’s likely that the off-reservation portion of the trail, assuming a goal of a connection with the Pendleton Riverwalk, will cost an additional $3 million. Potential funding sources include the Oregon Safe Routes to School grant program; the Climate Pollution Reduction Implementation Grant; and ODOT Community Paths Grant Program.
  • Safety & Accessibility – a variety of safety dimensions have been raised, including lighting; proximity to car and train traffic; safety from wildlife and people; and distance between rest stops. Remediations include trail locations and lighting that create an “eyes on the trail” safety benefit; fencing to minimize train conflicts; and amenities such as shade and benches at strategic intervals to make the path welcoming to people with different levels of physical ability.
  • Environmental protection – concerns of habitat protection, litter, poaching, and human-wildlife conflicts have been raised throughout this process, and careful consideration will be given to these issues as we move forward on design, engineering, and construction. Some measures include “fish safe” lighting on parts of the trail near the river; trash cans to discourage litter; and avoiding sensitive habitat areas.
  • Willing property owners –we will only move forward on trail construction where the property owner is willing. As such, the length and location of the trail will be contingent on the number of owners who would like to come to the table.
  • Multi-jurisdiction coordination – the jurisdictions crossed for this trail include CTUIR-owned roads, Umatilla County roads, an ODOT highway crossing, and City of Pendleton roads and trails. Availability of all of these road owners can be a challenge, even though all have expressed willingness to participate in the trail planning process. We may be most able to make changes to CTUIR-owned facilities first, which includes Mission Road west of Highway 331.

Other Questions or Comments?

For other questions or comments, you can contact Dani Schulte, the Transportation Planner at or by phone at 541-429-7525.

Project Updates

March – June 2023: PSU Students in collaboration with CTUIR Planning Staff conducted 5 community engagement events; distributed a survey; prepared a kids’ coloring book for youth engagement; and attended commission and committee meetings to collect information and report progress.

April 2023: The CTUIR Board of Trustees adopted the 2023 Transportation System Plan, which included this trail as a high priority project.

June 2023: The CTUIR Land Protection Planning Commission and Health Commission expressed support for this trail during the final PSU student presentation.

August 2023: Summer Planning intern, Moya Moses, conducted a preliminary survey of the existing space and the Riverside Neighborhood, and additional neighborhood engagement.

Spring 2024 (upcoming): two grant windows will open and CTUIR will be applying for funds in two avenues: carbon emissions reduction, and safe routes to school.