Forest Park Idea To Reality

Dated: June 30 2016

Views: 433

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Almost every major city has a beautiful park.  Can anyone think of New York without thinking of Central Park ?  San Francisco without Golden Gate Park ?  London with out Hyde Park ?  Portland, Oregon’s Forest Park is a highlight of both the city and the region.  

The park started simply as a forest several hundred or even several thousands of years ago.   Oregon began adapting to the influx of pioneers and settlers in the 1850’s.  By the turn of the century, Portland was a city with strong economic growth fueled by the shipping and logging industries.  Keen to show off their wealth and style, the city hosted the Lewis and Clark World Exhibition.  The city would receive huge press coverage and many visitors.  The Olmstead brothers were consulted as to how to improve the city and it’s parks.

Frederick Law Olmstead was the chief designer of Central Park in New York City.  His sons , the Olmstead Brothers, continued on in his footsteps.  They had many successful projects in the Western United States.  By all accounts, the designers were impressed with the location of the City of Portland near the convergence of two major rivers and the magnificent mountain range.  They immediately thought to locate a park on the Western side of the Willamette River that would guarantee views of the Rivers and Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Hood.  

The Olmstead Brothers proposed a large park that would remain as natural forest.  In the early 1900’s the idea of preserving nature was a rather avant garde idea.  In fact, many locals didn’t like the idea at all.  Why set aside land for nature ?  There were millions of acres of forests surrounding the area !  Many residents earned a living be hand cutting trees, hauling trees, running sawmills and loading trains. If these hard working folks  had a day off, why would they want to spend it in a forest ?  Weren’t they there every day ?   

The World exhibition came and went but the forested lands that would become Forest Park stayed in their natural habitat.  Many builders wanted to develop the land for homes with  beautiful views.  The geology of the land was unstable and risky to develop.  With the Great Depression and two World Wars intervening not much happened with development.  A few roads were built.  Fire lanes were created , the WPA built a stone house as a rest stop for visitors.

In 1948 Forest Park was officially created. Now it is celebrated for it’s natural forest and habitat within the city limits!  Would you like to:

  • Surround yourself with old growth trees ?

  • Enjoy natural creeks or waterfalls ?

  • See blooming wild flowers ?

  • Marvel at outstanding views of Portland, Mt. Hood and the rivers ?

  • Identify native plants and trees ?

  • Spy pairs of nesting bald eagles ?

  • Revel in a quiet space to write or draw or think ?

  • Share your love of nature with your friends and family ?

All of these things are available to Portlanders at Forest Park.  A tremendous resource is  

This simple guide will help you find the largest Fir trees, the bald eagle habitat, the creeks and much more. It also describes each trail by length, elevation change and difficulty. Bikes and horses are allowed on some trails and fire roads !

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  • Forest Park is owned by the City of Portland and receives support from the non profit Forest Park Conservancy.  The City website has a great map that shows park entrances, restrooms, parking and trails.  

  • The Forest Park Conservancy website has specific information on trail conditions, closures and repairs.  Be sure to check their website while making your plans. The Conservancy also sells maps and guides. There is even a map app for your phone!


Don’t Forget :  

  • Water bottle

  • Good walking shoes

  • Camera

  • Map

  • Sunscreen

  • Plan your hike!  Some trails are easier than others.  A 30 mile hike is not a good idea for first timers. Check the guides to see how steep the trails are.

  • Common Sense : You are visiting the home of wild creatures.  They are not tame and they are not pets. Do not try to touch them or get close to them.

A genuine forest in a city is a rare thing.  There are not many places where you can spot bald eagles, be surrounded by old growth trees, enjoy farm to table cuisine, partake in the local art scene and meet master beer brewers all in the same day!  Enjoy it all !

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Shawn Skinner

Your Portland Metro Broker with over 15 years experience Shawn remains continuously updated on market trends, financing and legal reforms, so he can help you make informed decisions. The real estat....

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