Forest Park is one of the largest forested city parks in the United States. Today, Forest Park is at risk.
This unique initiative is investing holistically in Forest Park’s ecology, infrastructure, and access—making significant improvements and providing visitors with a safe, ecologically sustainable, and vibrant natural area.
Together, we will renew this remarkable asset and create a legacy for generations to come.
About half of Forest Park is currently in good or excellent ecological condition, but in the other half, the spread of invasive plants is a primary threat to forest health. Invasive species removal has been ongoing for years in Forest Park. Historically, these efforts yielded tangible results, but were not comprehensive.
Restore Forest Park is a comprehensive, long-term plan to protect and restore the park’s ecological health and reduce wildfire risk by removing invasive species, reducing fuel loads in the wildland-urban interface, and replanting native plants. Our success will be demonstrated by a healthier Forest Park that continues to provide for a diversity of plants and wildlife.
STATUS: Restoration work has occurred on approximately 1,260 acres of the park.
PP&R will continue to pursue diverse funding streams to meet restoration targets in Forest Park. Restoration efforts currently focus on the following project areas:
- Balch Creek Watershed (590 acres)
Balch Creek Canyon is a favorite spot for recreators along the Wildwood and Lower Macleay trails. Unfortunately, the area is threatened by invasive species like ivy, holly, and laurel. With support from Metro, PP&R, the Bureau of Environmental Services, and Forest Park Conservancy began restoration in 2015. Restoration efforts for this project focus on weed removal and revegetation of native plants on 590 total acres.
- North Forest Park Pollinator Powerline Project (166 acres)
In a unique partnership with Metro and the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), PP&R is working to improve forested and pollinator habitat under BPA transmission lines that run through the northern management unit of Forest Park, improving 166 acres of the park’s most valuable habitat. This work has served as a demonstration of the unique ecological enhancement opportunities available along these and other permanently disturbed powerline corridors in the park.
- Linnton Community Wildfire Risk Reduction (500 acres)
This project targets a 500-acre area of the park adjacent to the Linnton community. With support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and in partnership with Portland Fire & Rescue and Forest Park Conservancy, PP&R is removing invasive weeds to reduce wildfire risk and revegetating areas with native plants to increase wildfire resiliency. This project also involves outreach to neighbors to increase defensible space along the park’s perimeter.
Due to its scale and complexity, restoring Forest Park requires a comprehensive, long-term plan. In the healthiest portions of the park, PP&R’s Protect the Best program maintains good or excellent ecological condition by preventing the spread of invasive species. Where the park is in poor condition due to dominance of invasive plants, PP&R takes a multi-pronged approach. PP&R and partners manually remove invasive species wherever feasible, especially within sensitive areas along trails and streams, from trees, and in flatter areas that are accessible to volunteers. In other areas, PP&R makes judicious use of chemical treatments through a well-established methodology and in accordance with a city-wide Integrated Pest Management program. Local partners also work to prevent the spread of invasive species into Forest Park from adjacent private properties. After invasive plants are removed, native plants are replanted by volunteers and forestry contractors to restore native plant communities.
This work has been made possible with contributions and support from partners including Metro, the Bonneville Power Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, Forest Park Conservancy, and more. Other partners include Portland Fire & Rescue, Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, PP&R’s Youth Conservation Crew, local Firewise community groups and other community volunteers, Xerces Society, Verde Landscape, R. Franco Restoration, and Ash Creek Forest Management.
Forest Park was established in 1948. Today, much of its aging infrastructure needs to be replaced or repaired. Failing bridges, collapsed culverts, and restricted trailhead and emergency access are among the many challenges facing the park. By investing in durable and modern improvements, PP&R is enhancing visitor safety and creating a more resilient park for future generations.
Rebuild Forest Park is a long-term plan to address aging infrastructure throughout the park to enhance visitor safety and experience. Our success will be demonstrated by functioning trails, bridges, and culverts that are safe for everyone.
STATUS: PP&R is actively pursuing funding to make infrastructure improvements and replacements. These enhancements have occurred as funding is available.
Trails and Bridges
With over 70 miles of trails in Forest Park, keeping up with trail maintenance, repair, and improvement is a monumental task. PP&R addresses needed trail safety, maintenance, and repair work by prioritizing emergency repairs and working steadily through a backlog of safety and maintenance issues as resources are available. Examples of recent work include:
- Three major bridges on the Wildwood Trail, Lower Macleay Trail and Maple Trail were replaced through the 2014 Parks Replacement Bond, allowing PP&R to re-open a previously closed section of Maple Trail. (Completed 2017)
- Wildwood Trail near Pittock Mansion was re-routed and enhanced, allowing a portion of the trail to reopen after a major landslide. (Completed 2018)
- In partnership with the Portland Parks Foundation, the Barbara Walker Crossing, an important bridge linking Washington Park to Forest Park, was created to connect the Wildwood Trail at a dangerous intersection with West Burnside Road. (Completed 2019)
- Three bridges on the northern end of the Wildwood Trail received significant repairs and improvements, preventing possible collapse during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when visitation to the park was extremely high. (Completed 2020)
Recreation and Access Corridors
Leif Erikson Drive, Forest Park’s major park road, is over 11 miles long, and it provides key park access for recreation and emergency response. Because of the way it was originally constructed, it is subject to extensive maintenance and repair needs. PP&R is making roadway improvements, addressing safety concerns, and replacing culverts on Leif Erikson Drive to ensure it continues to be a resource for the public and emergency responders, and to protect surrounding natural resources. PP&R is also addressing other recreation and access corridor needs. Examples of recent work include:
- Three large culverts designed for 100-year storm events and amphibian passage were replaced on Leif Erikson Drive. This work restored emergency access along Leif Erikson Drive and was made possible through a cost-share agreement with the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES). (Completed 2018)
- Significant roadbed maintenance and road corridor clearing occurred to address safety concerns raised by Portland Fire & Rescue. (Completed 2021)
- Additional work is ongoing to remedy safety concerns along Leif Erikson Drive and other critical access corridors like firelanes. (Ongoing)
Forest Park is for everyone, but research shows that its visitors do not reflect the full diversity of Portland. PP&R and partners have engaged with traditionally underserved communities across Portland to gather feedback about how residents use Forest Park and the barriers they face in accessing it.
Informed by community input, Reconnect Forest Park is a long-term plan to ensure that Forest Park is a vibrant resource for all people. By making strategic investments to address barriers to access, we can create a more inclusive and welcoming park for all. Our success will be demonstrated when we see diverse visitors utilizing the park, an improved system of easy-to-locate trailheads, and safe and welcoming nature trails for everyone.
Public access improvements currently focus on the following areas:
Connecting Public Transit
The lack of easy and safe connections to public transportation is a barrier to accessing Forest Park. Currently, the park is only accessible by select buses and the MAX at the Hoyt Arboretum. Public transportation to the park should be enhanced so that residents from across the Portland metropolitan region can reach the park in a timely, safe, user-friendly manner. PP&R is exploring opportunities to work with local and regional transit agencies to improve access to Forest Park.
STATUS: PP&R is actively exploring funding opportunities for this body of work.
Increasing Information and Safety
For new visitors, Forest Park can be daunting to locate. Its trailheads are often found down unmarked gravel roads or are poorly labeled next to roadside shoulders. PP&R is working to identify simple improvements that will help the public travel safety to and within Forest Park.
- PP&R is working to replace unreadable or inaccurate informational and directional signs within the park. (Ongoing)
- PP&R is working with Portland’s Bureau of Transportation to install traffic signs that identify trailhead locations along roads leading to the park. These improvements are also critical to improving user safety and emergency response within the park. (2022-2023)
- Web mapping services like Google Maps do not accurately reflect the locations or names of Forest Park trailheads. Without formal addresses, visitors are limited in their use of ridesharing apps and their own navigation to find the park. We are working to fully update Forest Park map sites, beginning with Google Maps. (Scheduled for 2023)
- PP&R is actively exploring additional funding opportunities for this body of work.
PP&R is working with partners to pilot new opportunities for engaging communities of color and non-English speakers in stewardship events, guided hikes, and employment opportunities.
STATUS: With support from Metro Nature in Neighborhoods, PP&R collaborated with Verde Landscape and Forest Park Conservancy to offer multi-lingual discovery hikes and restoration job training between 2019 and 2021. PP&R is actively exploring funding opportunities to continue and enhance this body of work.
Many Forest Park trailheads are inaccessible to users with mobility needs. PP&R has addressed physical barriers at key access points as users have shared challenges, but a comprehensive approach is needed to address these obstacles and improve accessibility. With help from the community, PP&R is addressing acute accessibility issues, and is also exploring a process to identify additional major barriers to accessibility in the park.
STATUS: PP&R is actively exploring funding opportunities for this body of work.
Enhancing Parking and Other Amenities
Forest Park should feel welcoming, safe, and accessible to a diversity of users. Many residents have shared concerns about unsafe parking and park use, as well as inadequate park amenities such as restrooms, stroller access, and related infrastructure. In addition, there is a critical need for improvements at trailheads to ensure visitors feel welcome, informed, and safe in the park. To address these concerns, PP&R is making improvements to parking areas and trailheads, and working with partners at the Forest Park Conservancy to increase educational programming that serves diverse communities.
STATUS: PP&R recently completed improvements to parking and access at Firelane 1, with a new trailhead access road, parking area, and improved trailhead to provide better access to the area. PP&R is working to enhance infrastructure and increase public safety in other parking and trailhead areas around the park, including at high-use trailheads along the Wildwood Trail. PP&R is actively exploring funding opportunities for this body of work. Read more about PP&R’s multi-phase Nature Center project here.