Forest Park Initiatives Complete

An update on Commissioner Nick Fish’s five-step plan to fix Forest Park.

September 16, 2010

Yesterday, Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish announced the completion of the city’s five management initiatives for Forest Park.

Put forth in June, the initiatives represented a renewed vigor on the city’s part to face up to a host of stewardship issues that have been plaguing the park as of late, not the least of which has been the contentious debate about adding more single-track trails.

Here’s what the city’s proposed at the outset of the summer, and a corresponding update:

1) A Partnership with Forest Park Conservancy Completed back in early July, the agreement keeps the city and the nonprofit from stepping on each others toes by defining the legal relationship between the two camps, and clarifies roles each will take when it comes to advocacy efforts.

2) Complete a Desired Future Conditions Report Considered a key component of the all important 1995 Forest Park Natural Resource Plan, such a report, which would be used to set the bar for ecological conditions and inform long-term action plans, had never been completed. It is now. You can find the whole report on the city’s website.

3) Complete a Recreation Survey How are you going to advocate for the country’s largest urban green space if you have no idea how people use it? Good question. To be fair, the city wasn’t exactly totally in the dark as to what goes on in the park, but after tapping Portland State University’s Survey Research Lab to conduct an official survey, (the survey queried a total of 564 park users on two separate occasions in the park), Fish & Company should have, at the very least, more than anecdotal observations of how, and just as importantly, why people are recreating in the park. A few interesting takeaways:

The most popular recreational activities in the park, were as follows:
Hiking/Walking (41 percent); Jogging/Running (25 percent); Walking the Dog (14 percent). Cycling, at 8 percent, came in a distant 5th place. (Maybe the bikes were moving too fast on the survey day.)

And when asked to rate importance of “commonly found natural areas park features”, trails, had the highest score.

When asked an open-ended question about what could be done to improve the park, 34 respondents suggested increasing mountain bike access, while an even amount responded, "do nothing".

One thing that everyone seems to be in agreement about, is how to get there: nearly 80 percent of users drive to the park.

For the whole survey, click here.

4) Shore up Budget Planning and Funding Sources If you can’t beat them join them? No. More like, after they whoop you, better let them join in. After taking a browbeating by the City Club, and their Forest Park: A Call To Action report, for their treatment of the park, the city invited City Club member Jim Gorter to serve on the 2011-2012 PP&R Budget Advisory Committee. No confirmation on whether his pet quote is, “Speak softly and carry a big report.”

5) Improve safety and security—in other words, enforce of park rules When I learned last year that Forest Park had no full-time forest ranger, no dedicated boots on the ground, so to speak, I was shocked. Apparently, I was not alone. It’s an oft-cited complaint about the park’s management. And to date more than 100 people have applied for the job since recruiting began this summer. While a final pick has not been made official, a new ranger will finally begin patrolling the park by September 30.

And what to do about more bike trails in the park? Let’s just say the wheels are still spinning. But Nick Fish and Recreation Director Zari Santner will announce their final take on the off-road cycling in the park, based on recommendations made this past July by the Forest Park Single Track Advisory Committee by the end of the month.

Stay tuned.

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