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The nature of neighbors


Cedar Mill neighborhood embraces revamped Jordan Woods Natural Area

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - A family explores a trail in the new Jordan Woods Natural Area in Cedar Mill. The area opened to the public last Friday right next to Jackie Husen Park. When Dave and Marla Merriwether had guests come by for a visit on Sunday afternoon, the couple didn’t waste any time showing off a new natural attraction in their Cedar Mill neighborhood.

“That happened yesterday. We said, ‘There’s a new path down there that just opened last week.’ They were all amazed,” Dave said Monday of the Jordan Woods Natural Area. “It was great.”

As more nature lovers discover the winding pathway through a thick forest between Northwest Reeves Street and Lost Park Drive, similar reactions are likely to follow. Accessed through Jackie Husen Park, 10955 N.W. Reeves St., the woodland formerly known as Jordan Park opened to the public on a sunny, spring-like Friday after Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District crews took down a fence that had blocked the trail entrance since construction started in March 2012.

The approximately $1.6 million project, which park district officials said was less than originally budgeted, was funded by the $100 million bond measure that district voters approved in 2008.

Replacing a series of unpaved, improvised trails, the new 8-foot-wide asphalt Jordan Trail was built to fit Americans with Disability Act accessibility requirements. A series of benches along the path and an easily accessible, stone-lined overlook provide panoramic views of the 22-acre Jordan Woods Natural Area below. Meandering a quarter mile into a ravine filled with Douglas fir, big-leaf maples, red cedars and alder trees toward Kitchen and Cedar Mill creeks down below, the trail was designed to protect significant trees and limit encroachment into sensitive creek and wetlands areas.

“We started in March 2012, but rain delays slowed us down a bit,” said Tim Bonnin, a planner with the park district.by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District planner Tim Bonnin talks about the design and planning involved with bring Jordan Woods Natural Area to fruition.

One step at a time

In addition to the trail and overlook, the project features two pedestrian bridges, a boardwalk, three trail access points and secondary soft-surface trails.

The new trail also corrects some unsafe access features that accumulated over the years, including steep, slippery and narrow pathways and a precarious set of old railroad-timber steps leading up to Lost Park Drive across the ravine. A sturdy set of concrete steps complete with hand rails is now in place.

“The stairs were treacherous, I can tell you from my own experience,” Bonnin said of the wooden steps built in a narrow chute between two houses. “You had a rope to hold onto. It was not very safe at all as you made your way down into the woods. It’s much more pleasing than before. At least, more people can experience it than they did in the past.”

A sturdy footbridge made of recycled plastic materials replaces what Bonnin called a “‘Dirty Dancing’ log” — based on a scene from the 1985 movie in which Patrick Swayze teaches co-star Jennifer Grey some fancy footwork on a log above a stream — that previously crossed Cedar Mill Creek.by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - A woman walks across a bridge in the new Jordan Woods Natural Area.

Recycling nature

Gabion walls, built with rocks in wire baskets, allow for water runoff and drainage while promoting quick growth of moss and other vegetation to create more of a natural bank than an imposing wall.

“We want it to blend in with the site,” Bonnin said, noting the benches along the trail came from felled cedar trees salvaged from the clearing process. “I think that’s just unique to the project. We use some resources from the site instead of hauling it off. We’ve laid down (other trees) to create habitat, so they’re not hauled off or chipped.”

While the major features of the natural area project are completed, details such as interpretive nature signs — which the park district has put out a call for local artists to design — will be added by this summer, Bonnin said.

“Our goal was to create a neighborhood recreation area that complements the natural resources in the area,” said Hal Bergsma, the park district’s director of planning. “We wanted a community trail that is compatible with the natural resources, links people to those resources, and is accessible for everyone. We believe we have succeeded on all those points.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Will Bohnaker and Glenna Stater walk across a bridge and enjoy the creek's view in the new Jordan Woods Natural Area in Cedar Mill.