$830,000 project includes paved trails, learning area, ADA accessibility

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Lowami Hart Woods project manager Matt Kilmartin talks about the new features that the THPRD property will offer when it opens to the public.With plenty of cooperation from a streak of gorgeous fall weather, construction crews are making steady progress on upgrades to Lowami Hart Woods Natural Area at 14895 S.W. Hart Road.

The $830,000 project, funded through the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District’s $100 million bond measure voters approved in 2008, includes a half-mile of paved trails, nature overlooks, decorative retaining walls, new wooden bridges, parking and interpretive signage. Most of the improvements are well on track for completion by Nov. 25. The fact makes Matt Kilmartin, park district planner for the project, glow a bit on a Tuesday morning tour of the 28-acre wooded area bisected by South Johnson Creek.

“The good weather has provided a great opportunity to get the work done faster,” he said. “We’re looking to be substantially complete by late November — just before Thanksgiving.”

Paving on the natural area’s main Wahoo Trail, a 6-foot-wide path with a 1- to 2-foot gravel shoulder on either side, is complete, with gravel and wood-chip surfacing and other improvements for the remaining 0.3 miles of soft surface loop trails underway. The Wahoo Trail will eventually link to the proposed South Johnson Creek Community Trail when further funding becomes available.

A new wooden pedestrian bridge is in place, while custom rock/boulder retaining walls are under construction along the trails. Custom-made log benches fabricated from re-purposed logs from trees harvested on site are being installed along the trails. The benches were purposely designed with no backs to allow for flexibility of viewing, Kilmartin noted.

Other site furnishings and related amenities will follow in a few weeks.

The 6-foot paved trail represents a compromise after a group of neighbors, during the planning stages of the park’s upgrade in 2011, expressed concern that the district’s 8-foot-wide standard would be intrusive and disrupt the natural feel of the area, which is heavily canopied with Douglas fir, spruce, oak and other tall trees. The paved trails roughly follow dirt paths formed over the years by visitors to the area.

In a further concession to neighbors who had grown used to the primitive nature of the area — which included Camp Lowami, run by the former Camp Fire Girls of America — tree cutting along trail corridors was minimized. Of the 502 trees the city of Beaverton granted permission to remove in the project, only 75 were cut, while many substantial trees hug the trails more closely than at other district nature areas.

“The trail is intentionally close to a lot of trees,” Kilmartin said. “We removed as few trees as possible. We made a point to keep the footprint tight, so it will look natural more quickly.”

With grades of 5 percent or less, trails were designed to fit Americans With Disabilities Act standards. They can accommodate wheelchairs, motorized scooters and baby strollers.

“Our ultimate goal is that the trail would look like it was here for years,” Kilmartin added.

The parking lot and welcoming plaza along Southwest Hart Road — which will accommodate nine cars with one ADA-designated stall — will soon be underway.

Down by South Johnson Creek where a wide wooden bridge crosses the stream at a clearing, three giant logs are assembled together at the former Camp Lowami site, which will serve as a nature education site for children, with the district sponsoring classes, workshops and park ranger talks. The restored Camp Fire Girls flagpole will mark the site.

“We want to integrate cultural history into the site, so the (pole) will remain as an icon for that history,” Kilmartin said.

Bob Wayt, the district’s communications director, noted Lowami Hart Woods will serve a crucial niche in the district’s park and trail system when work is completed next month.

“It will provide a balance in environmental education opportunities and access to nature,” while “providing (ADA) access to a part of Beaverton many have never seen before. It also expands the trail system.

“We feel all those are important to the district,” he said.

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