Hogan Butte, Gresham's crown jewel, opens to public
A short drive from the hustle and bustle of the city lies a new urban oasis. Hogan Butte Nature Park, the recently opened natural space, offers Gresham residents an escape to a quiet and peaceful location with unmatched views.
"This has been a long time coming," said Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis. "I think this park will rival any in the region — this is our crown jewel."
A meandering path winds its way through the park up to the volcanic viewpoint, which serves as the main draw. From the viewpoint — on a clear day — visitors can see Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, the Columbia River Gorge and the city of Gresham.
For the community members who have eagerly awaited the parks completion, and the many people involved in putting it all together, the Saturday afternoon, Sept. 23, grand opening was a momentous occasion.
"It's not every year we get to open a new park," said Steve Fancher, Gresham's director of environmental services. "Despite limited resources, our mayor and council have not given up on strengthening our parks."
Hogan Butte is 46 acres, with a summit elevation of 930 feet. While it isn't the best spot for those looking to take in a rigorous hike, the half-mile interpretive loop trail offers sights and information. The new park is the perfect place for those looking to get away and enjoy a peaceful afternoon.
There's a picnic shelter and tables, restroom and paved path.
The park is home to western red cedars, big leaf maple, red alder, Oregon grape, salmonberry and sword ferns, as well as red-tailed hawks, black-tailed deer, foxes, bobcats and raccoons — and more than likely, coyotes.
"All of this is a little surreal, but gratifying to finally have this open to everyone," Fancher said.
Visiting Hogan Butte Nature Park allows residents to climb atop a volcano — albeit extinct. Gresham is one of the few places in the country to have extinct volcanoes within city limits. Hogan Butte is part of the Boring Lava Field and "East Buttes," a cluster of peaks that stretch from southeast Portland to Damascus.
When standing at the volcano lookout, which offers the best views, people are above a bygone vent that once released steam from deep within the Earth.
Hogan Butte was home to the Clackamas Native American Tribe, which used the nearby Johnson Creek for fishing and hunting.
The butte was named after Eli Hogan, a turn-of-the-century pioneer who forested land in the area. Lumber from his sawmill traveled down the butte along a slab-wood road called the "Devil's Cut-Off" to a plant in Portland. Wood harvested from Hogan Butte's forests helped build Mt. Tabor's reservoirs from 1894 to 1911.
Near the lower lot is the infamous Brite House, which was constructed in 1928. It's said to be the site of a Prohibition-era speakeasy, which also reputedly functioned as a popular brothel at the time. Now the building is owned by the city of Gresham.
The process of constructing a park atop the butte began more than 25 years ago. The city was faced with a choice, purchase the land or allow it to be developed by a private owner and blocked from public access.
"This could have been someone's McMansion," Bemis said. "Not everyone saw what it could become."
But thanks to hard work from many at the city, including former councilor Dave Shields in the early stages, the land for the butte was purchased through a 1990 city bond measure passed by voters. Ironically, the Gresham City Council was narrowly split, 4-3, on whether to place the measure on the ballot in the first place.
The park was completed thanks to support from Metro, the Trust for Public Lands, the U.S. Forest Service and the Buttes Conservancy, all of whom advocated throughout the years for Hogan Butte Nature Park. Many in the community also provided direction and advice.
"My favorite part of this park is what it means," Bemis said. "This is a place for community, family, learning about nature and coming together."
More than 100 community members came together to celebrate the grand opening. Many elected officials and their families were there, along with staff who helped bring everything together. And, of course, the majority was made up of locals excited to see another natural space in the city.
There were a lot of activities for the many kids who went. They enjoyed face painting, an interactive walk along the path, and greeting two birds from the Portland Audubon Society.
Hogan Butte Nature Park is now open for visitors. There are about 20 parking spaces available in the lower lot, with a short, but steep, walk up to the park. There is also a small lot up at the park that is dedicated to ADA-accessible spaces, though it does allow for an easy drop-off location.
There are still a few finishing touches to be completed. One final sign needs to be installed, and the wild grass that will fill out the hill hasn't grown in yet. But the park is open from sunrise to sunset.
"This park is the only spot in Gresham where the public can access these views, and we hope people enjoy it," Fancher said.