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Restoration project nears completion on Oaks Bottom's Bluff Trail

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - Daryl Hoyt of Twin Oaks Construction with Travis and Portland Parks & Recreation Capital Project Manager Travis Ruybal stand on the slope where a deck will be constructed, providing a spectacular view of the large Oaks Bottom pond.As hikers and birders have discovered – and as readers of THE BEE have learned – the 1.1-mile-long Oaks Bottom Bluff Trail has been closed since mid-September for restoration.

“It’s a favorite walk for many people,” confided Portland Parks & Recreation Capital Project Manager Travis Ruybal, as we hiked from the southern trail head in the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, dripping in a deluge, on October 12.

“In fact, we say that, over the years, it’s been ‘loved to death’ – and it really needed improvements,” Ruybal said.

Despite the description of the project, it’s really more than just restoration work. The contractors are re-creating a walkway along the route of the original trail. “I think what people will notice most are the three new boardwalks. One of them features a lookout deck out over the wetland reservoir.”

Heading along the trail with us, Daryl Hoyt of Twin Oaks Construction appeared unfazed by the pouring rain. “We’ve done trail construction – mostly for the U.S. Forest Service – for about 30 years, here in the West. We’re used to working in all kinds of weather.

“There are a lot of details involved with this project. We’re using a wide variety of materials – lumber, gratings for the boardwalk, hardware, and connectors – that all have to show up on-site in a timely fashion. And, everything has to be taken in along the trail.”

We stepped around concrete anchors for the boardwalks, and picked our way past the footings that will suspend them above any floodwater under most conditions.

“The 500 feet of boardwalks we’re installing will discourage hikers from heading up off the trail when the water level is high, and damaging the vegetation along the trail,” Ruybal remarked. “The idea is to increase access during the wet season, to make it more passable for trail users.”

About a half mile along our hike, we came across the crew, using a miniature power backhoe and grader, and motorized wheelbarrow, to level a section of the trail. Above us, rainwater sluiced down the slope from the southwest edge of Wilhelm’s Portland Memorial.

“Make sure to allow for water flow here,” Hoyt instructed his crew.

The project is on schedule, Ruybal said, as we paused on our hike back out to admire the view visitors will see when the deck is finished overlooking the Oaks Bottom pond.

“We have had a tough time keeping some of the users off of the trail,” Ruybal added. “People need to realize that there are many dangerous obstacles and dangers on the trail while it’s under construction.

“We’d appreciate it if they’d patient – we expect the project to be completed in December.”