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Oaks Bottom's Bluff Trail reopens to public after renovation

Sellwood resident Robert Cavender and Maggie (his pooch) take a stroll along the newly-reopened Oaks Bottom Bluff Trail after crossing one of the new boardwalks.There wasn’t any fanfare – no cheering crowds or ribbon-cutting. But, January 15th was a very happy day for Portland Parks & Recreation Capital Project Manager and Landscape Architect Travis Reybal, and good news for Inner Southeast hikers.

Just after 3:00 pm on that day, Reybal took the padlocks off the steel gate blocking the south entrance to the Oaks Bottom Bluff Trail for the last time. After swinging the gate wide open, he invited THE BEE to see the results of the “Oaks Bottom Bluff Trail Restoration Project”.

“We had our final inspections from the Portland Bureau of Developmental Services today,” announced Reybal. “The project passed inspection. By the time people read this, the fences will be down, and the Bluff Trail will be fully open to the public.”

Although the torrential rainstorms in December slowed the restoration, nonetheless, “It went fantastic,” Reybal beamed.

“We had a wonderful contractor,” he continued. “They often build trails up in the mountains. Having grocery stores nearby, and access to electricity, was a comfort that they usually don’t have while working on a project. They did excellent work.”

The result, Reybal commented, was that a trail that was once “loved to death” by hikers is again ready to be enjoyed for years to come. “We know that the community's been anxious and excited to get back on the trail; we’re happy to welcome them back again.”

The 1.1-mile-long trail was completely regraded, leveling off steeply-sloped “off camber” sections, and leaving a flat surface on which to walk.

And, “the new ‘observation deck’ is well-positioned to take advantage of natural views,” the project manager pointed out. “Making it had little disturbance on any surrounding vegetation or wetland area.”

A major wet-weather feature hikers will really enjoy are the three elevated boardwalk segments. “The boardwalks are designed to cross areas inundated during heavy rains – with the footings being engineered to handle flooding periods,” observed Reybal.

The boardwalk surfaces aren’t wooden, they’re made of “pultruded Fiberglass decking”. “We chose this material, because wood gets very slippery during the winter. Although it is more expensive, this decking will be very low in maintenance, and it blends in well with the environment.”

With this new pathway in place, the Portland Parks Bureau hopes users will stay on the trail – and not stray off up the slopes or down into the wetland – to help preserve the integrity of the existing habitat.

Lastly, during the just-completed project, crews removed dumpsters full of garbage and debris from the trail area. “We're hoping that people notice this, and help by continuing to keep it clean. Pack out what you bring in; and, if you see something on the ground, pick it up and pack it out.”

Next summer, the Bureau of Environmental Services “Reveg Crew” will do what Reybal calls the largest re-vegetation effort they’ve undertaken to date – putting in a wide variety of native plant species along the Bluff Trail in Oaks Bottom.

Concluding the tour, Reybal said, “This is one of the few natural areas in our urban environment that is so close to downtown Portland. Having this kind of resource near to an urban area not only provides for a great education opportunity for people – it provides a fantastic recreation opportunity for the surrounding community.”