The City of Portland is putting the finishing touches on designs for a major new nature center and “iconic” entrance to Forest Park. Now is the time to share your comments so that the resulting project is as welcoming as possible to people who arrive by bicycle.
We first reported on this project in July 2015. Since then the Parks & Recreation Bureau has hired a contractor to design the project, hosted public meetings, and most recently, has released a set of detailed drawings that show what the new entrance facility might look like.
The $2.3 million plan (that’s what they’ve raised so far, thanks to a mix of system development charges and a $1.5 million state grant awarded in the 2015 legislative session) is to take a vacant industrial lot at the intersection of Highway 30/St. Helens Road/NW Kittridge Ave, and turn it into an interpretive and educational center. You might be surprised to know that despite Forest Park’s popularity and proximity to the city, it lacks a major entrance. Parks wants to remedy that by creating a trailhead that will include a parking lot (with 30 to 68 spaces depending on which design goes forward), a large building for exhibits and classrooms, a courtyard/plaza area, bathrooms, and new trails and improved connections to existing ones.
This is an important project for bicycle riders for several reasons. First, it will likely help tame this stressful intersection. Any new development (especially by the City) is likely to come with improved transportation infrastructure. In this case, it’s likely we could see a new/improved crosswalk on St. Helens Rd and a nicer bike lane adjacent to the site. The presence of more people and vehicles accessing the new entrance should also help calm traffic. Having another public restroom in this area — which is in an industrial zone without many public commercial destinations — is also a big plus for bicycle riders. This project also matters because of how it might create forward political and public momentum to improve bicycle access both to the facility on Highway 30 (a place in dire need of safer bikeways) and into Forest Park itself (a place in dire need of new and improved bikeways).
The entrance will be built at the base of Firelane 1, an old dirt road that’s open for bicycling but rarely used due to its steepness and erosion issues. Having more people enter the park in this area should hasten the ongoing conversation around re-working and re-routing Firelane 1 so that it’s easier to bicycle on. The new entrance would be just 1.4 miles via Firelane 1 from Leif Erikson — a fun and popular dirt road that bisects the park. And of course there’s also the possibility of entirely new singletrack trails from the entrance into the park. Those conversations are also ongoing and pending the completion of the Portland Off-Road Cycling Master Plan (more on that later).
For now, it’s time to review the three options and share your comments with the Parks Bureau. They are only accepting comments until March 1st at 10:00 pm. You can view the designs and take a short survey here. Please note that bicycle parking facilities aren’t shown in any of the drawings, nor is bicycle parking mentioned in the survey (I’ve asked Parks why and will update this post when I hear back – see below). Please use the final, open-ended survey question to make sure Parks knows you’d like somewhere convenient and secure to lock up your bike when you visit the park.
Construction is expected to start in summer of 2018.
UPDATED, 4:21pm: Parks Bureau says bike parking is planned for the facility, they just forgot to put it on the drawings. Here’s spokesman Mark Ross:
We note that the absence of this feature in the drawings was an oversight on our part which we regret! Unfortunately, it appears that it was just overlooked, but bike parking onsite is an intended amenity.