Tales From The Trails:

Three New Bridges Will Unite Forest Park’s Legacy and Future

Bridges connect and unite. They provide pathways to new discoveries and greater exploration. And in Forest Park, they are a critical link to some of the Park’s most beloved trails.

That’s what makes the bridge replacement projects happening right now in Forest Park so exciting. Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) is unveiling three new signature Forest Park bridges this fall, including on Lower Macleay Trail where it crosses Balch Creek, and on Wildwood Trail, where it crosses Balch Creek (just north of Cornell Road). Finally, for fans of the Maple Trail who have eagerly awaited the reopening of the trail since a bridge failure caused it to close in 2012, a gorgeous new bridge will open this September. That bridge is located where Maple Trail crosses Saltzman Creek (between Koenig Trail and Firelane 4).

“These bridges are a priority because they are located on the most heavily-used and beloved trails, within a beloved park,” said Jill Hutchinson, Project Manager for PP&R. “Not only will these beautiful new bridges help ensure safety and provide greater Forest Park access for users, they are designed to be enjoyed and admired for generations to come.”

The New Bridges of Forest Park: Linking Design, Reliability and Safety

As beautiful as Forest Park itself, the new bridges are carefully designed and constructed to maximize usability and reliability, while ensuring easy long-term maintenance.

Design-wise, the new bridges have a simple, timeless aesthetic that complements rather than detracts from Forest Park’s natural beauty. Each features thin, vertical slat railings that echo the tall Douglas fir, cedar and other trees found in the Park. The railings lean slightly away to welcome users and create an open sense of space and light. The bridges’ railings and structural portions are made of weathering steel, while the deck is fiberglass reinforced plastic grating, the handrails are Alaskan yellow cedar and the abutments are reinforced concrete.

As the bridges age, the steel will develop a rusty brown/orange patina that emulates the organic colors of the surrounding environment. PP&R intends to use the new bridge design for future whole-bridge replacements within Forest Park, as well as other bridge replacements within PP&R natural areas.

Footwork Behind Forest Park’s New Bridges

Constructing a trail bridge may seem like a relatively straight-forward process, but it’s a complex task to maximize safety, performance and design. Considerations must include: the durability, longevity, and maintenance needs of the selected materials; how the materials and design ought to blend with the natural surroundings; how each bridge should be integrated relative to other prominent park features; regulatory and engineering requirements (such as bridge height relative to the flood plain); and how to enhance the enjoyment of users.

Thanks to the efforts and support of the community, these new bridges are a real accomplishment and mark a historic occasion for Forest Park, creating a lasting legacy for the enjoyment of park users both now and in the future. For more information about the new bridge openings, visit https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/69784

Other Facts About Forest Park Bridges:

  • The longest existing bridge in Forest Park is nearly 40 feet long and is located on the Wildwood Trail near milepost 16.25.
  • The widest existing bridge is seven feet wide and is the first bridge that crosses Balch Creek on the Lower Macleay Trail (within the paved section of trail).
  • Much of the infrastructure in Forest Park is aging. Thanks to a 2014 Parks Replacement Bond Measure which passed with 73% support from Portland voters, funds are available to complete important bridge repairs, but there still remains much more work to be done.

About the three new bridges opening in 2017:

  • The Maple Trail bridge is 32 feet long. Construction began in early July and completion is scheduled for the end of September.
  • The Lower Macleay bridge is 78 feet long. Construction began in mid-June and scheduled for completion at the end of September. Lower Macleay Trail is the most popular trail in Forest Park and experiences thousands of users per year, making this bridge replacement project a top priority.
  • The Wildwood Trail bridge is 40 feet long. Construction has not yet started but is anticipated to begin early September and be completed by the end of October.
  • The new bridge design was a collaborative effort between PP&R, a community focus group, and the consulting design team: Environmental Science Associates (civil and environmental engineers), Fieldwork Design & Architecture (architects), and Grummel Engineering, LLC (structural engineers).
  • PP&R is planning a grand opening celebration for the new bridges. Watch for more details and other project information coming soon.


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