Tales From The Trails:

Rerouting a Trail for Ecological Health and User Safety

It’s always impressive to see how much Forest Park Conservancy volunteers can accomplish in a single morning, whether it’s brushing trails, clearing storm debris, or rescuing trees from English ivy. This summer FPC volunteers added ‘rerouting a trail’ to that list.

The Quarry Trail had long been one of the weaker links in Forest Park’s trail system - a connector trail between Leif Erikson and the Maple Trail that was best avoided during the winter months due to its steep grade and muddy surface.

The lower section of Quarry Trail was especially problematic. It followed the fall line (the steepest route of descent down the hillside) and sent water cascading downhill during heavy rainstorms. Something needed to be done, since the erosion was making Quarry Trail unsafe for hikers and was also damaging the Maple Trail—one of Forest Park’s most popular trails.

FPC and Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) came up with the perfect solution: close the bottom section of Quarry Trail and replace it with a soft-surface contour trail. True to its name, a contour trail follows the contours of a slope. Contour trails have a gentler grade and are less susceptible to trail surface erosion, making them more durable in the long run.

PP&R and FPC staff worked together to design the trail’s new route, making sure to avoid sensitive ecological areas. The hillside they selected for the reroute had pockets of English ivy and holly present. This meant that rerouting the trail would also improve access for future restoration efforts in the area.

It only took a few hours for a dozen FPC volunteers to transform a brushy swath of hillside into a beautiful contour trail. FPC Trails Manager Ryan Graig provided on-site supervision, but it was volunteers who did most of the work. The volunteer crew also closed off the old lower section of Quarry Trail and removed invasive species from the new section—all in one morning!

It took a little over a week to put the finishing touches on the new section of Quarry Trail, but the result was immediate - a safer and more pleasant route between Leif Erikson and Maple Trail that will hopefully withstand years of Portland winters.

If you’re interested in seeing the new and improved Quarry Trail, come check it out—or better yet, sign up for an FPC volunteer work party and help us take care of other trails in the park!

Chris has been a regular volunteer with the Forest Park Conservancy since the spring of 2016.


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