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Photos from a brief jaunt to Woods Memorial Natural Area, one of several large, but little-known, nature parks scattered around the hilly southwestern corner of Portland.
Woods Memorial is your basic forested canyon type of place. There's a bunch of these in town, and they're all basically variations on the same theme, so you'll have to forgive me if none of the photos show anything particularly unique to this one park. Which is not to say there's anything wrong with it; it's quite nice actually, and I'm sure it's nicer when the weather's better.
The cynic in me is quite certain that the real reason we have all these woody ravine parks around town is that the city always ends up with all the unbuildable bits nobody else wants. This particular park was donated, sure, but it's possible that happened after someone realized it was unbuildable and they might as well get a tax writeoff for it. I don't really know. The park sure looks unbuildable, at least.
The park's crisscrossed with trails heading off in all directions, so you could easily get lost if you don't have a map or know your way around. They seemed to be just out of maps on the day I visited, and I didn't know my way around, and I had a meeting at 10:30 and couldn't afford to get lost (as fun as that can be at times), so I didn't wander quite as far as I otherwise would've liked to. That might've been for the best, though, as it was also pretty cold that morning, and numb fingers tend to drop cameras, which would be Very Very Bad. Although it's also true that the shiny new Canon 50D is out now, and it offers a number of compelling technological advances over my old (as in year-old) 40D. So, you know, if I was somehow forced to buy a replacement, it wouldn't be all bad.
The city's vegetation survey page rates much of the place as having "Poor" ecological health, with a few areas rating "Fair" and others coming in as "Severely Degraded" (I'm not sure whether that's better or worse than "Poor"). And here's a recent invasive species report about ivy in the park. Although it hasn't completely taken the place over like it has in other areas around town, like Marquam Nature Park for example.
The US Fish & Wildlife Service has a doc about restoration efforts here that occurred back in the 90's. And I've come across at least one report of an elk sighting here. So I imagine the place can't be too degraded, if you get elk showing up now and then. Unless maybe they come to eat the ivy. I'm not really sure how that works.
Elsewhere on the interwebs:
- ExplorePDX has a trail map and a couple of pages on trail construction, with a few photos. The park also gets a mention in the site's "Jay Walk #5" through the surrounding neighborhood. If you ever think I tend to get a bit obsessive and pedantic at times here, I suggest you go to ExplorePDX and check out the pages on map errors. I always come away from that feeling that I'm relatively normal and well-adjusted in comparison, although I'm also pleased that someone's doing this, and I can see how one could easily get sucked in to that sort of undertaking. It's a slippery slope, I tell you.
- An old 1987 Oregonian article, "City May Have Money Tied Up In Land Holdings, mentions the park as a potentially surplus chunk of land the city could sell to raise money. I don't recall what sort of budgetary straits the city was in back then that would've put this idea in play, but it obviously didn't go far. The parks director at the time is quoted as saying the bureau doesn't have any surplus land, just undeveloped parks. This may explain why they now use the term "Natural Area" instead of "Park" for places like this, to convey the idea that the place has been left "undeveloped" on purpose, so (in theory) nobody at City Hall will get any funny ideas about selling the land to their greedy developer friends. Ideally.
- The park and a few others like it are explored in a post on Around the Sun, "Exploring SW Portland on Foot With Ten Toe Express".
- A cool photo in someone's portfolio on photo.net.