Friday, July 17, 2009

The Munger Property

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Today's thrilling expedition takes us to the "Munger Property", an ultra-obscure city park up in the West Hills. You can probably take this as a sign that I'm running out of conveniently-located source material for this particular project, as there really isn't much to the place. When you drive into Portland on US 26, as you go down the hill from Sylvan to the Vista Ridge tunnels, it seems as though you're driving through a stretch of forested canyon. The left side is Washington Park, while the right side is a patchwork of publicly and privately owned parcels, all of them steep, unbuildable, ivy-choked hillside. Most of the city-owned land on this side of US 26 is part of the "Munger Property". (See the city's (vegetation survey page for a better map, and more detail on just how steep and ivy-choked the place really is.) You don't so much visit the park as drive to the edge of it and look down. These photos are from a couple of locations: One at the far end of SW Ford St. Drive, and another at a bend in SW Montgomery Drive. Nothing much to see in either location, although the Ford unit sports some sort of utility substation. Well, that or some sort of ultra-classified covert ops facility masquerading as a utility substation. Occam's Razor suggests the first possibility may be more likely, but you never know.

Munger Property

Conspiracy theories aside, the only thing of any interest about the place is the name, and even that I'm not sure about. I'm speculating that the park is named in honor of Thornton T. Munger, a prominent forestry scientist of the early 20th century. After retiring, Munger led the effort to create Portland's Forest Park, and served as president of the Portland Audubon Society. So I suppose it's a fitting tribute to name a chunk of forest after him, even if it's an exceedingly obscure chunk of forest. Assuming it's really named after him, which may or may not be the case.

Updated 4/2/11: Munger is mentioned a lot in the library's Oregonian historical archives, but I haven't seen anything pertaining to this park particularly. I did come across one fun tidbit from the October 31, 1971 Oregonian, in an article titled Hikers mark 25th anniversary of park. It's mostly about Forest Park's big birthday, but has a couple of paragraphs about Mr. Munger:
Retired forecaster Thornton Munger, 88, watched them trudge up the first hill but did not hike. Munger led the first committee which pushed for development of the 7,000 acre park.

Munger recalled when part of what now is the park was the county poor farm.

"There used to be a sign marking a leper's grave over the hill. He lived in a shack all by himself, and when he died they set fire to the shack. That was his funeral," Munger said.

I assume I'm not alone in seeing serious potential for a monster movie / horror flick here.

Munger Property, West Hills

Anyway, you'll find, around the interwebs, various quotes by Mr. Munger. It's your basic protestant-work-ethic type stuff, praising character, success, self-denial, virtue, etc., sadly a bit too wordy to fit on a modern-day motivational poster. Oh, well.

Munger Property, West Hills

And with that, we're already off on the semi-tangents part of this post. While searching for info about this place, I discovered there's another, entirely different Munger Property in the area, a Metro-owned spot on the Tualatin River in the vicinity of Scholls. There's info about it from Tualatin River Keepers and OregonLive, and it also features in this blog post. All in all, it sounds somewhat more interesting than the subject of today's post, albeit substantially further afield.

Munger Property, West Hills

But wait, there's more! Besides these two Munger Properties, there's also the Thornton T. Munger Research Natural Area, which is part of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, just north of the Columbia Gorge.

The area includes the Wind River Canopy Crane, which lets researchers investigate the forest canopy without having to climb trees or cut them down. I tried to find this area once, some years ago, I think after seeing it on Oregon Field Guide, but I got lost and ran out of time and almost out of gas. Anyway, I suppose they probably don't allow mere bloggers to take the canopy crane for a spin, even if these hypothetical bloggers were to promise to take lots of interesting photos (hopefully including a few of reasonable quality) and also sign whatever release forms were necessary.

Munger Property

And now we're past semi-tangents, and now I've got a uber-tangent for you, something else that came up under searches for "Munger property". This time I think it's simply the property of someone named Munger. Anyway, on said property, here's a video demonstration of pumpkin carving with an AK-47. Niiiice. As far as I know, this hasn't inspired a Mythbusters segment just yet, although it's probably only a matter of time.

Munger Property, West Hills

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