[Posted August 17, 2023]
Text and Photos by Bill Gallagher
“Portland is not awake to her opportunities.” John Charles Olmsted 1903
When the man behind Portland's first comprehensive plan for parks said those words, he feared the City of Roses wouldn’t follow through on his idea for a north-to-south public trail without cars or trucks on the west side of the Willamette River.
Well, these things take time. And money. And lots of volunteers.
Such is the case with the Hillsdale to Lake Oswego (HI>LO) Trail, a significant six-mile addition to the trail Olmsted envisioned.
This is the backstory of how the HI>LO Trail came to be. For every barrier to blazing the HI>LO Trail across Southwest Portland there’s been a breakthrough.
The first barrier was opposition from the Tryon Creek Watershed Council. The first breakthrough came when the Portland City Council overrode objections and voted to place the HI>LO Trail on the Metro Regional Trails System Plan Map in 2004.
The next barrier was building a safe connection between Marshall Park and Tryon Creek State Park.
“Crossing Boones Ferry at SW Arnold was suicide,” said Don Baack, co-founder of SW Trails PDX and the point person for the HI>LO Trail project.
The breakthrough came when the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES), Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and Portland Parks and Recreation (PP&R) agreed with SW Trails PDX and came up with the idea of sending hikers under Boones Ferry by building a bridge over Tryon Creek to replace an old culvert that also kept fish from migrating.
A similar barrier existed at SW Taylors Ferry Road at SW 17th on the northern border of Marshall Park. Crossing Taylors Ferry where there’s a blind curve and no crosswalk isn’t ideal. The breakthrough came when PBOT agreed to build a proper crossing at the site. Work is expected to begin soon.
PP&R took care of a barrier this winter, managing SW Trails PDX volunteers who built a trail from that crossing to the Owl Creek Trail in Marshall Park.
Most recently, the HI>LO Trail between Capitol Hill Road and Barbur Boulevard via SW 19th was overhauled with 44 new steps and a dozen four-foot posts with reflectors. That work was funded by the State of Oregon and completed by SW Trails PDX volunteers this summer.
One final barrier exists. LO-bound Hikers on the HI>LO Trail currently have to leave Marshall Park on SW Trail 6. Eventually, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department will approve a trail (to be built by SW Trails PDX volunteers) connecting Marshall Park to Tryon Creek State Park with its 658 acres of scenic area and 15 miles of trails. The new trail will allow through-hikers to stay in Marshall Park until they reach Tryon Creek State Park. And once in Tryon, Lake Oswego is within walking distance.
Jon Blasher, director of Metro Parks and Nature, wrote in a letter supporting State funding for the HI>LO Trail, “When completed, the HI>LO Trail will provide people living in the southern part of Southwest Portland a safe walking route to Lake Oswego and Hillsdale and to transit on OR 99W (Barber Boulevard). It will also provide a beautiful walking route.”
For the latest map of the HI>LO Trail, please check out swtrails.org.