Parks and Recreation



The METRO Greenspaces Master Plan identifies much of the West Hills as a significant greenspace which should be protected through purchase or other means. Multnomah County's adopted Natural Areas Plan also identifies much of the West Hills as a significant natural area, mainly areas adjacent to Forest Park and in the Balch Creek Basin.

In order to make a small step towards implementing the METRO Greenspaces Master Plan and the Natural Areas Plan, the Multnomah County Parks and Recreation Division (now transferred to METRO) has over the past several years reviewed all land in the West Hills which is foreclosed by Multnomah County ownership as a result of tax delinquency. Parcels which are deemed to have potential for enhancing recreational and natural values have been retained by the County and will be transferred to the City of Portland or METRO rather than sold off. In addition, the Natural Areas Fund, which consists of money earned by the County from the sale of tax-foreclosed properties throughout Multnomah County, can be used to purchase land of recreational or natural value.


The West Hills Rural Area abuts in several areas onto Forest Park in the City of Portland. This 5,000 acre park is unique, since it is the largest natural park area within an incorporated city in the United States. Forest Park has a large influence on planning for the West Hills Rural Area. Protection of its integrity as a natural park amidst urban development, as home to numerous native plant and animal species, is a high priority for both the City of Portland and Multnomah County, as well as for neighborhood and conservation organizations. The City of Portland is currently preparing a Natural Resources Management Plan for Forest Park, which is designed to protect and enhance the natural qualities of the park.

The Natural Resources section of this (West Hills Rural Area) plan discusses various levels of significance and protection programs for significant natural resources in the West Hills. Many of these resources, particularly wildlife habitat, are significant in large part because they provide a contiguity to the north and west with Forest Park. Additionally, natural values associated with Forest and Macleay Parks also extend into the Balch Creek basin to the south and west.

Because of the rights of private property owners to make economic use of their property, full protection of Forest Park is only possible if the boundaries of the park are expanded by purchase of privately owned land -- this in turn is only possible if local jurisdictions and non-profit groups have the financial resources and make a policy choice to purchase private land-holdings in the West Hills.

Barring any large-scale purchase program, which would most likely require approval of a bond measure by local voters, several smaller-scale efforts are under way to add public lands to the West Hills. Friends of Forest Park, a private group dedicated to preservation and enhancement of Forest Park, has purchased (with County assistance) a 38 acre parcel located between McNamee Road and Highway 30, north of the Angell Bros. quarry site. This parcel contains a significant old grove forest. To the south of this area is a series of land divisions creating lots in excess of 38 acres which have had conservation easements placed upon most of the land area excepting residential sites for each lot. These easements were obtained by the Friends of Forest Park and recorded with Multnomah County. While they do not prohibit resource-based uses of the land under easement, such as forestry, they do restrict items such as fencing, clearing for structures, containment of domestic animals, and other impacts associated with residential development.

POLICY 15: Maintain and enhance the recreational values of Forest Park and adjacent areas in concert with the City of Portland, METRO, and other agencies.

STRATEGY: Review lands which become available through tax foreclosure in the the vicinity of Forest Park and within the Balch Creek Basin for potential recreational use.

STRATEGY: Target key parcels needed for enhancement of Forest Park recreational values for acquisition through revenue from the Natural Area Fund.

STRATEGY: Coordinate management of acquired properties in the vicinity of Forest Park to preserve natural resource values consistent with the Natural Resource Management Plan to be approved by the City of Portland.

STRATEGY: Promote and provide incentives for voluntary use of conservation easements by property owners in lieu of purchase.


The lower portions of the Balch Creek Basin are largely owned by the City of Portland, the Audubon Society, and the Oregon Parks Foundation. The Balch Creek unincorporated area is bounded on the west by Forest Park. However, most of the land in the upper portion of the Balch Creek basin is privately owned, and most of this area is designated and zoned as Commercial Forest Use. The County does not regulate forest practices on these lands, and thus commercial forestry is bound only by the Oregon Forest Practices Act. Any program to fully protect the Balch Creek basin in its natural state must consider the need to purchase privately-held lands within the Balch Creek basin. Such an option is possible only if local jurisdictions and non-profit groups have the financial resources and make a policy choice to purchase private landholdings in the Balch Creek area.


Since the West Hills is a rural area, it contains no traditional "urban" neighborhood parks. The only established County Park within the West Hills Rural Area is Mason Hill Park, a one acre plot of land at the intersection of Johnson and Munson Roads. This park, site of the original Mason Hill Schoolhouse, has no off-street parking, and the only facilities on the site consist of a covered picnic table and an outhouse.

One major private recreational facility exists in the West Hills Rural Area: the Wildwood Golf Course. The course, opened in 1991, was previously operated from the 1920's until 1971. It has 9 holes on approximately 116 acres, with a total play yardage of 2,935. The course has considered expansion to 18 holes, but such an expansion would occur to the east of Highway 30, between the Highway and Multnomah Channel.

The United States Bureau of Land Management(BLM) owns approximately 643 acres of land in the northern portion of the West Hills, divided into six non-contiguous parcels. Currently the lands are managed for timber production, but with greater consideration for other resource values such as water quality and wildlife habitat than is required by the Oregon Forest Practices Act. The BLM has not considered public recreational uses of these properties to date due to their remote nature in the Dixie Mountain area.


Two significant regional recreational trails efforts may have an impact on the West Hills. The Greenway to the Pacific project, coordinated by METRO, is just completing a Concept Plan (Phase 1) which looks at six broad corridors for a recreational trail route between the Portland Metropolitan Area and the Coast Range and Pacific Ocean. Two of these conceptual corridors affect the West Hills: 1) the "Columbia Blue Way" corridor which would link Astoria to Portland, and 2) the "Vernonia Loop" corridor, which would build upon the existing Banks-Vernonia State Linear Park trail to the west, and connect this with Portland through the West Hills. Both conceptual corridors are several miles wide, so no specific route alignments are being considered in Phase 1. Phase 2 of the project, scheduled for 1994 through 1996, would review the corridors and result in the adoption of specific corridor and trail routes. Phase 3, development of the trail, would not begin until at least 1996.

A new regional trails effort is looking at the Burlington Northern right-of-way from Highway 30 through Cornelius Pass to Washington County. Burlington Northern has given notice of an intent to abandon the right-of-way within the next several years. METRO is organizing a committee to review the feasibility of converting the rail corridor into a bicycle or hiking trail. Studies will be ongoing over the next several years. METRO and Multnomah County must address several clear problems before conversion of the right-of-way to a trail, including burned or decaying trestles, use of the Cornelius Pass tunnel, and impacts to adjacent property owners and residents.

POLICY 16: Support and promote the placement of links within a regional trail system for use by pedestrians, equestrians, and bicyclists.

STRATEGY: Support and participate in the feasibility studies for the conversion of the Burlington Northern Cornelius Pass line into a recreational trail, which will provide a regional trail for the Portland Metropolitan area; consider its impacts on adjacent properties and include affected property owners in discussions on all phases of the project.

STRATEGY: If the Greenway to the Pacific project locates a trail alignment in the West Hills, do not obstruct METRO's acquisition of the right-of-way for such a facility and review development proposals along the trail alignment for compatibility with the proposed trail.

POLICY 17: Consider and mitigate the impact on adjacent private properties of all proposed recreational facilities.