Portland, OR. Volunteers in Portland’s Forest Park are working to remove invasive species and reduce the possibility that a wildfire could spread quickly. The work also improves the forest ecology’s overall health. The risk of fire is higher this summer because of the hotter and drier weather City leaders have banned homeless people from camping in forested parks to both protect them from potential wildfires and prevent them from accidentally starting blazes during a summer of drought and record-breaking heat. At 5,200 acres, Portland’s Forest Park is one of the largest urban forests in the United States. The nonprofit that stewards Forest Park is announcing three events within the park, allowing visitors to safely engage with the park in new ways.

Forest Park stretches more than seven miles of Northwest Portland along the eastern slope of the Tualatin Mountains. The park is open every day of the year from 5am until 10pm.

Here’s a link to a map to help you find your way to some of Forest Park’s more accessible trailheads. Click on any of the blue pins on the map to view additional details or to generate custom driving, biking or public transit directions.

The first of these events is “80 for 80,” which challenges the visitors of Forest Park to cover 80 miles of its trails before the deadline of August 20th. To participate, park-goers can download the Momento app to record miles and begin their adventures through the largest forested park in the united states— whether it be running, hiking, biking, or any preferred recreational method. According to Kady Davis, the Director of Communications and Corporate Partnerships, the ultimate goal of the Summer Adventure Series is to “engage with folks already recreating in park, build community, and bring people into FPCC community” to raise awareness for the work the organization does. Davis hopes that the events will inspire park attendees to “care more about Forest Park,” as “the more people who use, steward, and care for forest park, the healthier it will be for future generations to enjoy.”

In addition to challenging parkgoers to cover 80 miles of trail, 80 for 80 also intends to share the mission of Love Is King, a nonprofit whose mission Davis describes as “ensuring that people of all different colors, and values can feel safe in nature,” specifically targeting and encouraging the need of “freedom to roam safely” for BIPOC communities.

The other events of the Summer Adventure Series include a parkwide scavenger hunt which began July 9th and ends September 3rd, and a photography contest, which began on August 1st. Up until the end of the event on September 1st, photos of Forest Park’s gorgeous landscape can be submitted to FPC for entry in competition for a $500 prize package. These events all directly support forest park by signing up participants for the FPC newsletter and social media postings, raising awareness for what can be done to preserve Forest Park. Davis mentions that this spreads valuable information and educational resources, which promote visitors of the park to “learn more about what FPC is up to in their active stewardship work.”

Woman running on Forest Park’s Wildwood Trail. Photograph by Steven Mortinson.

Davis expressed that the largest and most significant undertaking in the organization’s current efforts to ensure the preservation of Forest Parks beauty is the Green Jobs Training & Internship Program. Started in 2020, the 12-month program intends to “train and recruit youth from BIPOC communities to get professional and personal development support to build a career in the conservation sector.”  The program introduces FPC interns to a wide variety of green job experiences, seeking to “build out Oregon’s environmental workforce” through exposure to the diverse array of possibilities included under the umbrella of green jobs. As of Sunday, August 1st, FPC’s four current interns in the Green Jobs Training & Internship Program were taken on a trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with Love is King as part of the program’s exploratory approach to learning about careers involved with protecting the environment.

One primary concern of the park this time of the year, as the effects of climate change continue to impact Oregon, is wildfire management. Davis remarked that “because of invasive species, prolonged drought conditions, and the steep slope” that the park rests on, Forest Park is highly conducive to the hazard of wildfires. To combat this threat, the FPC has released informational materials on how to keep the forest safe from fire, and has deployed programs to remove “flammable fuels and non-native species to protect the health of the forest.”

In an exciting development for FPC, the organization will receive additional funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through a donation to the city of Portland, specifically going towards wildfire prevention in Forest Park. “The funding will go towards “outreach and communications with neighborhoods adjacent to Forest Park,” Davis states, adding that “Many homes and businesses directly next to Forest Park harbor invasive species” which increase the park’s proneness to wildfires. The collaboration between FPC and the park’s neighbors to remove such species and raise awareness is crucial, as it not only reduces the chance of a destructive fire, but it prepares those nearby with a plan if one were to occur.

Those who wish to support  Forest Park can contribute to FPC’s preservation efforts in multiple ways. The organization can be donated to online, or fans of the forest can volunteer to participate in park maintenance and its trail program. Signing up for The Summer Adventure series is another way the park’s visitors can engage with Portland’s largest outdoor recreation area. Davis made sure to note that ultimately, the goal of the event series is to “ to have fun, enjoy forest park, hopefully make some friends” and gain a greater appreciation for Forest Park’s beauty, as well as awareness of the FPC’s conversation work and what can be done to protect the city’s own lush forest for future adventurers.