From the Saddle Trail north of Gabbert Butte Natural Area, a walk to the top of the butte leads through mossy maples, spring wildflowers and shady cedar. The smells and sounds of the forest and lush vegetation surrounds you when entering the butte, making you feel like you’re in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. But it’s actually in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Gresham.
The walk through the natural area will soon be a walk through a nature park. In July, Gabbert Butte made another step toward reality.
At its meeting on July 11, the Metro Council approved the Gabbert Butte master plan to create visitor amenities and add trails to the future park. Gresham City Council unanimously approved the plan on June 4.
Created in partnership with the City of Gresham, the plan includes a parking lot off of Regner Road with restrooms, gathering spaces that can be used for picnics and spiritual practices, and trails for all ages and abilities.
“Existing trails that are steep and poorly sited will be rerouted to be safer, more enjoyable and easier to maintain,” said Olena Turula, project manager at Metro leading the Gabbert Butte project. “The project will fix erosion trouble spots and make trails a better overall experience for visitors.”
Current access to 1.5 miles of trail in the natural area is limited through neighborhood trailheads. The plan adds opportunities for longer and more challenging hikes and introduces multi-use trails for bicycle riding in the park. The new trail network will also improve connectivity to existing trails, such as the Saddle Trail.
This was the first park created using a new engagement approach – the Connect with Nature project – that changed how Metro Parks and Nature engaged with the community to plan parks and natural areas. Led by community of color organizations, the team held multilingual workshops to gather feedback from communities of color about what they would like to see at the park.
One group suggested park kiosks with information in many languages. Another created designs for their perfect picnic shelter. Another group talked about a place to have a moon-viewing festival. Their input, along with insights from other residents in the area, was included in the planning and decision-making to make parks and natural areas more welcoming and better meet the needs of people of color throughout the region.
“It means a lot for people (of color) to be engaged in this process,” Turula said. “By investing the time to listen and build trust through this project, people heard and felt a sense of ownership that this will be their park.”
The City of Gresham and Metro share more than 200 acres of Gabbert Butte. And they have protected more than 1,000 acres in the East Butte region, including Hogan Butte.
“There hasn’t been a lot of movement in developing parks in many years,” said Tina Osterink, natural resource planner for the City of Gresham. “It means a lot to the community for Metro to help initiate the master planning for (Gabbert Butte). This adds momentum and excitement generated by developing the nature park at Hogan Butte.”
Hogan Butte offers a panoramic view of Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, the Columbia River Gorge and Gresham while people get a different experience at Gabbert Butte. At Gabbert Butte, people are enveloped in a refuge surrounded by plants and wildlife.
As part of a cluster of ancient lava domes that make up the East Buttes in East Multnomah and Clackamas County, the buttes provide important habitat and wildlife connections to Johnson Creek. The forests on the buttes keep water cool and clean for fish downstream.
Next, Metro and Gresham will work with consultants to design visitor amenities and trails and obtain the appropriate development permits. Construction could begin as early as 2021.