Ride Report: Outer NE New Parks Ride

Three for three! It’s a crapshoot when you schedule bike rides from October through May; will the weather be OK? So far, I’ve managed to get good weather on all my rides for fall. I’m not complaining. The weather for Outer NE New Parks Ride on Saturday November 3rd was just about perfect for early November; a high of 60F/16C, overcast skies, and the rain waiting until almost dark, after the ride had ended. My only complaint would be that the cloudy skies obscured the mountains, but oh well.

A total of twelve folks (including myself) participated on this ride. We started at NE 42nd and Alberta, then headed east to our first stop: Kʰunamokwst Park at NE 47th and Alberta. This park is the oldest of the new parks on the ride, opened in 2015. The Cully neighborhood is a park-starved area, mostly due to it being unincorporated Multnomah County until 1985. This park was built to help end the drought. It has many features seen in other 21st century Portland Parks: barrier free play area, a water feature like a bioswale, a covered picnic area, skate park, and a bathroom, in this case a Portland Loo.

Onward we went! We continued through Cully to reach Thomas Cully Park, which opened in June. This 25 acre park is built on a large landfill and features great views of the mountains (when it’s clear). It has most of the same features as Kʰunamokwst Park (minus the skatepark), but also has a dog park and community garden. Cully Park also has a strong emphasis on Native American features: there’s a Native gathering garden,  a medicine wheel mound above the landscape to give views of Mount St. Helens and Mt. Hood, and an open field meant for spiritual dances and ceremonies. (Portland has one of the highest concentrations of urban Native Americans in the country.)

Cully Park is also where the riders first enjoyed “extracurricular” activities. Many of us used the slides, climbing ropes, and the musical instruments located in the play area. Don’t worry, we didn’t crowd out any kids!

It was a few more miles to New Park No. 3: Gateway Green. This park is sandwiched between I-84 and I-205. It lay fallow for many decades, owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation. Then some neighborhood folks got together and figured out a better use for 25 acres of open space in the middle of the city: a park with emphasis on mountain biking. Despite Portland’s reputation as “Bike City USA”, we’ve got little true mountain biking opportunities within the city limits. Gateway Green officially opened in 2017, and right now it’s in Phase One of development: a network of trails and a skills area. Soon more amenities should arrive, like picnic areas and real bathrooms. Right now it’s rough and tumble, but still fun. And most of the ride enjoyed the park for a little bit!

We cruised on down the I-205 path into the heart of the Gateway District for Stop Number 4: Gateway Discovery Park! This is the newest of the parks, just opened in August. It’s in the heart of the neighborhood, and the most “urban” park we stopped at, as it has a paved plaza meant for events and farmer’s markets. But there’s a lot of greenspace as well, plus a skatepark, play area, and water fountain. Our riders had a bit of fun in the play area, playing games as “Low Bridge Limbo” and “Let’s spin the merry-go-round ’round with our bikes.”

But there was still one more new park to check out, and a few more miles of riding brought us to Luuwit View Park. This 16 acre park, opened in 2017, was built around the seed of an older, smaller park (Beech Park). Luuwit is the Cowlitz Tribe name for Mount St Helens, which we would have seen if it was clear. Oh well. There was still plenty to enjoy, like the mound above everything, the covered picnic area (there was a birthday party happening), play area, skate park, dog park, basketball court, community garden, etc etc.

But! We weren’t done yet. We finished the ride with a sort-of-new but very obscure natural area: Wilkes Creek Headwaters. Wilkes Creek is the only naturally flowing stream in Portland that flows into the Columbia Slough (and then, the Columbia River.) The property was formerly a dairy and orchard, so it’s definitely undeveloped, but a fun place to explore. Reminds me of exploring the woods by my house when I was a kid!

And with that, the ride was done. Most of us headed over to Level Beer at NE 148th and Airport Way for food and libations, which were well earned after 14 miles of riding.

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