During the shutdown of this pandemic, where people are encouraged to get exercise and recreation close to home, having places to go is critical. If all you have around you is strip malls and suburban cul-de-sacs, you might chafe at the lack of options, say screw it, and get in the car to find a place more natural. Here in Portland we’ve got a good deal of options, from natural to manicured. And I’m also lucky that Mount Tabor, the highest point on the east side, a crown jewel in our park system, is just about a mile away. No need to go somewhere else.
But today I talk about a more humble natural asset, something closer to my house. Something pretty much unknown to folks from outside the neighborhood: Rosemont Bluff Natural Area. It’s a two-plus acre wooded hillside, between NE 67th and 68th, just a little northeast of Fred Meyer. So small, if you zoom along 67th between Halsey and Glisan,* you’d hardly notice it.
There’s not much to Rosemont Bluff: some trees, one main path that switchbacks up the hill, another side path that goes to an apartment complex, a small meadow at the top. That’s all I need. It’s got lots of mature Douglas-fir and bigleaf maples and trilliums in spring. There’s possibly a bald eagle hanging out in one of the snags, and coyotes chilling in the bush. I love these little gems. It reminds me so much of the wooded places I used to explore while growing up in Connecticut.
I don’t remember exactly when I stumbled across this under-the-radar natural area. I’m guessing sometime between 2003 and 2005. But it was unique enough for me to decide to share my discovery with others. Way back in 2005 I chose Rosemont Bluff as the first destination for my series of Pedal Potluck Picnic rides. (And also went there again in 2009.)
This isn’t the first time I lived close to Rosemont Bluff, but I don’t think I’ve used it as much then as I do now. The path up the bluff has become a regular component of my walks, as it’s only about a five-minute walk from my front door. And while this diminutive natural area is not on par with Forest Park or Powell Butte, it’s something. Once I get on that path, surrounded by second growth, I’m in nature. I can ignore the urban world, if just for a few minutes.
Rosemont Bluff is a fairly new park. Portland Parks purchased the property in 1995. I’m guessing it lay fallow for decades, since a steep hillside is hard to “do” something with, building wise. And while there’s a lovely view of the neighborhood below, it’s not quite “epic” enough like further up Tabor or in the West Hills, similarly steeply sloped land where people did precariously build houses on. I wasn’t in town then, so I have no first-hand knowledge as to what the bluff looked like when it was acquired by the city. This report here makes it sound like it was some woods that people dumped garbage in. (Update 15 Nov 2022: Dead link.) They cleaned it up and planted trees at the bottom (after a quarter-century, these trees are now mature), and we have the park as we know it.
And Rosemont Bluff remains obscure. I could find little about it on the internet. There’s a facebook page that ironically enough features a photo I took. (No, they didn’t ask, but did credit me.) (Update 15 Nov 2022: The photo looks to be gone. Perhaps they saw this post?)
(Update 15 Nov 2022: Here is where I posted a Facebook link to a sock company, Sidekick Socks, that also apparently lifted one of my Rosemont Bluff images to promote their socks. The company seems to be defunct (website no longer works), but they still have an Instagram.)
There’s also a Yelp review, because of course. And this blog entry. That’s pretty much it.** Note the theme in the two: garbage and “bum camps” (their words, not mine). Now, both of these reviews are a bit old. I’ve been up there many times recently, and see no campers. (Update 15 Nov 2022: I have seen an occasional camper since this post went live, but not much.) There’s a little garbage, and a spot where people could hang out. But for an off-the-radar spot, it’s pretty clean and quiet. (Just watch out for dog poop.)
So I thought: Maybe Rosemont Bluff should get more love? There’s no “Friends of Rosemont Bluff”, an organization dedicated to helping this wee woods. This isn’t an unusual thought: There is Friends of Baltimore Woods up in St. Johns, a similar undeveloped wooded hillside. If they could do it, so could I. It could be fun…
Then I started to think about what creating an official organization would look like: meetings with the city, meetings with neighbors. Ugh. I don’t know my neighbors that well, and I’m not exactly sure I want to. Some of them banded together over a “controversial” quasi-public stairway about a decade ago. These neighbors got this super useful way to the supermarket shut down in the name of “public safety”.
I can envision the Nextdoor-esque shenanigans that could ensue if people had a more official way to vent about perceived problems. Rather than people sharing a common love for an open space and coming together to get rid of invasive weeds, it could become endless meetings for “concerned neighbors” to air their grievances about the homeless, drugs, and “teens”. Never mind that there isn’t an “issue” here with any of that. (Dog walkers who don’t clean up after their pet? Yeah, that’s an issue.) I don’t feel like I want that headache.
So for now, I’m having an appreciation society of one. I’ll be a “friend” of Rosemont Bluff. Maybe I’ll get silly and make stickers, make it like one of my non-official societies? Who knows. If issues arise, like garbage, maybe I’ll think about organizing. For now, I’ll privately appreciate this cozy natural area practically in my backyard.
*And if you are, stop zooming. Speed limit here is 20 mph, folks.
**I know the irony in writing this post is that this may be the most written about Rosemont Bluff, and could go to the top of the search results. Oh well.