Construction underway on Hidden Falls Park
Aptly named, Hidden Falls is nestled on land west of 162nd Avenue in Happy Valley. For decades, the 22-foot waterfall emptying into a pristine punchbowl has been a well-kept secret.
All that will change next spring when North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District, in partnership with Icon Construction, unveils Hidden Falls Park.
For the first time in recent history, the 21.3 acres of wooded natural area containing the falls will be open to the public. But Hidden Falls Park will be much more than a park, said Scott Archer, NCPRD director.
The new park will complete a link in the Mt. Scott/Scounters Mountain Loop, connecting with Pioneer Park, Oregon Trail Elementary School and Ashley Meadows Park on the west side, and Hood View Park, Rock Creek Middle School and Verne Duncan Elementary School on the east.
"This will be a wonderful park for trail connection, recreation, exercise and nature viewing, and for conserving an important greenspace and wildlife habitat in the area," Archer said.
Icon Construction & Development LLC acquired the property around eight years ago, and Icon and NCPRD have been in the planning stages for the park for five years.
"This project follows in the footsteps of the same successful public-private partnership that brought the nearby Pioneer Park to life in 2013. Through this creative collaboration, we're now able to bring Hidden Falls to the community so residents can enjoy access to the natural beauty of this urban oasis for generations to come," Archer said.
Now that the houses are in the first phase of construction, it made sense "to have the developer build the park at the same time," he said, noting that Icon has all the heavy equipment needed to build access roads and trails.
Partnerships that benefit neighborhoods are important to Icon, said Darren Gusdorf, general manager for the commercial and residential division of Icon Construction & Development.
"When open spaces of land, or land with improvements can be created, we have the option to keep them private and exclusive for the neighborhoods we develop and build in," he said.
"Or, if governing agencies/cities provide the option, we can turn them over to the public, which can be shared by neighborhoods and communities.
"We felt this was an ideal parcel to share with many communities outside of our Hidden Falls Development. We simply felt this property, and what lies within it, needed to be shared with the public," Gusdorf said.
"After five years in the making, we're very excited that we're getting very close to having this project fully constructed and turned over to NCPRD this coming spring/summer 2018."
Park construction is well underway as the construction company works to complete the clearing for a nearly one-mile-long trail, as well as other improvements.
The park will consist of a 10-foot-wide paved asphalt trail, a 110-foot-long, glue-laminated timber bridge over Rock Creek set in front of the waterfall, retaining walls to support the trail in the high-slope areas, a lodge-pole fence surrounding the creek and falls area, and crushed-granite lookout points on each side of the bridge, Gusdorf said.
Icon also will replant in all disturbed vegetated areas with a large variety of trees, shrubbery and ground cover.
Habitat preservation was of prime importance to both the developer and the parks district, said Melina DeFrancesco, NCPRD marketing communications manager.
"The Hidden Falls natural area is an important greenway and habitat for many sensitive species," she said.
The site includes "mature mixed coniferous forest," with native trees such as Oregon white oak and bigleaf maples, and is home to pileated woodpeckers, deer and other animals, DeFrancesco said.
Once construction is complete, Icon "will turn over the improvements and the park to NCPRD," Archer said, adding that the district's natural area division will help manage the park.
"We believe the surrounding communities will benefit from the park in a variety of ways," Gusdorf said.
"Aside from the enjoyment of the amenities themselves, this park and bridge will connect both sides of Rock Creek directly through the park," he said.
The site will be a much-appreciated destination for hiking, biking and picnicking, but will "also create a safe and direct connection between surrounding communities from Oregon Trail Elementary School, Hoodview Park and Sporting Complex and Rock Creek Middle School," Gusdorf said.
DeFrancesco said that a big feature of the park will be viewing areas of the falls and also noted that the trail will be multi-use, meaning it will be available to both bicyclists and pedestrians.
In addition, the park will provide educational opportunities for students and interpretive signs will be an asset for all visitors.
"We see a great platform for these surrounding schools to utilize this park for field trips to study a natural habitat and all of the sciences within. We are very proud to be a part of this partnership with NCPRD, and excited to complete this project and share it with many people of all ages," Gusdorf said.
Partnering with Icon and having the company build the park has saved the public money, Archer said.
NCPRD staff negotiated a price of $2.8 million for the land acquisition, including $553,881 for trail and bridge development.
He further noted that $1.05 million was paid for through NCPRD's System Development Charges, which can be used to cover a portion of the costs of providing certain types of public capital facilities to address the impact created by new development.
Icon Construction donated $1.2 million of the total cost, and Archer said "the public gets a $2.8 million park for $1.6 million."
"I credit our owner, Mark Handris, for his vision from the start, as well as all of the hard work and effort by his team of professionals involved throughout this process," Gusdorf said.
The vison has become a reality, he added, "via a very generous land donation by our owner, the hard work by our planning consultants and applicable governing city and county agencies, and NCPRD's desire and drive to make this come to fruition."
Gusdorf noted that "without this and NCPRD's passion, creativity and dedication to the public, what will soon become Hidden Falls Park would have continued to be a secluded, private and hidden treasure that many would have never had the opportunity to see and enjoy."
"The developer has been great to work with, creating something incredibly unique for the community. People will be amazed," Archer said.
Gusdorf added, "It's very rewarding to see construction underway and a finish line now in sight."
See the falls
What: Happy Valley's Hidden Falls Park will open next spring
More: Visit ncprd.com/hiddenfallsevent to read about the groundbreaking ceremony for the park, then click on "Read more about the project" to see a photo of the falls and more information.