Resurfacing work is planned for later this year in the parking area, says Clean Water Services.

FILE - A green heron hunts for fish at the Fernhill Wetlands. The wetlands, which also double as a wastewater treatment area, support many species of birds and are a popular spot for birdwatchers and other nature-lovers.Hikers, birdwatchers and other lovers of the great outdoors can now enjoy the trails and facilities at the Fernhill Wetlands in Forest Grove once more.

Shannon Huggins, public involvement coordinator for Clean Water Services, which owns the Fernhill property and manages it in partnership with the City of Forest Grove and the Fernhill Wetlands Council, said the trails reopened recently after a closure, and the parking lot — now mostly paved — opened for public use Wednesday, Jan. 3.

In addition to supporting many migratory bird species, the wetlands property also serves a more practical purpose: It provides wastewater treatment for Forest Grove and Cornelius. Years ago, wastewater used to collect there in sewage lagoons, but it is now pumped to a facility where it is treated, reconditioned and eventually discharged into the Tualatin River. Those decommissioned lagoons were drained in 2014.

Now, the wetlands augment the treatment undergone at the facility, providing what Clean Water Services describes as "natural treatment … by removing nutrients, cooling, and naturalizing the water after conventional treatment."

While the Fernhill Wetlands are once again publicly accessible, some work remains to be done this year. The most major piece that visitors will see is resurfacing of the parking lot area to make it fully ADA-compliant. Huggins said plans also call for a small outbuilding to be erected as an enclosed space for volunteers and educational groups to use.

"This is kind of an ongoing project, so there will be things going on throughout the acreage, but nothing that should impact the public's ability to access the trails," Huggins said.

The Fernhill Wetlands are located at 1399 S.W. Fern Hill Road in Forest Grove. Dogs and bicycles are not permitted on the trails.

By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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