The year was 2012, and Oregon State Parks officials had pretty much decided to exclude horses from Tryon Creek State Natural Area. Local equestrians were furious, and their subsequent actions are a textbook example of what equestrians can and should do to preserve equestrian access to threatened horse trails.
The issues at Tryon Creek had been building for years. As Portland grew and the park increased in popularity, parking had become inadequate. While the equestrian parking lot was clearly signed for horse trailer use, park visitors often parked in the trailer spots because the nearby car parking was full, and park officials allowed this. Arriving equestrians couldn’t count on being able to find a place to park, so equestrian use of the park decreased. State Parks management decided the way to solve the parking problem would be to eliminate horse trailer parking and direct equestrians to McIver Park and Willamette Mission instead.
When local equestrians got wind of this, however, they cried foul. They pointed out that Tryon Creek State Park was founded around the equestrian trails, and that horseback riding was a time-honored tradition at the park. The equestrians convinced park management to hold a public meeting so the equestrian community could express its views before a final decision was made.
Hundreds of equestrians turned out for the public meeting, and many more submitted letters to park management. Their messages were polite but insistent: we horseback riders value the trails at Tryon Creek, we want to continue to be able to ride in the park, and we need places to park our trailers.
State Parks officials were stunned by the amount and intensity of the public support for equestrian access. Based upon the outpouring of favorable public comments, they decided not to ban horses at that time. Instead, local park management set up an equestrian committee to provide advice on horse issues. Members of the committee meet with park management regularly, providing suggestions for solving equestrian-related problems and acting as a conduit for the exchange of information between the equestrian community and park officials.
This collaborative approach has worked! Today horses remain welcome on the park’s delightful network of horse trails. Four trailer parking spots are reserved for equestrian use only, and a porta-potty and mounting block have been added to the trailer parking area.
Most impressive of all, the park recently unveiled a brand new horse trail — further proof that the collaboration between equestrians and park officials is working!
The new trail, called the Paget Horse Trail in honor of Beatrice Paget, an equestrian who once owned part of the property that is now the park, creates a lollipop loop that connects with the Englewood Horse Trail. To find the Paget Horse Trail, follow the West Horse Loop to the Englewood Horse Trail. Ride along the Englewood Trail for 0.3 mile and turn left on the Hemlock Trail. Continue 200 feet and turn right onto the new Paget Horse Trail. It winds through pretty forest, including a stand of huge cedar trees, and in 0.3 mile it takes you to the terminus of the Englewood Horse Trail. Turn right here and follow the Englewood Trail 0.5 mile back to the West Horse Loop.
Each time you visit Tryon Creek, please fill out the equestrian survey so park managers will know how much equestrian usage the trails are receiving.
Getting to Tryon Creek State Natural Area: Located 6 miles south of downtown Portland. From the north, follow I-5 southbound and take Exit 297 toward Terwilliger Blvd. Merge onto SW Barbur Blvd., and in 0.1 mile turn right on SW Terwilliger Blvd. Go 1.6 miles, then at the traffic circle take the second exit to stay on Terwilliger Blvd. The park is 0.8 mile ahead on the right. From the south, follow I-5 northbound and take Exit 297 (Terwilliger Blvd.). Turn right on Terwilliger Blvd. and go 1.5 miles, then at the traffic circle take the second exit to stay on Terwilliger Blvd. The park is 0.8 mile ahead on the right.
Season: Year-round. The trails are nicely graveled, so they offer excellent footing even in wet weather.
Parking Facilities: Designated parking for 5-6 trailers. Porta-potty and mounting block. No fee.