Tales From The Trails:

Trails Manager Lucy Cohen Says Farewell

After five years with the Forest Park Conservancy, Lucy Cohen will be stepping down from her Trails Manager position this February. Thankfully, her glowing personality and exceptional trail skills will not be too far from Forest Park.

She is the new Trails Technician for Portland Parks & Recreation’s City Nature West. That means she’ll be in charge of maintaining 180 miles of trails, about a third of which are within Forest Park. In order to manage that work load, Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) partners closely with the Forest Park Conservancy (FPC) staff and volunteers. Thus, Lucy is the perfect person for the job!

Lucy first joined FPC as a volunteer in 2010, and by 2012 she had rose to the ranks of trail manager. A “Jill of all trades”, Lucy also helped lead learning activities for children in Forest Park and expanded the program into a series of Discovery Hike Field Trips, which continues to serve Title 1 elementary and middle schools in the Portland area. All the while, Lucy continued to lead the organization in trail enhancement projects; and over the years, her leadership has vastly improved the safety and satisfaction of Forest Park visitors.

Before she goes, we’d like to take this opportunity to highlight her unique self, her experience with the Conservancy, and her new path with PP&R. So, we asked her to answer a few questions.

Mikala: How did you get involved in trail building, and what did you do before that?
Lucy: I got my BA in Environmental Studies and a minor in Art History from Vassar. Then I did research and administrative work for a human rights organization in West Africa and New York City. But I needed to get out of the city, so I took an Americorps position with a conservation corps based in Flagstaff called the Coconino Rural Environment Corps. And I LOVED IT!

M: So, what's so great about trail work?
L: Ha! What is so great about it? I like the challenge of learning to read the landscape, figuring out how water is flowing, how different materials behave, how people and animals behave. It's fun thinking about which subtle cues will change and how or where a hiker walks, like grade or placement of rocks and leaves. And trail work feels like sculpting to me; a way to work with natural materials, with tools and your hands and feet to sculpt and shape the land. All of this work to facilitate movement and experiences for others. I like that it's behind-the-scenes, too, and that the best work is that which most people don't notice because the trail's in good shape and looks "natural"!

M: What will you miss most about working with the Forest Park Conservancy?
L: I like being part of a small organization staffed by people who care about our work. I feel so lucky to have gotten to work with and know our volunteers and interns. I like focusing on Forest Park, too--it's big, but a distinct park that lots of people love.

M: What was your most challenging project? How did it turn out?
L: The bridge at the end of Wildwood, around mile point 29.4! We rebuilt a bridge with volunteers from The Clymb, one month after I took over as Trails Manager. I had little idea of what I was doing, we had to hike three-quarters of a mile to the bridge site, haul in 20-foot long 4"x12"s (about 400 pounds each), plus the rest of the lumber and hardware. I kept forgetting essential tools. In my memory it took like three weeks to finish, (it was probably 5 days), when it should have taken 2-3 days. But we did it and now the bridge is solid and beautiful!

M: Is there anything in particular about your new position that you're especially looking forward to?
L: I'm looking forward to getting to know the rest of Portland's natural area trail system. I've explored many of those trails, but you get to know them differently when you work them. 

The Forest Park Conservancy is sad to see Lucy go, but we look forward to partnering with her in her new role. Lucy’s last day with FPC is Thursday, February 19. Anyone who wants to say good-bye is welcome to work the trails with us that morning and/or join us for beers at the NW Lucky Lab at 4:30 pm.

Don’t worry, next Thursday won’t mean good-bye forever. We can still expect to see Lucy around Forest Park and, on special events like Day of Stewardship, working alongside our staff and volunteers. We wish you the best of luck, Lucy, on your next adventure. See you on the trails!

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