Fernhill is part of more than 700 acres in Forest Grove owned by Clean Water Services for water resources management. Fernhill utilizes natural treatment systems or wetlands to improve water quality by removing nutrients, cooling, and naturalizing the water after initial treatment at the Forest Grove facility. In the summer, 5 million gallons of water are cleaned each day at Forest Grove and then Fernhill before flowing to the Tualatin River.
In 2014, 90 acres of old sewage lagoons were transformed into treatment wetlands by draining the ponds, then drying and excavating more than 200,000 cubic yards of soil into precise contours and depths. Using 15 control structures and 2,400 feet of piping, the water was managed to encourage the growth and establishment of over 1 million native wetland plants and 4 billion seeds, planted both for water quality and for habitat. Birds and wildlife have taken to the 180 logs and snags that were anchored into place, and human visitors are enjoying the 1.1 mile loop around Fernhill Lake, trail improvements, outdoor meeting areas and wildlife watching.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Are bicycles allowed on the trails?
A: Bicycles are not allowed on trails. Please lock bicycles in the rack in the parking lot and explore the trails on foot.
Q: Are dogs allowed at Fernhill?
A: Even the best behaved dogs may be a threat to the birds and wildlife that nest, rest and feed at Fernhill. Please leave dogs at home.
Q: Are drones allowed at Fernhill?
A: Drones can disturb birds and other wildlife. Please do not use drones at Fernhill.
Q: Is it okay to feed the ducks?
A: Please do not feed the ducks, bread is poor nourishment for them.
Q: Are bald eagles nesting at Fernhill?
A: Bald eagles are present at Fernhill. Sometimes they choose to use another nest west of Fern Hill Road near Gales Creek.
Q: What is the distance of the trails at Fernhill?
A: The main loop around Fernhill Lake is 1.1 miles. As the Fernhill project continues, trails may change.
Q: Are the trails at Fernhill ADA accessible?
A: The Water Garden trails and connecting trail from the public parking lot are ADA accessible.
Q: Who owns Fernhill Wetlands?
A: Clean Water Services owns more than 750 acres including areas commonly called Fernhill Wetlands. The publicly-accessible areas are managed in cooperation with the City of Forest Grove Parks staff and the Fernhill Wetlands Council.
Q: Is Clean Water Services building a park?
A: Fernhill is not a park. The trails and bridges allow people to view the natural treatment wetlands and Water Garden.
Q: What purpose is served by the Water Garden?
A: It is part of the natural treatment wetlands that cools and aerates water cleaned at the wastewater facility before the water returns to the Tualatin River. We are managing flows per DEQ approval, using Class A reuse water from the Rock Creek treatment facility in Hillsboro and from the Forest Grove facility.
Q: How much did this cost?
A: Over the next few years, approximately $18 million will be spent on natural treatment systems. This is a bargain compared to the cost of upgrading the treatment facility and will save ratepayers about $13 million. The benefits to birds, wildlife, visitors and the community are a bonus.
Q: Why are non-native plants in the Water Garden?
A: A few Colorado blue spruce and specimen plants are focal points for the landscaping, but they are not invasive species and will provide shelter and food for birds and wildlife. Most of the specimen trees are native shore pines.
Q: Why are some of the trails mowed?
A: In areas overrun with invasive non-native plants, mowing is a necessary step for re-vegetation with native plants providing better habitat for birds and wildlife.
Q: Why are some of the trees in the Water Garden crooked?
A: Renown landscape architect Hoichi Kurisu designed and supervised planting in the Water Garden and intentionally placed the trees to draw the eye.
Q: Who maintains the parking lot, picnic shelter, rest room and trails?
A: Clean Water Services and the City of Forest Grove Parks staff share this work. To report a concern, please call 503.681.3600.
Q: Can I reserve the picnic shelter for an event?
A: The shelter and other areas of Fernhill are open to the public daily from dawn to dusk. Visitors and groups are welcome to use the shelter on a first-come, first-served basis.
Q: How can I help care for Fernhill?
A: Be a good steward, leave no trace of your visit and do not disturb the birds and wildlife. Become a Fernhill volunteer or join the Fernhill Wetlands Council.