Grant's Getaways: Stickwork sculptures at Orenco Woods Nature Park

Hillsboro has launched a remarkable public art project that encourages visitors and participation at a new city park. 

Grant's Getaways: Stickwork Sculptures in Hillsboro

Hillsboro has launched a remarkable public art project that encourages visitors and participation at a new city park. Join me on a visit to Orenco Woods Nature Park and one of the most unique outdoor art projects I’ve ever seen.

Last summer, a flying bridge at Orenco Woods Nature Park (located at Northwest Birch and 224th) was a marvel to watch.

The new bridge – nearly 200-feet long -- was a critical crossing over Rock Creek so that neighbors could reach one of Hillsboro’s most unique parklands.

Mary Loftin, a spokesperson for Hillsboro Parks and Recreation Department, said the 42-acre park has been on the fast track! In fact, the park transformation began in April 2016 and was completed this past February.

“This park is incredible!” noted Loftin. “It has three majestic bridges, a nature play area which is the first in our city. And Rock Creek runs right through the park property and it is filled with all kinds of wildlife.”  

That’s nothing new for a place that’s always been close to nature! You see, 100 years ago Orenco was the 1400-acre Oregon Nursery Company with orchards galore.

The nursery even grew its own apple dubbed the Orenco Apple, prized for its sweet and delicious taste and was a fine eating apple.

But the orchards all but disappeared during the Great Depression of the 1930s when the appetite for nursery stock all but disappeared.

The property then became a popular golf course that thrived for nearly three decades.

More recently, developers bought the land and planned to build nearly 300 single family homes on it.

That plan was sidelined in 2008 when the Oregon economy soured.

The property was purchased by the Trust for Public Lands and eventually purchased through a partnership between Hillsboro Parks and Metro Greenspaces and the landscape became something special.

“You want to wear comfy shoes and walk the 2.5 miles of trails,” noted Loftin.  "Bring a picnic lunch and don’t rush. Listen to the birds, enjoy the scenery for each season of the year there’s something to do here.”

Along the Rock Creek Trail at Orenco Woods Nature Park, near a line-up of 100-year-old Doug firs, be prepared for something that ‘ll stop you in your tracks.

An artist at work!

Patrick Dougherty prods and shoves willow and red-twig dogwood saplings until his Stickwork Sculpture takes form. He constructs unique wooden sculptures by bending and shaping sticks and branches into place.

The Stickwork Sculptures are monumental art works that reach 15-feet high and reflect a career that spans more than three decades.

“I was bit by the art bug in the early 80’s,” noted the longtime sculptor. “I decided I’d like to spend my time outdoors. I’ve always loved to make things and started pursuing it to that end. It’s just turned out great.”

I’ll say! Dougherty’s art can be seen in scores of countries and American states.

He creates ten wooden sculptures each year on a schedule that leaves little down time. He crisscrosses the country and builds a different sculpture in a different community each month.

Hillsboro officials thought Dougherty’s creations would find a perfect home under the giant firs along the Rock Creek Trail.

“I think it’s amazing for there is so much animation in these Stickwork faces and their expression, said Valerie Otani, spokesperson for the Hillsboro Public Art Department. ”People are immediately drawn to it and that’s a big part of it. We want to create landmarks in the landscape, in our city-scape – places that you remember.”

Dougherty added, “The sense that something might be peeking out, looking around, staring through to visitors, that’s what this work is all about. All of those kinds of feelings are going to be elicited when you walk down the path and see these big heads and wonder: ‘what’s goin on?’”

What’s ‘goin on’ is certainly a most exciting crowd pleaser for visitors of all ages, and a fine compliment to a vision for open space at an escape from city hub-bub and noise. 

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