Origins of the term “40 Mile Loop”

Sometime during the Spring of 2021, Gregg Everhart, a former PP&R Landscape Architect and staff assigned to assist the 40 Mile Loop, handed off to Jim Sjulin a file folder entitled “40-Mile Loop History.”

Obviously, the file contained information about the early years of the 40 Mile Loop as a concept and some information about the early years of the 40 Mile Loop Land Trust. One document was an eighteen-page transcription of an interview with Barbara Walker, a person whose name registered as synonymous with the 40 Mile Loop for over 30 years. The transcription is derived from a recorded interview conducted by Ryan Durocher, an AmeriCorps member from Portland Parks & Recreation’s Planning Department, on October 18, 2002, at Tulley’s Coffee in Portland City Hall.

The interview in its entirety pulled few punches and is an interesting read. The portion of the interview that pertains to the origin of the term “40 Mile Loop” is reproduced below (and slightly edited for brevity):

Barbara Walker: Well, there would be people who’d give you a different idea of where the 40 Mile Loop started. We’d found the Olmsted plan through Doug Bridges* , which had been shelved. I mean it was still considered, still operated, but there wasn’t even a copy anywhere. We had to go find a copy.

It’s called the 40 Mile Loop, not because the Olmsteds called it that, but because a person in the park bureau ran one of those little pie cutters that measure miles+, I don’t remember what you call those machines, but you go around on a map – now you wouldn’t do it that way, but back in those days, slide rule days – you went around and the route that the Olmsteds had planned on the map was 40 miles.

So we called it the 40 Mile Loop. And Doug Bridges knew from the beginning that it was going to be more than forty miles, we all did. Because that made Mt. Tabor the farthest east we went, and the city had grown. It was crazy to limit this idea – with the Columbia, and Columbia Slough, and Johnson Creek, and the growth that pushed us out – to Mt Tabor. So what’s interesting to me now is where we saw the circle coming around is what’s now the Gresham-Fairview Trail. Not the exact alignment, there was a power line we thought would be able to come down. And that wasn’t even a dream of anyone except some of us who had seen this in the back.

*Doug Bridges was Superintendent of Portland Parks & Recreation in the late 1970’s.

+A “pie cutter that measure miles” is formally known as a planimeter, a surveying tool.