Our mission Recent news What you can do Donate
Reserves process Making our case Maps & resources Contact us

Easy Access to Recreational Opportunities
Candidate Reserve Study Area
North of Highway 26

August 20, 2009
Submitted by . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . SaveHelvetia.org

A local citizens' group whose goal is to preserve all land north of Highway 26 as Rural Reserves

Written by . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cherry Amabisca


Bicyclists on NW Helvetia Road Heading north towards the Tualatin Mountains

Justification for designation as Rural Reserves under RR (3)(h)
Provide easy access to recreational opportunities in rural areas per OAR 660-027-0060(3)(h)

Greater Helvetia: A Recreational Destination

Over 100,000 people visit Helvetia every year to enjoy a variety of recreational experiences. Our taverns, wineries, lavender farms, U-pick farms, CSAs, pumpkin farms, Christmas tree farms, rock and mineral museum, equine businesses and alpaca farms annually attract tens of thousands of people from the Portland metropolitan region and beyond. Our quiet country roads with their rolling hills are a magnet for thousands of runners and bicyclists every year.

Helvetia receives national attention from “Little People, Big World”, a reality television series that airs on The Learning Channel. It follows the six-member Roloff family on their Helvetia farm on NW Grossen Drive located north of the Helvetia Tavern. “Little People, Big World” will be starting its fifth season in Fall, 2009, and averages 3 million viewers per episode.

At the state level, the Helvetia area is part of the 50-mile “Vineyard & Valley Scenic Tour Route” promoted by the Washington County Visitor Association. The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) provided funds as part of their “Discover Oregon Scenic Byways” program. Helvetia Vineyards and Winery on NW Yungen Road is a featured vineyard on the tour.

The Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals on NW Groveland Drive is recognized throughout the Pacific Northwest as having an exceptional collection of rare rocks and minerals. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Washington County Scenic Tour

Helvetia's scenic beauty and historical landmarks attract visitors from all over the Portland metropolitan region who recognize its unique qualities. The Washington County Oregon Visitors Association promotes Helvetia as part of its county-wide “Vineyard and Valley” Scenic Tour Route. The ODOT-signed, two-way route runs between the town of Sherwood in the southern part of the Tualatin Valley and Swiss-settled Helvetia at the northern end.

Starting at the entrance to historic Helvetia, the scenic tour continues north on NW Helvetia Road towards the Tualatin Mountains. Passing the Helvetia Tavern, and the Roloff Farm (featured on a TLC reality show), it jogs west, past the sturdy Bishop Century Barn on the corner. Turn right and head north up NW Bishop Road, past Pacific Crest Alpacas, one of the largest alpaca ranches in Oregon. Turn right at NW Yungen Road and Helvetia Vineyard & Winery is on the left. Helvetia Vineyards is one of the featured wineries on the scenic tour route.

Returning back to Helvetia Road, the tour continues through the heart of Helvetia.

Approaching the crest of the hill, the Yungen Century Farm is on the right and, descending the hill, the stately Helvetia Community Church is on the left. Further down the hill, the Pieren Century Farm, with its distinctive red barn, is on the left.

Continuing to the end of NW Helvetia Road, the scenic tour turns left at NW Jackson Quarry Road, passing the Guerber Swiss Chalet on the left. Turning right onto NW West Union Road, it passes two more Century Farms (the Batchelder Century Farm and the Gates Century Farm) on the right before turning left at Jackson School Road. Crossing Highway 26, the scenic tour continues on the south side of the freeway.

Helvetia's Lavender Farms

Helvetia's four lavender farms host several thousand visitors during the peak of the lavender season, which runs from late June to the third week in July every year. Jackson School Lavender, Seasonal Mary Herb-Flower Farm, Helvetia Lavender Farm and Bishop House Lavender offer a number of activities. Visitors can cut bouquets of fresh lavender, purchase lavender products such as soaps, lotions, oils and sachets, make wreaths, bouquets and wands, shop for quality crafts and gifts from local artisans, learn about recipes for cooking with lavender and see how different varieties of lavender can be used in landscape design.

The Oregon Lavender Association sponsors an annual Oregon Lavender Festival which includes over 30 lavender farms throughout the state. During the 2009 tour, Helvetia's lavender farms reported that they received visitors from all over the state of Oregon, plus Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Colorado, Japan, Korea and India.

Helvetia's Taverns

Helvetia's two taverns, the Helvetia Tavern and the Rock Creek Tavern, draw thousands of tourists, regulars and locals to their down-home country establishments. The Helvetia Tavern, built in 1922 as a grocery store and gas station, became a tavern in 1933. Helvetia Tavern's signature burgers, especially its jumbo burgers, draw in the crowds but the country setting plays a significant role in attracting the daily overflowing lunch and dinner patrons.

Helvetia Tavern has been profiled in many local and Western publications over the years, including Sunset Magazine's “Best of the West”. Off the Beaten Path Oregon, A Guide to Unique Places (2009) tells its readers to plan to stop at the Helvetia Tavern, on Helvetia Road beyond where the road dips under the railroad trestle, about 2 miles north of the Sunset Highway. “Your reward for finding this local gem will be hamburgers the size of dinner plates and fresh-cooked french-fries -with skins left on - piled all around. Watch the folks play pool, or join in yourself. And notice the interesting collection of hats hanging from the walls and rafters.”

The Rock Creek Tavern, located on NW Cornelius Pass at NW Phillips Road, opened in the mid-1920's as a small country store. In the 1930's Bill and Myrtle Fuegy took over as proprietors. Their families (the Fuegys and the Pezoldts) had lived in the community since its establishment in the 1880's. For many years Bill ran Rock Creek's other hub, a blacksmith shop. Bill and Myrtle served the first post-Prohibition mugs of brew at the store in 1933. After their retirement at the end of the 40s, the tavern went through a number of changes. In 1995, the McMenamin brothers became custodians of the community landmark and began to mold the tavern into the fun, family-oriented pub it is today. Bands play almost every night and the tavern is once again a hub of the community.

Greater Helvetia's Biking Roads

The area north of Highway 26 is well-known throughout the Portland Metro region as a cycling destination. A variety of charities schedule biking tours through the Helvetia area each year. In July, 2009, over 700 bicyclists rode in the American Diabetes Association “Tour de Cure”. Four rides of varying levels of difficulty were offered: 108 miles, 65 miles, 27 miles and 10 miles. The three longest rides started at Hillsboro Stadium and traveled 13 miles through the Helvetia area to the town of North Plains, before continuing on through the Tualatin Valley.

Throughout the year, a number of Portland-area cycling clubs ride the roads north of Highway 26 on a daily and weekly basis. These include Intel's I-Team (with over 200 riders), the Portland Velo, the Sorella Sisters (sponsored by Title Nine) and the Portland Wheelmen.

Steve Kasper rides a 25-mile loop after work on NW Helvetia Road
Two books feature bike rides that take advantage of Greater Helvetia's rolling hills:
Bicycling the Backroads of Northwest Oregon (2009) features “The Mountaindale Loop”, a bike tour that starts at West Union Elementary School and proceeds for 22 miles west to Mountaindale, where it heads south for the return loop on the south side of Highway 26 before ending at West Union school.
Road Biking Oregon (2002) offers an 18.5 mile bike ride named the “North Plains Ramble”. This bike ride travels the main roads of Helvetia over to North Plains in a giant loop.

Whatever the route, the area north of Highway 26 offers premier road riding through pastoral farmland and quiet, winding, rural roads.

Helvetia's Vineyards & Winery

Located on south-facing slopes of the Tualatin Mountains, Helvetia's three vineyards (Garden Vineyards, Helvetia Vineyards and Meier Vineyards) and one winery (Helvetia Winery) are the closest vineyards to the city of Portland. The Helvetia Vineyards and Winery and the Garden Vineyards offer complementary venues: The Helvetia Vineyards and Winery is located in the 100-year-old farmhouse of one of the early Swiss families who settled in Helvetia in the 1880s; Garden Vineyards offers high-style elegance with sweeping views of the Tualatin Valley. Combined, they host over 10,000 guests from around the world each year.

Helvetia Vineyards and Winery offers a casual country atmosphere in a perfect setting for a family-friendly rural outing amidst the vineyards and Christmas trees on the property. Estate-bottled Pinot Noir wines can be custom labeled for gifts, weddings, reunions or just for fun!

Garden Vineyards provides sweeping views and resort quality furnishings from its vineyard house and tasting room for weddings and corporate events. Summer “Evenings at Garden Vineyards” offer fun movies, wine and sangria in a casual environment.

Helvetia's Running Roads

Helvetia's sloping hills and flat countryside offers a challenge to runners. Adidas sponsors the “Helvetia Half Marathon & Drop Top 10K” each June. This year's half-marathon took place on June 13, 2009 and attracted more than 3,100 runners and walkers. Helvetia's main roads are part of the course: NW Helvetia Road, NW Jackson Quarry Road, West Union Road and Groveland Road. Residents know to find alternate ways in and out of Helvetia that day!

Helvetia's Alpacas

After the S-turns on NW Helvetia Road and up NW Bishop Road is Pacific Crest Alpacas and Accoyo America, home to one of the three largest alpaca ranches in Oregon. It pioneered the first private auction in the U.S. in 1998 and now is the biggest alpaca auction in the U.S. The nursery for newly-born baby alpacas is near the road, so visitors can watch button-nosed babies cavort in the sweet-smelling grass.

Helvetia's Equine Farms

The area north of Highway 26 is home to a vibrant cluster of equine farms. These farms host regional equestrian shows and competitions, provide training and boarding, offer trail riding and lessons as well as clinics, demonstrations and race horse breeding. These equine farms host several thousand visitors to their stables, trails and shows annually.

Contributors:

Steve Radtke, Abundant Harvest CSA
Catherine Keith, Valley Vista Farm
Jackson School Lavender
Bishop House Lavender
Steve Kasper, Bicyclist
Greg Mecklem, Pacific Crest Alpacas
John Platt, Helvetia Vineyard & Winery
Stuart Wilson, Garden VIneyards

Photographs:

Steve Radtke
Cherry Amabisca
Anamchara Stables
Valley Vista Farm

Thanks to John Talbot for his assistance in preparing this document for web publication.

TESTIMONY

SaveHelvetia.org has received hundreds of letters from Portland Metro residents sharing their enjoyment of the area north of Highway 26. On July 2, 2009, Maree Healy wrote to describe her joy of cycling through this area and to request that it be designated as Rural Reserves:

“I am writing with regard to the Metro and Tri-County Urban and Rural Reserves process.

I am an avid cyclist and live in the Forest Heights area. My favorite rides take me from NW Miller, all the way to the little town of North Plains, traveling the winding country roads of NW Skyline, Old Cornelius, Phillips, Helvetia, Jackson Quarry, Jackson School, Shadybrook, and others.

EVERYTIME I travel these routes I feel grateful and I've always feared that urban development would threaten to take them away someday, and that makes me sick! These are some of the FEW remaining roads in the area that a cyclist can travel on and not feel threatened by traffic and the dangerand harassment that seems to follow.

Most importantly, I VALUE the solitude, and breathtaking views, landscape, farms and the animals I encounter, and it is encouraging to know that there are still hard-working people in this country able to make it a go as independent farmers. It does my heart good to see an old man on his tractor, young boys baling hay, horses turned out in the fields and a sign posted to a wooden telephone pole that reads, “Missing, Two Cows, please contact this number.....”

It's all about the land!

Once I leave the urban development areas, which can choke the life out of you, I feel restored and free once again. Some things are NOT supposed to change!

DO NOT TAKE THIS AWAY. ENOUGH SPRAWL. CONTAIN IT!

Please designate all study areas north of Highway 26 in Washington and Multnomah Counties as RURAL RESERVES.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.”

Maree Healy
Portland, OR 97229

Background

There are only two “Helvetias” in the U.S.: one in West Virginia and the one we have in Washington County, Oregon. Both were settled by Swiss immigrants in the 1800s and both have active Swiss communities that continue to celebrate their Swiss heritage.

Washington County's Helvetia is located in unincorporated Washington County and is loosely bounded on the south by Highway 26, on the east by Germantown Road, on the west byJackson School Road and on the north by the Tualatin Mountains. Wherever the early Swiss familes settled forms the rough boundaries. They themselves coined the term “Helvetia” in 1892, which means “Switzerland” in Latin. The name “Helvetia” appears on Swiss coins and stamps today.

Next: Foundation/Important Ag lands within 3 miles of UGB

Back to Making our case


Home   •   Our mission   •   Recent news   •   What you can do   •   Donate
Reserves process   •   Making our case   •   Maps & resources   •   Contact us
 
Web site design and programming by Brian Beinlich   •   Contact the webmaster