Portland metropolitan area voters approve levy to care for Metro parks, natural areas
Voters approved a five-year local option levy of 9.6 cents per $1,000 of home value. The levy will restore natural areas, protect water quality and provide people with more opportunities to enjoy nature. It will cost the typical homeowner about $20 per year for five years. Read the resolution
Voters in the Portland metropolitan area approved a five-year local option levy in May 2013 to care for Metro’s growing portfolio of natural areas and regional parks. Oregonians value these special places, and the fish and wildlife that depend on them. Their investment will raise about $10 million per year, allowing Metro to do an even better job restoring and managing the land.
The levy will make a difference for most of the 16,000 acres that Metro oversees. Planning is already underway for a detailed list of projects that are coming during the next five years. The Metro Council will approve a budget for first-year levy expenses by the end of June, and the chief operating officer will approve a detailed work plan for each of the six areas receiving levy funds:
Large-scale, intensive restoration projects will significantly improve the health of the highest-priority habitats. Smaller restoration projects will enhance ecological function at a variety of sites. And natural area maintenance across Metro’s properties will help control invasive species and give native plantings a chance to thrive.
A number of natural areas will receive low-impact, low-cost improvements that make them safer and easier to visit. Hiking and walking opportunities will be a focal point.
Capital improvements such as new restrooms, playgrounds and parking will enhance Metro’s developed parks, which attract more than 1.3 million visitors every year.
Volunteer resources will be expanded to support opportunities for meaningful community engagement across all programs funded by the levy.
Metro will expand classes and exhibits that help people learn from regional parks and natural areas. New opportunities will be developed for youth, including skill-building programs focused on underserved communities.
The Nature in Neighborhoods restoration and enhancement grant program will expand, supporting habitat restoration, conservation education and other projects that connect people with nature close to home. Since launching the program in 2006, Metro has funded nearly 100 community projects across the region.
Two decades ago, Metro didn’t own a single park or natural area. Today the agency is the largest owner of public parks and natural area lands in the Portland metropolitan region. During this time, protecting natural areas has been a priority as voters approved bond measures in 1995 and 2006 to purchase and protect some of the region’s most significant undeveloped land. These previous bond funds approved by voters for property acquisition cannot be used for operating expenses.
Today Metro owns or manages more than 16,000 acres, including more than 100 miles of stream and river frontage, wetlands, prairies, forests and more. While some areas are not formally open to visitors, Metro’s regional parks and natural areas are visited by more than 1.3 million people each year for outdoor experiences like hiking, walking, fishing, bird watching, picnicking, weddings and special events.
The Metro Council has spent limited general funds to maintain these parks and natural areas but determined that such funding is not sustainable over the long term Starting in spring 2012 the Metro Council conducted public opinion research and online surveys and consulted an independent advisory panel about the idea of a funding measure for natural area restoration and park maintenance. Metro elected officials and staff met with local governments and dozens of community groups about a potential local option levy and gathered input from more than 5,000 people via Opt In, Metro’s online participation tool.