One of the most popular elements of Metro’s Parks and Nature work is the millions of dollars in grants that go toward local community nature projects. Metro’s community investments have a direct impact on locally significant projects.
In the past year, Metro awarded four types of Nature in Neighborhoods grants that paid for capital projects, restoration work, conservation education programming and trails. Money for capital grants comes from the 2006 natural areas bond measure. Money for the other grants comes from the 2013 parks and natural areas levy.
Over the past year, 46 nature projects received grants. The money will help restore natural areas, provide nature education programming, close gaps in trails and more.
Other community investments come in the form of “local share” projects. The 2006 natural areas bond measure provided $44 million to cities, counties and parks providers to invest in more than 100 community projects. Metro’s local partners are more than 90 percent of the way through spending the money to purchase land, improve parks, build trails and complete other locally important projects.
Metro awards $500,000 Nature in Neighborhoods grants for trails projects
When Georgena Moran wanted to go for a hike in the Columbia River Gorge, she couldn’t find any information about trails she could access with her wheelchair.
That’s when Moran, a project coordinator for Access Recreation, started calling around to various parks providers asking for more information about accessible trails. The result is an online guide she’s creating of regional trails, with photos and videos so that people of varying abilities can decide whether a trail will be accessible for them.
Access Recreation received a boost in March 2016, when the organization received a $50,000 Nature in Neighborhoods grant from Metro to further expand the online guide, create new partnerships, and boost outreach and education efforts. The group previously received a $25,000 Nature in Neighborhoods grant.
“It is an opportunity to bring outdoor recreation to people of all abilities,” Moran told the Metro Council at its March 31 meeting. “The solution wasn’t to say what might be usable for a certain group, but actually to provide information that is usable and pertinent to people of abilities, so we all could make our own choice about what we choose to do.”
The Access Recreation project is one of nine trails projects throughout the region that benefited from $500,000 in Nature in Neighborhoods grants that the Metro Council awarded on March 31.
Collectively, the money will pay for planning, construction, signage, habitat restoration and access improvements to trails across the region. The grants are possible thanks to voter investments in the parks and natural areas levy in 2013.
This was the first cycle of the popular Nature in Neighborhoods grants earmarked specifically for trails projects.
The grants proved popular, with Metro receiving 18 pre-applications requesting a total $1.2 million, said Holly Van Houten, a community member who served on the selection committee. From that initial pool, the committee invited full applications from 13 applicants before winnowing that to nine projects.
Oregon City received a grant to help with planning for a crucial, one-mile portion of the Oregon City Loop Trail connecting the McLoughlin neighborhood with Metro’s Canemah Bluff Nature Park.
Joseph Marek, president of the Oregon City Trail Alliance, said he often walks with his 83-year-old mother to Canemah Bluff and enjoys watching the birds and thinking about how the Ice Age floods shaped the landscape.
“Providing the trail connection is so important for people to do active recreation near where they live,” he said.
A stretch of Hall Creek in downtown Beaverton has been given new life.
Beaverton, with the help of property owners, local agencies and a $354,000 Metro Nature in Neighborhoods grant, has restored 650 feet of what was once considered the dirtiest part of Hall Creek.
The section, which runs between Southwest 114th and 117th streets, between the MAX line, a car dealership and other shops, had become increasingly overgrown with invasive plants, and a nearby trail through the trees led to safety concerns.
The improvements made to Hall Creek will restore the stream’s health, reduce flooding and increase safety for community members using the bordering trail.
“It’s a terrific opportunity to connect people with the streams of their neighborhood,” said Dave Waffle, a member of the Tualatin River Watershed Council and assistant finance director at the city of Beaverton. “It’s also a prototype of the high-quality improvements that we can make in the habitat of the streams in downtown Beaverton, to turn these streams into an asset and be part of the revitalization of the community.”
The project received a Nature in Neighborhoods grant in 2012, but the work took several years to complete. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony April 9, Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle said that over the last eight years, city officials heard from more than 10,000 residents asking for more trails between parks, more greenspaces, and improvements and restoration of natural areas.
“A little more than 650 feet of Hall Creek has been improved, and that’s an understatement,” Doyle said.
The creek itself was realigned. Instead of running straight through and flooding neighboring parking lots and businesses, it meanders, with log jams added to provide habitat for fish, a filter vault, and a new trash grate before Hall Creek joins Beaverton Creek.
While invasive plants were removed, more than 8,000 native shrubs and trees were planted. Many of these are right along the creek’s banks to further help with flood control by absorbing and holding excess water.
As the creek was rerouted, a surprising number of fish and wildlife were found there.
Dace and stickleback fish and lamprey were spotted in the creek, which amazed wildlife biologists, Waffle said.
“Finding a lamprey this far up river in the basin… was just incredible,” he said.
Beside the creek, the trail was rebuilt, bringing it closer to the creek and opening it up to more light and visibility to improve safety. The trail was also made with pervious concrete, which will further help with water absorption and improve water quality.