Join Metro and your Banks and Washington County neighbors 6 p.m. Feb. 18 to kick off the first community event for Killin Wetlands Natural Area. Share your values and dreams for Killin Wetlands Natural Area. Help Metro expand opportunities to enjoy this unique wetland area.
Details and more
For years, devoted birders in the Portland metro region have headed to an area about two miles west of Banks in search of the prized American bitterns and soras.
But with no formal public access to Metro’s Killin Wetlands Natural Area, birders often park on the side of Northwest Cedar Canyon Road and set up their scopes on the roadway. A project getting underway now aims to improve safety by opening up public access to a portion of the 590-acre site, while also restoring habitat and allowing farming to continue on another portion of the property.
“I’m very excited about the new access,” said Stefan Schlick, a Hillsboro resident and a birder involved with the Audubon Society of Portland.
A community open house is scheduled for Feb. 18 in Banks for local residents to share their vision for the site’s future and to provide feedback on early concepts for public access. Possibilities include viewing platforms, a small parking area, benches, education stations and other ideas.
The improvements would allow visitors to enjoy light hiking, wildlife viewing and community events, such as the annual Great Backyard Bird Count. Opportunities for conservation education, outdoor skill building, volunteering and other activities would also be available.
Killin Wetlands is a very rare example of Willamette Valley scrub-shrub marsh habitat that was common before pioneers settled in the area. A previous study identified four habitat types targeted for conservation: upland and riparian forests and shrub and emergent wetlands.
The Audubon Society has designated the site as an Important Bird Area. The site also supports an abundance of rare plants and animals, including Geyer willows and the state-sensitive Northern red-legged frog. Beavers, ducks and the occasional elk also call the place home.
The property was preserved thanks to investments voters in the region made in the 1995 and 2006 natural areas bond measures. Voter support for the 2013 parks and natural areas levy is now making the access project possible.
“How can we ensure members of the public have safe access to this property without tipping the scale for the property, so we can balance the very important restoration needs with our human interests as well?” Councilor Kathryn Harrington asked at a stakeholder advisory committee Jan. 15 in Banks.
Representatives from the Tualatin River Watershed Council, the city of Banks, neighbors, the birding community and others also attended the meeting to share their ideas and concerns.
“We want to have the opportunity for everybody to be heard and to get everything addressed,” April Olbrich, a coordinator with the Tualatin River Watershed Council, said after the meeting. “The opportunity for folks to interact with birds and natural resources is great because we want to promote stewardship of those areas.”
The agricultural heritage of the site will remain intact, said Alex Perove, a senior regional planner at Metro who is leading the Killin Wetlands project. Part of the site will remain in farm use, and an old dairy barn will remain on site.
One of the project’s challenges is the uniqueness of the site and how to account for its draw, Rod Wojtanik, a principal regional planner at Metro who is also working on the project, said at the meeting.
“What we’re hoping to work with you on is how to provide a better, safer visitor experience and to become better neighbors and to celebrate this gem that we’re all fortunate to have,” he said.
Metro staff plan to incorporate the community’s suggestions and address their concerns as they work to complete schematic design by late summer 2015. If permits can be obtained later this year, construction could start at the end of the year with a target opening of 2017.
“I like that we’re including folks from all involved parties,” Schlick said after the January meeting. “It seems like there’s a lot of heads-up in terms of what they’re planning, and they’re receptive to ideas and suggestions.”