The former Orenco Woods golf course is planned to become a nature park as part of a Metro bond program.
After previous incarnations as a farm, a golf course and a potential housing development, the Orenco Woods property took an important step Thursday toward its new identity: a regional nature park in the heart of Hillsboro.
The Metro Council voted to invest $2 million from the region’s natural areas bond measure toward the purchase of the 42-acre property. The City of Hillsboro is also contributing $2 million, partly from its local share of money from the Metro bond measure.
Under an agreement approved this week by both Metro and the city, most of the land will become a nature park. Roughly 11 acres will be sold for development, with the proceeds going toward creation of the park – a nontraditional approach that ensures a quicker-than-usual turnaround.
Orenco Woods is tucked into the established Orenco neighborhood, with an elementary school next door and light rail trains whirring by to the north. But visitors will enjoy a pastoral setting along Rock Creek, an important tributary to the Tualatin River, at the future park.
“It has a major creek. It has rolling hills. There is a great deal of wildlife that uses it,” said Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington, who represents the west side of the region. “The acquisition of this park will add to the sense of community for the whole area.”
The nature park is the latest twist in a long history for the property, part of the 1,100-acre Oregon Nursery Co. that gave the Orenco neighborhood its name. The land was later home to a nine-hole golf course.
In 2006, the property was platted for a residential development. But plans fell through, and the developer transferred the land to its lender in 2009 to avoid foreclosure. Metro and the Hillsboro’s $4 million purchase was facilitated by The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit organization that focuses on land conservation.
Voters approved Metro's $200 million natural areas bond measure in 2006. About $100 million remains in the regional fund for acquiring new sites.
The sale is expected to be finalized within the next several weeks. But even with this week’s approvals from the Metro and Hillsboro councils, the transaction is not straightforward. The Hillsboro Elks have filed a lawsuit against the site's owner, U.S. Bank, alleging the Elks rightfully own a historic house on the property. The Elks lease the house to Saint Child, a nonprofit program that helps pregnant teenagers, for $1 per year.
Hillsboro officials have agreed to take responsibility for the litigation and the house. A settlement with the Elks could include a partition of the home, which sits on about half an acre.
The Metro Council voted 5-0 on Thursday to approve the purchase. Harrington said she was excited to move forward with the nature park, which will be planned jointly by Metro and Hillsboro. “I think we will all be amazed at what this future nature park will become,” she said.