An abandoned Hillsboro golf course, once slated for housing, will instead be preserved and transformed into a nature park, with a groundbreaking April 20 kicking off construction.
The 30-acre, $4 million park in Hillsboro's Orenco neighborhood could open by the end of next year and is slated to feature trails, picnic areas, play spaces and more.
“This has been a number of years in the making,” Gwynne Pitts, chair of the Hillsboro Parks Commission, said at the ceremony. Purchased by Metro and Hillsboro in 2011, the last five years have seen a lot of planning before work could begin on the land.
Now, it’s time.
“Next year… we will have a spectacular 30-plus-acre park,” Pitts said. “That park will have a network of loop trails that meander through the site, which will include environmental stations for outdoor education, wildlife viewing… as well as other scenic viewpoints.”
Nestled behind the historic Orenco neighborhood and with Rock Creek running through it, Orenco Woods Nature Park has had a colorful history.
Once owned by the Oregon Nursery Company, where the Orenco community gets its name, the area later became a golf course. Then, in 2006, developers bought the course and planned 250 homes for the site. But with the Great Recession, those plans fell through, and it sat vacant until 2011.
That was when Metro and the Hillsboro City Council came together to purchase the area for $4 million. Metro’s $2 million share came from the region’s 2006 natural areas bond measure, and Hillsboro’s contribution came in part from its local share of the same bond measure. Roughly 10 acres was then sold to help fund the project.
Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington said the bond measure was intended for use in projects just like this.
“At the core of all of Metro’s voter-approved investments, throughout our region, is the priority to protect clean water, fish and wildlife habitat and to create opportunities for people to connect with nature close to home,” Harrington said. “Orenco Woods is a terrific example of a place that advances this work and improves our lives."
In addition to the nature trails, the park will offer visitors a chance to get close to riparian areas, wetlands, oak savannah and a hardwood forest. There will be three bridges constructed, a foot bridge, one over Rock Creek as part of the regional trail that will go through the park, and one through the canopy of the hardwood forest.
The trailhead will have parking, restrooms, picnic shelters, and a play area, according to Rod Wojtanik, principal parks designer at Metro and manager of the project. And a historic home on the land could become an educational center and public rental space.
Wojtanik said one of the biggest benefits of the park, which is surrounded by development, is that it provides a close-to-home nature experience for so many residents of Hillsboro. He said the development plans for the park had widespread support from the public.
“It just spoke to the importance of that area and the passion of the local residents to still maintain some natural area and nature component in their community," he said.