Metro will hold another community open house 6 to 8 p.m. May 6 at Skyline School as part of a months-long effort to plan the future of four properties in the North Tualatin Mountains.
At the meeting, Metro staff plan to share several options for each of the four properties and to listen to community feedback about each option. The options will incorporate input received from hundreds of community members in recent months as they help shape future habitat restoration, public access, recreation and other opportunities at the sites.
“The intent is to bring well-thought-out ideas to the public,” said Dave Elkin, a senior regional planner at Metro who is leading the North Tualatin Mountains planning project. “We’re trying to find an approach that is well-balanced, meets people’s goals and is within the project budget and timeline.”
Metro’s four sites – Burlington Creek, Ennis Creek, McCarthy Creek and North Abbey Creek natural areas – total about 1,300 acres. The large area provides Metro a lot of room to care for the habitat that voters have protected while also carefully planning opportunities for people to enjoy it.
The upcoming meeting will build on two community open houses on the project in September and December 2014.
At the Dec. 2 open house, more than 200 community members packed the Skyline Grange. Many of the audience members were off-road cyclists who said they wanted to see Metro accommodate off-road cycling in the North Tualatin Mountains. Few off-road cycling opportunities currently exist in the Portland metro region, they said.
Metro is considering some options that could allow off-road cycling as well as hiking, trail running, wildlife viewing, picnicking or other activities. The options will also include opportunities for habitat restoration, conservation education, volunteering and other priorities that community members identified.
The four sites include several old logging roads, some of which could be used as future trails, though it’s likely that new trails would also be created. The specifics of any potential trail system have not yet been determined, and community members will play an important role in deciding on the ultimate design and details of future public access.
Elkin and his colleagues face several challenges as they consider design options for the sites.
“I think the biggest challenge we saw is the unique topography,” Elkin said. “There are some challenges in getting people safely off the roads and on to the site.”
The winding roads in the area create a number of blind curves. In other spots, steep slopes make public access tricky. Staff must also weigh budget realities as they consider the possibilities.
While recreational activities and public access will play pivotal roles in the project, so, too, will conservation and restoration opportunities.
The four properties include a variety of special habitats, including vast swathes of riparian and upland forests, shrub wetlands and oak savannas. Although each site individually offers prime habitat, such large parcels provide even greater benefits collectively in serving as crucial connections between Forest Park and the Coast Range.
The properties help knit together vital corridors for native fish and wildlife to access larger areas of habitat. For instance, the properties are already home to native elk and Northern red-legged frogs, which the state lists as a sensitive species that’s under threat.
The planning effort, restoration work and other improvements are all made possible thanks to investments made by the region’s voters. Metro acquired the properties with money from natural areas bond measures that voters approved in 1995 and 2006.
As the planning effort proceeds, restoration work continues with the aim of protecting water quality, enhancing wildlife habitat, and restoring stream and forest functions.
At North Abbey Creek Natural Area in January, crews planted about 20,000 native shrubs and trees, including baldhip roses, red elderberries and Sitka willows.
Over time, the plants will transform the landscape of the tiny headwater streams that form North Abbey Creek. Previous property owners cleared the native headwater forests to create grazing land. The loss of the trees and shrubs allowed winter rains to batter the ground, leading to incised channels and slumped stream banks that sent soil coursing down to Rock Creek and on to the Tualatin River.
Although the complexity of the forest will take decades to develop, changes in the hydrology of the site and the wildlife will likely begin to take shape in a few years.
Volunteers are also helping to restore North Abbey Creek Natural Area. In late February, students from Self Enhancement, Inc. planted hundreds of native shrubs to attract pollinators and wildlife.
Details about the May 6 open house