Back in 1995, voters had just said yes to a Metro bond that would create a system of greenspaces across greater Portland. The idea was that Metro would purchase properties from willing sellers that held important habitats – like oak forests and savanna, wetlands, prairies – and create natural areas that would protect clean water and support plants and wildlife. Among the first properties Metro bought was a set of parcels in Newell Creek Canyon, a deep, wide ravine that hugs the eastside of Oregon City.
Jump to April 2022, and a crowd of more than 400 cheered on a group of young mountain bikers rolling through a ceremonial ribbon to make the first official bike ride through the trails at Newell Creek Canyon Nature Park.
Since voters approved that first bond, they went on to pass bonds in 2006 and 2019 and a local option levy in 2013, renewing it in 2016 and again in 2022. During this time, Metro bought more properties in Newell Creek Canyon, slowly stitching together about 240 acres of land into a contiguous natural area. Extensive restoration work removed weeds and strengthened the forest of big-leaf maples and western red cedar.
The bond measures, including the current $475 million bond, allowed Metro to turn the natural area into a nature park with 2.5 miles of hiking trails and 2 miles of dedicated mountain biking trails. Plenty of parking, picnic benches and restrooms welcome visitors. The local option levy pays the operating costs to keep the park tidy and maintain the trails and facilities. The levy also funds ongoing restoration work in the canyon.
“When cutting the ribbon at Newell Creek Canyon, I was reminded it took 30 years from when the first measure passed to where we are today, having gathered enough parcels and then being able to invest in trail access and bike access,” Metro Councilor Christine Lewis said. “I want us to keep in mind how long some of this work takes, and we can only achieve it if we have a very clear and well-articulated North Star.”
Voters have given Metro that North Star, and then renewed their commitment to creating a parks and nature system that serves everyone in the region. Because of that direction, Metro manages more than 18,000 acres of parks, trails, natural areas and historic cemeteries.
The work is guided by the Metro Council-approved Parks and Nature System Plan, a long-term strategic plan and framework, and the Parks and Nature Department’s Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan. The action plan, completed in late 2018, comprises more than 80 actions aimed at improving economic, environmental and cultural equity. These actions focus on connecting communities of color to resources; providing more equitable access to safe, welcoming parks, trails and natural areas; and helping people of color connect with nature and one another in the region’s parks and nature system.
Newell Creek Canyon Nature Park is just one of the projects Metro delivered on in fiscal year 2021-2022. Learn more about how your tax dollars were spent from July 2021 to June 2022.