Voters created Metro’s nature program in 1995 when they passed the first greenspaces bond. In the quarter century since, they’ve passed bonds in 2006 and 2019, providing the region the funds to build a unique regional park system with nature at its heart. Metro’s parks and nature funding measures weave together this regional park system with local parks and conservation efforts by sending funds to local cities, parks districts and community organizations to support projects that matter to their neighborhoods and communities. Metro now manages more than 18,000 acres of parks, natural areas, trails and historic cemeteries. In 2013, voters approved a five-year local option levy that funds operations at these special places. They renewed the levy in 2016.
In November 2022, voters were asked to renew the levy for a third time. With the region just beginning to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and grappling with the housing and houselessness crises, would voters continue to see the value in investing in nature?
The overwhelming answer was: yes. The levy passed with 72% of the vote, extending funding to 2028.
The 2019 parks and nature bond and the renewed levy work in tandem. The bond is limited to capital investments, like buying natural areas and building parks. The parks and nature levy provides nearly three-quarters of Metro’s operating budget. The levy funds rangers to serve park visitors and maintain facilities, supports scientists and land technicians to restore natural areas, and purchases all the materials needed to manage parks and natural areas, from garbage bags and water fountains to oak saplings and shovels.
At least 40% of the levy will go to habitat restoration and land management. At least 35% of the funds will support regional park operations. Alongside these maintenance and operations funds, at least 15% of levy funds is for the popular Nature in Neighborhoods grants program that support community-led efforts to connect people with nature. The remaining 10% is available to any of the three programs, providing Metro flexibility to meet unexpected needs and opportunities.
Together, the bond and levy, along with funding from Metro’s general fund, allow Metro to fulfill its mission to protect water quality, restore fish and wildlife habitat, and connect people to nature close to home.
The work is guided by the 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. Along with these guideposts, Metro Parks and Nature is continually working to support the wellbeing of the people, plants, animals and habitats of the region.
Learn more about how your tax dollars were spent from July 2022 to June 2023.