More than 100 visitors celebrated the grand opening of Killin Wetlands Nature Park on Saturday, the first day of fall. They enjoyed a ribbon-cutting ceremony, guided trail walks with Metro naturalists, wetland and wildlife viewing, and free hot dogs and refreshments.
Metro’s newest 25-acre nature park is now open to the public. The site just west of Banks off Northwest Cedar Canyon Road is one of the Willamette Valley’s largest remaining peat soil wetlands. The property – formerly a dairy farm – now features a giant quilt block installation “Doves in the Window” on the side of the restored barn, making it a stop on the Quilt Barn Trail of Oregon’s Washington County.
“I’m so excited!” said Metro Councilor Kathryn Harrington, whose district is near the new park. “The birds are happy, the people are happy, the bees are happy. It’s just amazing.”
Visitors can explore the nature trails, view rolling hills, enjoy a picnic from the scenic lookout deck and delight in searching for beavers, river otters, elk and hard-to-find wetland birds. The area is also rich with rare plants and animals, including Geyer willows and the state-sensitive northern red-legged frog.
The park features 22 parking spots for cars, bus parking, benches along the trails, several picnic tables and a restroom.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Harrington and Jon Blasher, director of parks and nature at Metro, emphasized the importance of having access to nature close to home and thanked everyone who has helped make this park a reality, from local farmers and members of the community to Metro staff and volunteers.
“It's places like this that help us all understand the fragility of nature,” Harrington said, “and how important it is for all of us to work together for future generations so that they have a healthy planet.”
Friends and neighbors said they’ve been watching the park construction all summer with interest and couldn’t wait to get an inside view.
Debbie Potts, a volunteer at the Oregon Zoo, has lived just down the road for 40 years. She brought her 4-year-old granddaughter, Madi, to the opening. They enjoy all the wildlife the area hosts – including bobcats, elk and the occasional black bear that surprises them on their property.
“One time I was driving home and saw a big old pond turtle just crossing the road,” Potts said. She loves to run the trails in the area and plans to add the new nature park to her route.
Another longtime landowner, Doug Moehnke, and his son Dorman, 9, peered through a telescope and admired wood ducks and a mallard they spotted in the wetlands.
Moehnke was one of many visitors that had personal connections to Killin Wetlands. As a teen, he worked summers at the farm that once operated at the site. “I put a lot of hay up in that barn,” Moehnke said.
The area is especially popular among birders, who sometimes set up scopes in the roadway to look for rare birds like the Virginia rail, sora and American bittern. Killin Wetlands is recognized by the Audubon Society of Portland as an Important Bird Area and is a featured stop on the Willamette Valley Birding Trail.
Honoring the site’s agricultural heritage, farming will continue on a portion of the 590-acre site separate from the nature park.
The Banks-Vernonia Trail is just a few miles away. Cyclists are encouraged to visit, and the park features bike racks.
The acquisition of Killin Wetlands and the planning and construction of the park are possible thanks to the voter-approved 1995 and 2006 natural areas bond measures. Developing the park, including design and construction, cost $1,050,000.
The vision for the nature park can be credited to a collaborative planning process that included community members as well as representatives from the Tualatin River Watershed Council, the City of Banks and the Audubon Society of Portland.
“It’s a unique park in our portfolio because of the wetlands and the historic value,” said Tannen Printz, a senior regional planner at Metro and construction project manager for Killin Wetlands.
The park also resolves a significant safety issue. Birders who put themselves at risk setting up telescopes to bird-watch on Northwest Cedar Canyon Road can now enjoy a peaceful park experience.
“I don’t have to take pictures of birds from the highway anymore,” said Marci Degman who attended the opening with her family. “It’s nice to be on this side [of the road]. I’m psyched!”
Visitors from near and far were in good spirits and many were already making plans for return visits. “I like it here because there are lots of pretty flowers,” said 7-year-old Lyric Russell, Degman’s granddaughter.
“There are a bunch of trees and birds and it kind of gets your energy up,” she said.