The region's voters approved a property tax levy to pay for parks and natural areas funding Tuesday, giving Metro about $10 million a year for maintenance and restoration at its properties.
As of 9 p.m., about 53 percent of the region's voters supported the measure, which would cost the owner of a home assessed at $200,000 about $20 a year.
"We deeply appreciate the confidence shown by our region's residents, who value these special places and the fish and wildlife that depend on them," said Metro Council President Tom Hughes in a statement.
Jim Desmond, Metro's Sustainability Center Director, said the results show an increasing awareness of the issues his program is trying to address at the region's natural areas.
"We learned that there is a high appreciation for and understanding of the need for restoration in natural areas, particularly around removing invasive species and weeds and ivy," Desmond said at an election night party at Southeast Portland's Lucky Labrador brewpub.
According to Metro staff, the regional government will begin preparing on Wednesday for a formal plan to restore and maintain the natural areas. Preliminary plans for the first year call for native landscaping at Blue Lake Regional Park, a new playground and other upgrades at Oxbow Regional Park, studying visitor improvements at Newell Creek Canyon Natural Area in Oregon City and Killin Wetlands in Washington County, and starting a significant restoration project at River Island Natural Area on the Clackamas River.
A comprehensive list of prospective projects was expected within the next few weeks.
"We're hearing from some specific groups interested in access to the natural area nearest and dearest to them," Desmond said of lessons learned during the campaign. "So far the push for access typically coming from user groups or groups close to a particular area. We'll have conversations with the public about access points."
But many of those access points are in suburban areas, where a slim majority of voters in Clackamas and Washington counties were saying no to the levy.
Metro Councilor Sam Chase, however, said Tuesday's results cross county lines.
"To me, Metro is working as a region, and part of our work is to work across boundaries and borders," he said. "I'm looking at how our region has voted to support this, and that's moving forward in a way that will benefit everybody in the region."
Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten was also at Tuesday's party. He said the results show that voters in his county put a higher stock in natural areas than elected officials, many of whom expressed doubts about the levy while remaining officially neutral.
"I keep telling them it's good politics to support greenspace measures," Schouten said. "I think generally speaking, it's good politics. I think the voters there generally have a higher priority (on natural areas) than our elected officials."
In his statement, Hughes said the regional conversation about natural areas maintenance will continue.
"We … appreciate all our regional partners who help support a vibrant network of outdoor destinations and protected land," the regional president said. "We look forward to working together as we take the next steps to ensure that our parks and natural areas are protected for future generations."
Metro News editor Nick Christensen can be reached at [email protected] or 503-813-7583.