In addition to protecting land and habitat, Metro aims to provide opportunities for residents to immerse themselves in nature with access to new parks, trails and natural areas. Access to Nature projects focus on safety and low-impact improvements, and opportunities for residents to hike, view wildlife, unwind from a stressful day, or enjoy a picnic.
The projects begin with extensive conversations with community members, partners and others to ensure the projects provide the opportunities they’re seeking, while also incorporating opportunities for habitat restoration, volunteering, conservation education and more.
Access to Nature projects are underway now for places such as the North Tualatin Mountains, Newell Creek Canyon, and a Tualatin River canoe and kayak launch. In the coming year, conversations with community members will begin to plan for future public access at Chehalem Ridge and East Buttes natural areas.
Killin Wetlands Natural Area improvements to boost safety, provide access
For years, devoted birders in the Portland metro region have headed to an area about two miles west of Banks in search of the prized American bitterns and soras.
But with no formal public access to Metro’s Killin Wetlands Natural Area, birders often park on the side of Northwest Cedar Canyon Road and set up their scopes on the roadway. A project soon entering the design phase aims to improve safety by opening up public access to a portion of the 590-acre site, while also restoring habitat and allowing farming to continue on another portion of the property.
“I’m very excited about the new access,” said Stefan Schlick, a Hillsboro resident and a birder involved with the Audubon Society of Portland who helped shape the access project.
Community members and partners attended two open houses in the winter and spring of 2015. Many of the features they requested, such as trails and viewing stations, are included in the access plan, which is designed to maintain a light touch on the landscape and habitat. The site includes significant wetlands and a very rare example of Willamette Valley scrub-shrub marsh habitat.
The Audubon Society has designated the site as an Important Bird Area. The site also supports an abundance of rare plants and animals, including Geyer willows and the state-sensitive Northern red-legged frog. Beavers, ducks and the occasional elk also call the place home.
The agricultural heritage of the site will remain intact. Part of the site will remain in farm use, and an old dairy barn will remain on site. The barn could also qualify to join the Quilt Barn Trail in Washington County with a large, painted quilt block mounted on the side.
Permitting and final design is expected to be complete by the end of 2015 with construction tentatively set for 2016 and 2017, with a possible opening in 2017.