Even as Metro moves to open new destinations, work is underway to upgrade the parks and facilities that 1.6 million visitors a year already enjoy. Some of Metro’s most beloved destinations, including Blue Lake and Oxbow regional parks, are decades old and in need of repairs and upgrades. Park improvement projects are aimed at upgrading aging facilities, improving sustainability features, and enhancing safety and security.
In addition to larger projects, dozens of smaller projects throughout the region completed in the past year provide better visitor experiences, protect clean water and habitat, and boost operations and efficiency.
At Gleason Boat Ramp, the pumpout and port-a-potty dump station was replaced in a partnership with the Oregon State Marine Board. The pumpout and port-a-potty dump station are provided for free to boaters, which improves water quality by allowing boaters to properly dispose of onboard sewage. Gleason is one of the most popular boating facilities on the Columbia River.
At Blue Lake, a newly installed mini-split HVAC unit in the park office improves security and reduces energy use. A new alarm system equipped with night-vision cameras allows for improved security with continued monitoring of the field yard and office.
4 improvements at Oxbow Regional Park
Big changes are taking shape at Oxbow Regional Park. Improvements at the popular 800-acre park include a new welcome center, a pair of nature-based play areas, 17 more campsites and continued efforts to restore salmon habitat in the Sandy River.
“We’ll be able to provide visitors with a memorable and unique experience and understanding of the natural world at Oxbow,” said park operations manager Monty Woods, whose team welcomed about 195,000 visitors to Oxbow last year.
The projects cost about $3.2 million combined. Funding comes from grants, the 2006 natural areas bond measure and the 2013 parks and natural areas levy.
The new welcome center will serve as a gateway to the park. It will house interpretative displays and materials about the park and provide office space for staff. The 2,600-square-foot center will take the place of the small, 1960s ranger station, which has been demolished. Construction is expected to be complete in the fall.
“It’ll be one-stop shopping for information,” Woods said. “People can feel confident and understand the lay of the land before they head in.”
The number of campsites has expanded from 67 to 84. New sites, which opened before Memorial Day weekend, were built on a new access road. The area was reconfigured to create a more streamlined entry to relieve congestion near the day-use and boat launch area.
The two new children’s nature play areas – a sand and water area and an adventure camp area – include features that tell the story of Oxbow. Construction is expected to be completed by spring 2019.
Metro is intentionally making sure the amenities can be enjoyed by kids who use wheelchairs and cochlear implants and those on the autism spectrum, said Mary Rose Navarro, a Metro grants coordinator.
“I hope they’ll feel really immersed in their play and that it will spark curiosity in the natural world and inspire them to continue to explore,” she said.
Metro and the Portland Water Bureau are working during the summer on separate but related restoration projects along the banks of the Sandy River. The work is part of a multi-year project to improve water quality and restore habitat for native fish.
Two side channels and an alcove will be restored to create deep, slow-moving pools for fish. Hundreds of logs and boulders will be placed in the water to provide resting and hiding spots. The restored channels provide cold water in the summer, when warmer temperatures in the main river become lethal for fish. Next fall and winter, crews will plant native trees, shrubs and grasses.