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“There are many things that excite me about this project,”17-year-old Jasmine Dolores Cruz said at the opening of a recent zoom meeting. “I’m excited that we get to collaborate and talk about it as a community. I’m excited about the learning opportunity.”
Cruz is one of 12 people, of diverse ages and backgrounds, selected to find out more about the existing garbage and recycling system and to share thoughts about the proposed location of the new recycling and transfer center in Cornelius.
Metro currently owns two such sites – one in Oregon City and another in Northwest Portland – where commercial companies as well as private residents drop off all kinds of different waste. It’s then sorted. Some materials get pulled out to be recycled. The rest is trucked off to landfill.
Since August, Metro has worked with Centro Cultural to organize virtual community meetings with the Washington County group.
“I appreciate this process and the chance to talk about education, about recycling and why it’s important,” Mayra Hernandez added during the zoom.
As a group, they’ve also discussed concerns about safety, traffic and common nuisances associated with these sites. They looked at environmental justice – the concept, formalized by federal policy, that everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender or income, has the right to live in healthy environments – and asked how its principals relate to this project.
And they’ve compared examples of modern recycling and transfer stations – like this one in Seattle – that looks vastly different from Metro’s decades-old facilities.
(Video courtesy of Seattle Channel)
“Participation in the group has made me more aware of the environment,” says Linda Galbreath, resident at Forest Hill Mobile Home Estates. “It’s opened my eyes to what can be recycled and what we do with things like Styrofoam and batteries.”
She even says she is more conscious of conserving water when she washes dishes these days.
“I think building [a facility] in Cornelius would be a good idea because now you have to go all the way to Portland or Oregon City to take your paints or household hazards and things like that,” Galbreath says. “And, plus, it will create jobs for people in the area.”
Participants want engagement and transparency throughout the process
Arturo Villaseñor has lived, worked and recycled in the area for 20 years. He says that he has learned, through his participation in the community advisory group, a bit more about the system behind transfer stations and how they can be managed.
“As other people in the group have said in the discussions," Villaseñor says, "I would like to see a facility that maintains clean air and an attractive exterior, one that stays on top of odors and pest problems, one that doesn’t result in traffic issues.”
Dan Blue, Metro systems planning manager, understands that concerns he’s heard about some facilities are real. During a presentation last month about addressing some of the challenges, Blue said, “Metro will work closely with neighbors to design a facility that mitigates these issues as best we can and to work with the City of Cornelius and neighbors on operating procedures.”
If Metro Council moves forward with the purchase of property in Cornelius, both Villaseñor and Galbreath say that they would welcome the opportunity to continue providing feedback – on things like the kinds of services that a new recycling and transfer center could offer the community and how it might be designed.
Metro Council expects to decide on Dec. 17 whether or not to buy the property.
“I am very much in favor of a transfer station,” says Villaseñor. “But if or when construction begins, I want them [Metro and other agencies] to respect any promises made about the project.”
To this point, Gloria Pinzón, Metro community engagement specialist who has helped facilitate the meetings, believes public involvement will be essential to ensure this project becomes an asset to the local community and the region.
“Meaningful involvement means that people have an opportunity to participate in the decision making about activities that may affect their environment and health,” she says.