Gabbert Butte Nature Park is one step closer to becoming a reality.
Several dozen community members asked questions and provided feedback on a master plan for the future nature park Dec. 5 at a third and final open house, hosted by Metro and the City of Gresham.
Both Metro and the city own land at Gabbert Butte, which rises to the south of downtown Gresham. The partnership is working to create more welcoming entryways and trailheads, improve the trail system and enhance connections with nearby trails while protecting important natural resources and habitat.
A more inclusive planning process
Gabbert Butte planners are piloting the “Connect with Nature” model, a process intended to better incorporate the ideas of communities of color early and throughout the planning process to create spaces more welcoming to all cultures.
Olena Turula, senior parks planner at Metro, is leading the Gabbert Butte project.
“Connect with Nature was a pilot that was started to look at our system as a whole, to look at the types of facilities, public access and amenities and work to make them more welcoming for communities of color.”
Ruth Jensen served as a community leader, representing and recruiting members of the Native community to participate in Gabbert Butte planning. Participants attended meetings, visited the site of the future park and regularly provided feedback.
Jensen appreciates the opportunity to share her perspective.
“Metro took the time, effort and budget to sit and listen to communities of color in an intentional way,” Jensen said. “I feel grateful that our voices were heard. Not only heard, but really sought out.”
Jensen thinks that Connect with Nature has been a resounding success. She’s thrilled that Metro will be creating a toolkit from the pilot and making it available for other planners to use throughout the region.
“It’s another way for these voices to be carried forth. Lessons learned can be shared with others who want to use this kind of model to hear diverse voices and honor their values.”
Tina Osterink, who represents the City of Gresham within the Gabbert Butte project, is excited about the toolkit, too.
“We're building in some time at the end of this project to reflect on the process and look at how we can better build diversity, equity and inclusion into our parks planning — and into our planning in general.”
Expanding public use while protecting important habitat
Gabbert Butte is one of six buttes within Gresham city limits. About 150 acres, the site is surrounded by residential neighborhoods to the east and west, and natural areas to the north and south.
The East Buttes contain some of the largest contiguous wildlife habitat in the region. The natural areas protect many tributaries that flow into Johnson Creek. Forests along these streams keep water cool and clean for salmon and other wildlife downstream.
In 2009 ecologists discovered some surprising residents at Gabbert Butte — rare Oregon slender salamanders — a species thought to only live in old-growth forests. The East Buttes were logged decades ago.
Melanie Klym is on the board of the Johnson Creek Watershed Council and works as a water resources engineer. She came to the open house because it’s important to her that the Gabbert Butte plan minimizes negative impact on the environment and wildlife.
“My biggest point of concern was related to the adjacent wetlands and keeping that aquatic to terrestrial connection for amphibians,” Klym said. “It's good to see the proposed design at the final event is acknowledging this.”
Narda Tolentino lives near Gabbert Butte and hikes the trails there nearly every day with her husband. She came to the open house to advocate for better trail signage.
“We have come upon other hikers, on weekends especially, who are confused by where the trails go. Then they get lost,” Tolentino said. “Some signage along the trails, especially along the trailheads, would be a good idea.”
Weigh in on the Gabbert Butte Nature Park master plan. The survey will be open through Jan. 4, 2019.