A canoe and kayak launch on the Tualatin River, public access to Chehalem Ridge, and several other parks and nature projects will be on the ground sooner or will include more improvements than previously expected.
Metro councilors unanimously gave the green light Thursday to accelerate the projects, which became possible because of the agency’s financial stability.
Money for the capital projects comes from the 2006 natural areas bond measure that voters approved. A strong bond rating secured a tremendous rate, freeing up additional money.
Metro has already purchased about 5,000 acres of natural areas with the 2006 bond measure, surpassing its commitment to voters. Protecting land continues to be the top priority but, eight years into the bond, Metro is focused on filling gaps or adding to existing natural areas.
Councilor Shirley Craddick said the new opportunity “allows us to get the most out of these bonds.”
“It’s allowing us to be so much more effective in the work that can be done,” she said. “It’s a very remarkable accomplishment. All of us as a region need to pat ourselves on the back for the opportunities this is bringing us.”
The accelerated projects include:
- Tualatin paddle launch: Paddlers will be able to launch canoes, kayaks and other nonmotorized boats at a site at Southwest Farmington and Southwest River roads south of Hillsboro. Upcoming construction work will leverage two other grants totaling $464,000. The project will complete the first part of the Tualatin River Water Trail, which calls for river access points every five miles, as well as restore riparian areas and floodplains and improve water quality.
- Fanno Creek Greenway Trail: Hikers, walkers and bicyclists will enjoy better connections on the popular regional trail after a key gap is closed. Metro partnered with Tigard in 2012 to purchase a 26-acre natural area in the heart of Tigard just east of the Tigard Public Library. Building the trail at the site will help connect an urban part of the region with the Tualatin River, while also protecting water quality along Fanno Creek and its tributaries.
- Chehalem Ridge: The master planning process will move forward on the 1,200-acre forest near Gaston. The additional money will allow the construction of some trails and other improvements that the public will be able to access.
- River Island: Work will soon begin to restore the 240-acre former gravel mine on the Clackamas River. Record floods in 1996 forever altered the site, but now there’s a unique opportunity to return the area to its natural setting. The project will balance restoration work that improves water quality and preserves habitat for endangered fish and wildlife with access to a spot enjoyed by anglers and boaters.
- Other projects will focus on closing key gaps in other important and popular regional trails.
All of the projects to boost public access to nature were already in the works, but the agency will now be able to leverage the additional money – about $15 million to $20 million – with grants and the 2013 parks and natural areas levy that voters approved.
Councilor Kathryn Harrington said the projects highlighted the “really phenomenal work that’s going on.”
“It really illustrates how it increases access for the members of our community, making those key connections whether through various trails or even a water trail versus a physical path trail,” Harrington said. “These are valuable investments for our community members.”