Metro's local share program, by the numbers
$69 million: Amount of money allocated to the local share program from the 1995 and 2006 bond measures
159: Number of natural area sites acquired, totaling 990 acres. Funds have been used to secure inholdings, expand existing natural areas or secure land for new nature parks.
28: Number of traditional park sites acquired, totaling 225 acres. They range from pocket parks to larger recreation areas.
25: Number of restoration projects, part of efforts to improve water quality and restore fish and wildlife habitat
45: Number of park improvement projects, aimed at upgrading aging facilities and providing better visitor amenties and experiences
58: Number of trail acquisition and improvement projects
26: Number of jurisdictions – cities, counties and local parks providers – that have benefited from the local share program
The restoration of a 70-acre wetland park whose shorelines had become so eroded that fishermen admitted to slipping and falling into the pond. The addition of a neighborhood park in an area that lacked one. And the transformation of a parcel into a park with play areas, picnic tables and a walking path.
These are just three projects that have benefited from the "local share" portion of Metro's two natural areas bond measures. The money – $25 million in 1995 and another $44 million in 2006 – has allowed cities, counties and local parks providers in greater Portland to acquire land, improve parks, restore habitat, build trails and invest in other locally important projects that otherwise might not have happened.
"We've been investing in each and every jurisdiction that provides parks services," said Mary Rose Navarro, a senior regional parks planner at Metro who oversees the local share program. "These are projects that have been important to the local communities' enjoyment of nature and has helped contribute to their identity – how access to nature contributes to who they are as a city and the resources that their residents have access to."
Here's a closer look at three projects:
Salish Ponds Wetland Park, Fairview
Salish Ponds Park was once part of a rock quarry. It became a public park in 1999 when Fairview combined the water-filled quarry pits that are now east and west Salish ponds with the surrounding wetlands area.
For years, the state stocked the ponds with trout, but frequent and heavy use of the park eroded the shoreline and destroyed nearby vegetation. The condition of the banks made the park an eyesore, said Allan Berry, Fairview's public works director.
The city used its share of money from Metro's 2006 bond measure – $345,672 – to restore and renovate the park in hopes it would become regionally significant and provide a broad range of environmental experiences, Berry said.
The much-needed improvements included:
- repairing the trails circling the ponds with gravel,
- installing 18 designated fishing platforms,
- providing access for people with disabilities,
- replanting native vegetation,
- refurbishing the restroom with anti-graffiti paint,
- installing wayfinding signs, and
- installing two automated fences to provide easier access for emergency vehicles
Since the improvements, walkers, wildlife enthusiasts and fishermen have all been able to enjoy the park, Berry said.
"It provides an outdoor experience that is rare in the urban environment," he said. "You can walk, fish, bird watch, enjoy the other wildlife species and generally enjoy a relaxing environment all in the confines of an urban setting."
Berry said that Metro's local share money was vital to the project and without the agency's help and commitment, the project would likely never have been successfully completed.
About this series
Metro has invested in community nature projects for more than 25 years. Through this occasional series in 2017-18, we’ll revisit projects that previously received Nature in Neighborhoods grants or local share money to find out where the projects are now and what difference Metro’s investments made.
Jackie Husen Park, Cedar Mill
The park was created in 2001 when Carl Husen sold a 3.88-acre parcel to the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District as a way to memorialize his wife and her love of gardens and natural areas. Another one-acre parcel was acquired in 2008 with $469,449 in local share funding, which allowed the park to have a larger recreation area.
The park improvements, which were largely funded through $717,000 in local share funds, included construction of a covered picnic pavilion with tables and a barbecue grill, a playground area, a large grassy open space for games and gatherings, a paved loop trail, and more benches and picnic tables.
The open field doubles as a practice field for youth soccer teams.
The remaining parkland slopes down to Cedar Mill Creek and has a dense forest canopy. In a portion of the forested area, invasive species were removed and replaced with native shrubs and trees.
The project was completed in 2011. Since then, a quarter-mile path has been built connecting Jackie Husen Park with the adjacent 18-acre Jordan Woods Natural Area, as well as a community garden in an adjacent parcel acquired in 2014.
On-site and on-street parking was also provided, as part of the street improvements required by Washington County.
Rene Brucker, a senior park planner for the district, said the park is well-loved and used daily. Having a park with visitor amenities and a neighboring natural area allows visitors to enjoy a variety of experiences, she said.
"It's really been an excellent park in an area that at the time didn't have too many parks nearby with play equipment," she said.
Brucker said the improvements at Jackie Husen Park are an example of the impact of local share support as the parks district works through its comprehensive plan, a document that lays out its short- and long-term goals and strategies for meeting the community's park, recreation and trail needs.
"There are so many things it's been able to bring to us and provide for our community that may otherwise have taken years to get done," she said. "When the funding isn't available through our normal avenues, then we're looking elsewhere to help us provide these spaces for our patrons."
Stringfield Park, Oak Grove
Stringfield Park, one of North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District's more popular parks, was purchased in 2002. The goal was not only to provide a park in an area that needed one, but also to create a trailhead along the Trolley Trail between Milwaukie and Gladstone and help restore the stream and riparian habitat along Boardman Creek.
The district relied on a variety of funding sources to buy the 4.5-acre property, including local share money from the 1995 bond measure. Metro's local share program also provided an additional $167,149 toward the $1.5 million cost of developing the park.
Improvements included restrooms, a picnic shelter, playground area, parking lot and a loop trail with two bridges that cross the creek.
The large grassy area hosts movies and other events, and the house that was on the property was rehabilitated and is available to community members for small meetings. The county sheriff's office also has a satellite station there.
Work was also done to restore Boardman Creek and create a larger floodplain wetland habitat.
"The community just loves the park," said Tonia Williamson, the natural resources coordinator for the parks district. "We develop a lot of sites, but they're not always as cherished and loved as I feel Stringfield is."
The park project was a partnership between NCPRD and what is now the Oak Lodge Water Services District, and its success has encouraged the two agencies to continue working together on other projects, Williamson said. This summer, work on the Boardman Wetland restoration project just south of Stringfield Park in Jennings Lodge got underway. The project, which will include habitat restoration, a nature trail and an outdoor classroom, was funded in part by a Metro Nature in Neighborhoods grant.
Williamson says having a local source of grant funding to either help acquire or develop a site is "vitally important" since NCPRD’s tax rate is among the lowest in the state and limitations on how the district can spend some money, such as system development charges, requires creative approaches to funding and a need for partnerships.
"This Metro funding is important as far as helping NCRPD implement projects for our community," she said, adding that it also helps them leverage funding from other sources.