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Measure 26-20 earmarks funds for several Forest Grove projects

Crowding its way onto the November ballot, along with a slew of money measures aimed at everything from building schools to public safety, is a bond to protect natural areas and purchase land for future parks.

Metro's Measure 26-20 provides $227.4 million to purchase up to 4,500 acres of already identified regional target areas to ensure lands around rivers and streams are preserved or enhanced.

In addition, $44 million has been earmarked for the region's cities, counties and park districts that could be used to buy property for habitat protection or for future parks.

'The local projects were developed by the local jurisdictions,' said Ken Ray, a senior public affairs coordinator for Metro.

Ray said Metro gave governing bodies guidelines on what that land could be used for, specifically for purchase of land for parks, improving trails or habitat areas.

'The one thing they can't do is use it for active recreation purposes,' said Ray.

That means the land can't be purchased outright with the intention of using the site for a soccer field. However, there's nothing that would stop a jurisdiction from purchasing land for a future park and later adding a soccer field at its own expense at a later date, he said.

Proposed local projects include:

Forest Grove

- A forested area near Thatcher Road

- A trailhead near Gales Creek.

- Land to expand Lincoln Park

- Access to a donated wooded parcel known as Stites Nature Park.

Cornelius

- Land near tributaries of the Tualatin River close to South Linden Street.

- Public access to the Tualatin River Greenway near South 12th Avenue.

- Land to expand Free Orchard Park at the city's east end.

- Property for a future park off Holladay Drive.

- Land for trails and improved access near Council Creek.

Officials say Metro's contributions to the projects are based on population. Larger cities will get a bigger piece of the pie.

For Forest Grove, Metro would pitch in an estimated $604,474, Ray said.

If approved, Metro's measure would cost taxpayers 19 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, meaning the owner of a $200,000 house would pay $38 a year for the bond.

A final piece of the Measure 26-20 would set aside $15 million to allow non-profit organizations and other groups to apply for funding to support neighborhood projects.

Susan McLain, Metro's District 4 councilor, who represents Forest Grove and Cornelius, said she's optimistic the bond will pass.

'We wouldn't have put it on the ballot if we wouldn't have had a push from the public,' she said.

After a similar but less inclusive Metro open spaces bond passed in 1995, McLain said many voters kept asking her when the regional planning agency would come out with 'a second chapter.'

In 1995, voters approved Metro's $135.6 million open spaces bond to purchase natural areas and greenways. McLain said that measure promised to acquire at least 6,000 acres for open spaces. Ultimately 8,000 acres were purchased, with land coming from people who wanted to sell as well as those who simply donated land, she said.

McLain stressed that Metro has no plans to seize land as part of Measure 26-20. 'It's a willing-sellers program,' she said. 'And we will not condemn (property).'