Metro asks voters to plant seeds for future parks, open space

Measure 26-80 could benefit local projects

On the November ballot crowded 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 26-80 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.

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

The bond would provide an estimated $2.6 million for Beaverton and $4.1 million for Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District to make the land purchases, Ray said.

If approved, Metro's measure would cost taxpayers 19 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, meaning the owner of a $175,000 house would pay between $30 and $35 a year for the bond.

Carl Hosticka, a Metro representative whose district includes Beaverton, Durham, King City, Sherwood, Tigard and Tualatin, said the bond is the type of cause voters generally support.

Susan McLain, Metro's District 4 councilor, who represents Forest Grove, Northern Washington County and Cornelius, said she's optimistic the bond will get voter approval.

'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 the Measure 26-80.

'It's a willing-sellers program,' she said. 'And we will not condemn (property).'

She hopes the agency is able to purchase as much land as possible inside the urban growth boundary.

Although McLain said local farmers were skeptical of the measure, she and other Metro councilors have worked out an agreement to ease Washington County Farm Bureau fears.

Under the deal, Metro will consult the farm bureau and Oregon's Department of Agriculture before buying some land, she said.

'We're going to take (their) advice,' said McLain.

A final piece of the Measure 26-80 would set aside $15 million, allowing non-profit organizations - schools, community groups and others - to apply for funding to support neighborhood projects.

That means that some areas could be set aside for acquisition of natural areas, development of community gardens, habitat restoration, interpretive displays and other uses.

Hosticka said that portion of the measure could mean that certain portions of areas such as Bull Mountain could be set aside under the capital grants program.

'They (groups) make a proposal to get money from us and they match that money,' said Hosticka.

He said he doesn't see property acquired by the bond as land tied to any particular jurisdiction.

'It's the citizens' land,' he said. 'They own it.'

Bond wish list includes regional projects

Beaverton, Jordan-Husen Park: Develop visitor facilities at Jordan-Husen Park.

Beaverton, Willow Creek: Acquire land along Willow Creek linking two existing parks.

Beaverton, central area park: Acquire land to expand an existing park site in Central Beaverton; develop visitor facilities.

Beaverton, Beaverton Creek: Restore Beaverton Creek channel between Cedar Hills Boulevard and Hocken Avenue.

Beaverton, Beaverton Creek Trail: Acquire and develop a segment of the Beaverton Creek Trail.

Beaverton, Griffith Park: Construct trail around Griffith Park which will provide future regional trail connections.

Beaverton, Beaverton Creek Trail and park: Acquire land west of Highway 217 and north of Allen Boulevard for future Beaverton Creek Trail and park.

Beaverton, Sexton Mountain: Acquire natural area near Sexton Mountain Elementary School.

Beaverton, Sexton Mountain: Restore and enhance reservoir site near Sexton Mountain Meadows Park.

Beaverton, southwest area park and natural area: Acquire land for a new park and/or natural area.

Washington County, various locations: Acquire natural areas and land for future trail corridors.

Washington County, parks and trails north of Sunset Highway: Acquire land for parks and trails in newly developing areas north of Sunset Highway in Washington County.

Westside Trail: This 24-mile north/south alignment stretches from the Tualatin River in Tigard north through Beaverton, unincorporated Washington County and Multnomah Counties through Forest Park to the Willamette River. The corridor, located within one mile of over 120,000 residents, and near numerous parks, schools, regional centers and the MAX line, could become a primary Westside recreation and commuter spine.

Cooper Mountain: Acquiring remaining oak communities and streamside forests will build on the investment already made in protecting Oregon white oak and rare prairie habitat at Cooper Mountain near Beaverton.