Metro says Blue Heron site study doesn't block public access
An environmental study of an abandoned industrial site near Willamette Falls didnt turn up anything to deter Metro officials studying whether to try to buy the former Blue Heron Paper Mill.
Metro has been looking at the Blue Heron site for more than a year, since the paper company declared bankruptcy, freeing up the area for possible redevelopment and public access. The property is held by a bankruptcy court trustee.
Willamette Falls is the second-largest waterfall in North America by volume, but opportunities for viewing it are scant because of the industrial operations that were founded there 170 years ago to harness the power of the falling water.
Metro councilors were briefed on the site in an executive session on Thursday; members of the media are allowed to attend such sessions but cannot report on whats discussed there.
After the executive session, Councilor Carlotta Collette said she heard that the council does not want to stop the project. She said moving forward, some of the work could include planning the site.
People were not yet ready to say, Yeah, lets do it, she said. I think the support will come, but there are still questions that need to be answered.
Jim Desmond, director of Metros Sustainability Center and head of the natural areas program, said he couldnt publicly share the results of the environmental investigation because Metro does not own the property.
We have not discovered anything that would render redevelopment of the parcel obviously infeasible, Desmond said
The study cost $650,000, of which about $450,000 was paid for through Metros natural areas program.
Because the property is in the Willamette Greenway and would improve river access, Desmond said it would qualify for money from Metros natural areas bond program.
When asked if the cost of acquiring Blue Heron might top the $6.1 million Metro spent on Chehalem Ridge as the most expensive purchase in the bond programs history, Desmond said, I think thats highly unlikely I dont know if were buying it. Thats a pretty speculative question, and a speculative answer at this point.