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Metro buys park land near Oregon City

by: PHOTO COURTESY: METRO - Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette, left, walks with a group visiting Canemah Bluff Natural Area near Oregon City.In less than three minutes on a rainy Monday in front of the Clackamas County Courthouse, with $124,000 from a 2006 bond measure, Metro locked up a 22-acre parcel in the middle of the Canemah Bluff Natural Area just east of Oregon City.

The regional government filled a “hole” that split the land into two sections. With the new addition, Metro now owns a continuous expanse of 330 voter-protected acres overlooking the Willamette River.

“I don't think there's any place in the Willamette River basin — and I'm thinking of the whole river basin — that is more spectacular,” said Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette, who represents North Clackamas County. “There are very few places where you can get up on a cliff and see upstream and downstream, and in the spring, very few places that have so much camas lily that the place just turns blue.”

METRO NEWS

Stories Nick Christensen writes for Metro are not edited or altered by the regional agency or the Metro Council. Christensen is a Metro employee, but provides independent reporting on the agency. Metro news is committed to transparency, fairness and accuracy.

Visitors already can explore more than 100 acres of the natural area next to Oregon City’s Canemah Neighborhood Children’s Park. To the south, an additional 200 acres of protected land did not connect with the public natural area — until Monday.

Metro officials said they made offers on the land prior to the foreclosure auction that were declined, leaving them baffled as the property headed toward auction.

On Jan. 24, the Metro Council passed a vague resolution authorizing chief operating officer Martha Bennett to purchase an unspecified property near Canemah Bluff for an undisclosed price. The specifics had been discussed in an executive session but were left private so as not to affect the regional government's bidding on the property.

The sale price of about $5,600 per acre is well below the inflation-adjusted $27,000 per acre Metro paid, on average, for the other 307 acres along Canemah Bluff. It's the least expensive property, per acre, Metro has bought at the site.

On Monday, Bennett traveled to Oregon City with Hope Whitney, one of the agency's lead real estate lawyers, and Rick Preston, another attorney, for the foreclosure auction. In the rain, the three stood in front of the county courthouse, looking for the trustee who was going to announce the sale.

Shortly before 10 a.m., they found him — in a black trenchcoat, carrying a briefcase, Mike Gottlieb chatted with the three before beginning the foreclosure sale.

He then started the auction at $123,320.49.

"Does anyone wish to enter a higher bid?" Gottlieb asked.

"$124," Whitney said.

"Any other bids?" Gottlieb asked. There was no response. "There being no other bids, the bid of $124,000 from Metro is declared to be the highest and best bidder."

Metro has acquired land piece by piece as opportunities arise, investing funds from two natural areas bond measures designed to protect water quality, wildlife habitat and opportunities to enjoy nature.




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