Willamette Falls’ revitalization project took another historic step on Monday with the Oregon Legislature approving $5 million in funding from the state.

Last month a developer bid $4.1 million on the 23-acre site of the bankrupt Blue Heron paper mill in Oregon City. Since Willamette Falls is the second largest waterfall by volume in the United States, state and local leaders see its potential to be one of Oregon’s premier tourist attractions.

It is likely that Gov. John Kitzhaber will sign the Willammette Falls funding into law since he suggested the funding amount earlier this year. State Rep. Brent Barton (D-Oregon City) has been working with community leaders, local businesses, Metro and others to move forward with the project despite that fact that the governor’s recommended budget included a $10 million local match. That match proved impossible for local governmental agencies to promise.

“Even though the governor recommended it, it was not easy not easy to get this approved in its final form,” Barton said of the June 8 vote. “The Willamette Falls site is unique in Oregon — it presents a better than once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “

Barton credited the Oregon City Chamber of Commerce and Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette of Milwaukie as crucial in the lobbying effort for state funding.

“I appreciate the state’s partnering with local governments in reimagining Willamette Falls,” Collette said.

by: PHOTO BY: NICK FOCHTMAN - The 23-acre former Blue Heron Paper Co. property below Willamette Falls is beautiful year-round, so state lawmakers on July 8 set aside $5 millon for the site.

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