Featured Stories

Kudos to those supporting the wild places

Development and growth seems to be happening all around us these days. In recent weeks, we’ve seen numerous large trees coming down along Cornelius Pass Road and along Baseline Road — including, sadly, in front of Noble Woods Park — as road-widening projects kick into high gear, and soon trees will be falling in the South Hillsboro area.

A couple months ago, a long row of sequoia trees was chain-sawed down to make way for a new WalMart at the corner of Cornelius Pass Road and Baseline Street, and just across the street on the other corner, a new housing complex resulted in another large parcel of land being cleared of trees.

The community is losing its green spaces at an alarming rate as planners and developers make way for more houses, more businesses — and more automobiles and trucks.

But those who are concerned about the loss of natural areas of fields and trees can take heart in knowing that in some quarters at least, protection and enhancement of parks and green areas is being pursued just as fervently as commercial development.

Specifically, we’ve been tracking two impressive projects planned for Hillsboro and Banks. In Banks, Metro is taking the lead role in enhancing the Killin Wetlands Natural Area. Killin Wetlands is a 590-acre marsh that is home to a number of rare plants and animals, and Metro is working to preserve and protect the unique wetlands habitat.

In 2013, voters passed a Metro bond measure that will allow Metro to fund improvements and maintenance on a variety of properties included in its expansive Natural Areas Program, which encompasses approximately 13,000 acres around the area. The Natural Areas Program is geared toward protecting water quality, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreational opportunities, and funds created from passage of the bond measure are making the Killin Wetlands project possible.

Metro plans additional restoration at the Killin Wetlands site, and also wants to provide for relatively light public access. Currently there is essentially no access to the wetlands, and those interested in watching birds or other wildlife in the area create congestion along Northwest Cedar Canyon Road, a potential safety hazard for pedestrians and motorists alike.

To address the situation, Metro is proposing to build a short trail — roughly half a mile — and create a viewing platform for people to observe wildlife. A small parking area to accommodate 20 or fewer cars is also envisioned.

As long as vehicle access is sharply limited, we believe this is a good plan, and there is no doubt that the Killin Wetlands area deserves preservation.

Another impressive project taking shape is the 42-acre Orenco Woods Nature Park in Hillsboro. This site, bordered by Northwest Cornelius Pass Road on the east, Quatama Road to the south and a MAX line to the north, had once been slated for a major housing development — 280 units were proposed on the property — but the Great Recession of 2008 killed those plans. In the wake of that scuttled development plan, in 2011 the Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Department, with Metro and the Trust for Public Land as partners, purchased the 42 acres.

The property includes the Malcolm McDonald House, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in January. The two-story, 8,500-square-foot Craftsman-style house, built in 1911-12, is a beautiful example of some of the finest architecture and construction from that era. It was built for the president of the Oregon Nursery Company, the business that founded the Orenco community.

The land that comprises what is envisioned as the Orenco Woods Nature Park is currently closed off, but plans to open it to the public are well under way. When completed in a couple years, the park is expected to include a network of trails; the meandering Rock Creek corridor will be reforested; wetlands will be enhanced; and oak trees will be planted. The Malcolm McDonald House — which had faced an uncertain fate had the previous multi-family housing development plans gone forward — will be repaired and restored.

In an era of continuing growth, congestion and the loss of open spaces to development, these two projects are especially welcome and encouraging.

In a presentation before the Hillsboro City Council earlier this month, Metro councilor Kathryn Harrington pointed to the benefits of projects such as the ones being proposed for Killin Wetlands and for Orenco Woods Nature Park.

“Preserving and restoring land and providing safe access benefits every one of us,” said Harrington. “All citizens and businesses benefit by clean water and wildlife restoration around the area.”

We completely agree.


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