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Metro Council ratifies Riverwalk agreement

It joins state, Clackamas County and Oregon City in Willamette Falls project.


The Metro Council made it official Thursday (March 31) when it became the last of four agencies to ratify an agreement for development of public access to Willamette Falls.

The council did so at a meeting at the Museum of the Oregon Territory, which overlooks the falls in Oregon City.

“This is the perfect place to have this meeting,” said Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette, whose district includes the site.

Metro joins Oregon City, Clackamas County and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department in a partnership to build the Riverwalk. All four agencies will contribute staff time. Metro will oversee design efforts, and a conceptual design for the walkway is expected later this year.

The agencies hope that the Riverwalk will generate spinoff economic effects to offset the 2011 bankruptcy of Blue Heron Paper Co., whose closure cost 175 jobs. The former paper mill is just downstream of the falls.

Clackamas County will have the lead role in economic development efforts.

Commissioner Tootie Smith said the project will attract tourists.

“I think everyone deserves the opportunity to get close enough to the magnificent Willamette Falls that they feel the spray and the mist and the energy of the water,” she said. “This synergy of jobs and tourism is unprecedented.”

Commissioner Martha Schrader echoed many when she said: “My hope is that this is a catalyst for job creation and economic development.”

Of the $25 million planned for the initial phase, about 80 percent has been raised, $12.5 million of it from state lottery-backed bonds, $5 million from Metro bonds, and $1.25 million from Oregon City.

Among others who spoke were City Manager Tony Konkol of Oregon City, former Oregon City Mayor Alice Norris, Jonathan Stone, executive director of Main Street Oregon City, and M.G. Devereux, deputy director of the state parks agency.

Norris said advocates are preparing a request for Congress to designate the falls as a national heritage area; there are 49 such areas under the National Park Service.

Although the Metro Council and Clackamas County have clashed on other issues, this was not one of them.

“Metro is nothing but a good partner bringing resources to the table,” Councilor Bob Stacey said.

“This could well be the most visited site in Oregon,” surpassing Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge, said Metro Councilor Shirley Craddock.

“It will serve as a remarkable display of what we can accomplish when we work together,” said Metro Council President Tom Hughes.

pwong@pamplinmedia.com

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Adds comment by Metro Council President Tom Hughes.