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City voices support for park land acquisition

Residents have been working to preserve last 5.65 acres of White Oak Savanna

When the city of West Linn acquired 14 acres of land at the White Oak Savanna in 2009, the idea was to eventually do the same for the remaining 5.65 acres and thus add nearly 20 acres of park space to the city.

That process has proven particularly rigorous for volunteers and City officials alike, but took a significant step Jan. 11 as the City Council unanimously voiced support for West Linn eventually taking title for the remaining 5.65 acres and continuing to search for funding.

“Parks in this community are so important and this is such a unique habitat opportunity with the White Oak Savanna as well,” Mayor Russ Axelrod said.

According to organizer and advocate Roberta Schwarz, community members have donated or pledged about $300,000 in an effort to match the $500,000 grant that Metro awarded to the Trust for Public Land (TPL) back in 2013. The TPL has worked with Schwarz’s Neighbors for a Livable West Linn in an effort to negotiate the eventual sale of the remaining 5.65 acres, which are owned by the RKM Development Corp.

Appearing before the council Monday, Schwarz and TPL Project Manager Owen Wozniak said that Metro’s grant funding was set to expire this month. Thus, they would need formal support from the council before negotiating an extension.

“We are approaching the end of that two-year window (for Metro’s grant),” Wozniak said. “But we have learned that there is an opportunity to extend that window an additional six to eight months if we request that, but they’ve indicated they would like to know if West Linn is interested in proceeding and taking title of the property.”

Now that the City has confirmed that interest, TPL, Neighbors for a Livable West Linn and the West Linn Parks and Recreation Department will work together to explore additional funding opportunities. Neighbors for a Livable West Linn suggested pursuing a Local Government Grant from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, but West Linn Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester said that would be difficult as state funds may also be needed for the Cedaroak Boat Ramp repair project.

“I would be challenged at best, then, to go to the state and say, ‘Which grant do we really want?’” Worcester said. He also noted that the remaining 5.65 acres are currently zoned for commercial/residential use, which would technically prohibit the conversion to a park in the absence of a zoning change.

Under City code, parks are allowed in areas zoned “residential.”

With Worcester’s guidance, the council’s direction Monday was for staff to work on a general funding plan without honing in on any particular grant at this time.

Meanwhile, Worcester said planning continues for the “nature playground” which will be installed at the 14 city-owned acres of the White Oak Savanna. On Feb. 27, the City will host a workshop for young students to share design ideas for the playground.

“The goal is to provide an experience that will enhance the benefits of why we bought the first 14 acres,” Worcester said.

For more information, visit tpl.org/our-work/parks-for-people/white-oak-savanna.

Patrick Malee can be reached at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..