Metro regional park plans new campsites, visitor center and play areas near Sandy River.

COURTESY DAO ARCHITECTURE - A 2,600-square-foot visitor center will serve the public and five park rangers at Oxbow Regional Park.  More campsites, two playgrounds and a new visitor center are coming to Oxbow Regional Park near Gresham this summer.

Metro, the tri-county government agency, is investing about $3.2 million in the 1,000-acre park located along the winding bends of the Sandy River. The park at 3010 S.E. Oxbow Parkway lures about 195,000 visitors to East Multnomah County each year.

"This is one of the region's favorite sites and has been long overdue for some updates," Metro Parks and Nature Director Jon Blasher told The Outlook. "This is an opportunity to execute on some of those, based on some great partnerships we have and the voters' investment."

At the top of the list, a new 2,600-square-foot welcome center will offer interpretive exhibits to day trippers and serve as a home base for the park's five rangers and one administrative assistant. The existing 480-square-foot ranger station, which dates back to the 1960s, will be demolished. Construction has already begun and should finish by this fall.

COURTESY DAO ARCHITECTURE - A new visitor center at Oxbow Regional Park will feature informational displays and materials. Campers coming

The number of campsites at Oxbow will grow to 74 from 67, Metro reports. Floodwaters and erosion forced the closure of 10 campsites in 2012, so this expansion replaces those and adds seven more. The camps will be sited along a new access road, which should divert traffic away from the popular boat launch and wooded day-use area.

"(Oxbow) has campsites, direct river and water access. It has enough of the formal amenities within that rugged landscape," Blasher noted. "We also have regular anglers there every morning at 6 a.m."

While the park already has play structures, some of the old equipment was deemed unsafe — and government planners accidentally built one play area in a spot that one day will be swamped by the rising river. The new "adventure camp" play area will have tents, a make-believe kitchen, a firepit, and will let kids construct bear bags and a fort made out of sticks and logs. The second playground will feature a handicap-accessible boat and a surf-and-turf space with sand and water pumps.

The children's areas — located near the boat ramp and the picnic shelters — will be linked by a new trail and an informational kiosk. Construction will run from April to June.

Salmon swimming

In a closely related project, Metro and the Portland Water Bureau are working together to create more cold-water pools and slow-moving meanders for native salmon and steelhead in the Sandy River.

Workers will dump into the water hundreds of boulders and logs in order to create hiding spots and nesting habitats. Other crews will plant indigenous shrubs, grasses and trees along the riverbank.

Some of the funding for these projects flows from the parks bonds passed in 1995 and 2006. Voters also passed an operating levy in 2013 that is also supporting the work at Oxbow.

"We're excited to present these projects that deliver on a promise to voters on our mission to protect water quality, preserve fish and wildlife habit while providing access to nature," Blasher said.

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