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A new 42-acre public park is taking shape in Hillsboro, and wildlife in the area should be pleased as well because city officials envision the site as a nature preserve.by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - A 42-acre area behind this fence is being restored as a nature park expected to be open to the public within two years €sˇÃ„î perhaps sooner if Hillsboro´s efforts to secure a $500,000 grant from Oregon´s Parks & Recreation Department are successful.

The property, which will be known as Orenco Woods Nature Park, is located at the intersection of Cornelius Pass Road and Quatama Road. It was purchased by the city of Hillsboro and Metro in 2011, but just this month, the Hillsboro City Council took another big step toward transforming the parcel into a park.

In early April, the city council unanimously approved a grant application to help recover some of the money the city spent to purchase the land. With the council’s approval in hand, last week the Hillsboro Parks & Recreation Department submitted an application for a $500,000 state grant from the Oregon Parks & Recreation Department.

The state is expected to make a decision on the grants in August.

“The park site is a true gem in the city with scenic vistas, a meandering creek and plenty of wildlife,” said Mary Loftin, community resources manager for Hillsboro’s Parks & Recreation Department.

The appealing greenspace with rolling hills used to be a golf course, and it came close to becoming a dense residential development. In 2007, a company called Venture Properties owned the entire site, and most of the land was slated to become a 255-house neighborhood. However, when the economy turned sour a few years ago, the company folded and the land was foreclosed by U.S. Bank.

Trust for Public Land (TPL) purchased the property from the bank in 2010, and not long after that the city of Hillsboro partnered with Metro to buy the acreage to set aside as a nature park.

The price tag was nearly $4.5 million. Hillsboro put up roughly $2.5 million, while Metro kicked in the remaining $2 million. The two agencies now co-own the parcel.

“Acquiring Orenco Woods for a nature park was remarkable in many ways: the timing, the partnership and the ability to purchase it during the economic downturn at a fraction of its former value,” said Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey.

Loftin said the parcel is an ideal candidate to be a nature park.

“This is one of the largest pieces of land within the city limits where we can develop a nature park and keep wildlife habitat protected,” Loftin said. “The community will be able to enjoy it and not disturb habitat. And Rock Creek runs through it.”

However, there is still a lot of work to do before the park can be opened to the public.

“We need to rebuild the walking bridges and trails and add restrooms,” she explained.

In addition, there will be new landscaping with native plants and riparian work along the creek.

The enhancements will take time. Loftin estimated it will be another year and a half to two years before the land is opened to the public.

“Grant funds will help us to replenish park funds to be used for future development of this site, so we can make it available to the public sooner rather than later,” Willey explained.

In another financial move related to the planned park, the city of Hillsboro has sold 10.3 acres from a pre-existing city-owned parcel on the southeast border of the 42-acre parcel.

Polygon Developers purchased the 10-acre parcel from the city for $4 million, and plans to build single-family residences on the property. The money from the sale will go to help offset the cost for the Orenco Woods purchase and to pay for redevelopment of the adjoining 42 acres as a nature park.

“The purpose of this sale was to partition off the open, buildable land that was well suited for development; to strike a balance between preservation as a nature park and ensuring enough area for residential sites within the urban growth boundary,” explained Loftin.

When completed, Orenco Woods Nature Park will become Hillsboro’s second largest park. The largest — Rood Bridge Park — encompasses 61 acres.

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