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Oregon City OKs Metro proposals for trails, picnicking, while protecting habitat

It'll be a little longer than expected before Newell Creek Canyon in Oregon City could emerge as one of the crown jewels among Metro's regional parks and natural areas.

TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO  - A hiker enjoys a trail in Newell Creek Canyon, a natural area in the Oregon City area preserved by Metro thanks to a bond measure. When the Metro Council approved the project in 2016, officials predicted the Newell Creek construction project could be completed by "early 2018" with four miles of hiking and off-road cycling trails, picnic areas, restrooms, parking, etc.

On April 26, Metro Parks Planning Manager Rod Wojtanik presented an update on plans to the Oregon City Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee.

"There was a lot of effort that went into that land-use application and subsequent conversations," Wojtanik said. "There was a lot of geotechnical data that needed to be understood because of the slides and soil types in the canyon."

The plan calls for a day-use area with parking, kiosks, picnic shelters and an overlook. It also envisions 5 miles of trails — 2 miles for hikers, 2 miles for off-road cycling and 1 mile of shared use. Most of the forested canyon will be protected for water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat. Trash accumulated from unauthorized camping and dumping will be removed.

Since 2016, Metro employees have been working with Oregon City staff to obtain land-use approval in order to move forward with construction.

"The land-use process has just taken longer than originally expected," said Yuxing Zheng, Metro spokesperson. "Metro staff met with city officials for the first pre-application conference in March 2016."

After months of discussions, Metro submitted the formal land-use application in early March 2017. The city deemed the application complete in late August 2017.

In March, Oregon City planners gave Metro officials various conditions they would like to see included in the design and construction phases of the project. Metro employees are now reviewing the conditions and working to incorporate them in the design, engineering and construction plans.

By this summer, Wojtanik hope to submit construction documents for development permits. Once those permits are in hand, Metro officials plan to issue a request for proposals later this year to identify contractors to construct the trails and other visitor amenities.

"At this point, construction would most likely occur in 2019, since Oregon City is requesting that construction work occur within specific months," Zheng said. "Pending final land-use approval, the future Newell Creek Canyon Nature Park could open in late 2019 or early 2020."

Voters approved a $227 million regional bond in 2006 and Metro spent some of it on the 233 acres that will be in the natural area. The money for Newell Creek will be drawn from the five-year local option levy that voters approved back in 2013.

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