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Doug Neeley, chair of the Greater Oregon City Watershed Council, is a former Oregon City mayor

Clackamas County's natural beauty, green spaces and parks make it a truly one-of-a-kind place to live. Places like the Canemah Bluff and Mount Talbert nature parks give us inspiring places to walk and explore right in our own backyard. These thoughtful investments didn't happen by accident. They happened because people came together and voted to preserve them.

In fact, it was our region's natural areas that moved me to participate in local elections in the first place. In the mid-1990s, I was part of a campaign for Metro's bond measure to protect the Newell Creek Canyon in the midst of rapid development. Back then, our yes votes set in motion the investments that preserved treasured places like Newell Creek Canyon, so they could become new nature parks.

Today, I'm standing for another crucial bond investment to preserve the outdoors — Measure 26-203, Nature for All. Without raising taxes, this critical bond measure renews our region's previous investments in parks, hiking and biking trails, and conservation. It also expands and improves parks in communities across the Metro region, ensuring that all families — regardless of zip code or income — have access to green places to play for decades to come. In North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District alone, the bond will support more than 40 parks, 25 natural areas and 15 miles of trails.

Our yes votes on Measure 26-203 in November will also invest $20 million in the much-anticipated Willamette Falls riverwalk project. During my time as mayor, Oregon City, Metro, Clackamas County, and the state of Oregon started a unique partnership to create a public visioning process for what is now the Willamette Falls Riverwalk. I am thrilled to see that the long-term commitment to this effort is now being transformed into reality and will be funded by Measure 26-203 with critical support from Willamette Falls Trust, the Oregon City-based nonprofit charged with championing an iconic experience at the falls.

The riverwalk at Willamette Falls will be more than just a walkway — it includes additional recreational opportunities and enhancements along the river that provide protection for the juvenile salmon that migrate from the Willamette River to the Pacific Ocean. It will bring people from far and wide to enjoy the wonder of Willamette Falls while at the same time ensuring that the surrounding natural habitats are preserved for our grandchildren to one day experience.

With Measure 26-203, we can once again commit to the long-term future of our region, by protecting forests and open spaces, and preserving areas that are important for wildlife habitat and recreation. This iDoug Neeleyncludes purchasing and protecting lands such as the Clackamas River bluffs and greenway, Tonquin oak woodlands, Abernethy Creek and Molalla River, which also safeguard our clean air and clean water. With the passage of the Nature for All bond, we can also provide financial and technical support to watershed councils who are doing the important work of enhancing fish spawning, rearing and passage throughout Clackamas County.

These are all crucial investments in our future sustainability and the livability of our region. With the previous bond authority coming to an end, we need to renew our commitment to parks, nature and iconic projects like the Willamette Falls riverwalk.

One thing is certain, our region is growing by leaps and bounds. And now is the time to ensure that, as we expand and flourish, we are putting critical plans and strategies in place to safeguard nature in our communities, to preserve our water quality, and ensure that our grandkids have green spaces to enjoy. And when we can do all of that without raising taxes, it's an easy choice.

For that reason, I encourage my fellow Clackamas citizens to vote "yes" on Nature for All, Measure 26-203. Because a vote for Nature for All today is a vote for all of us — and for the generations to come.

Doug Neeley, chair of the Greater Oregon City Watershed Council, is a former Oregon City mayor.


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