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The concept plan calls for half a mile of trails, a 'nature play area' and a small parking lot.

COURTESY MAP: METRO - The East Council Creek Natural Area runs along Council Creek north of Cornelius. The property is owned by Metro, which seeks to develop it as a 'nature park' with a limited trail system for walking and wildlife viewing.Changes could be afoot for some 35 acres of undeveloped land just north of Cornelius.

The regional government Metro held an open house at Centro Cultural de Washington County last Wednesday, May 30, to share its "final" proposed concept plans for what it calls the East Council Creek Natural Area. Metro planners hope to develop the area as a "nature park" with a trail system running along the south bank of Council Creek. Project manager Olena Turula said last week's open house came just a little more than a year after the first open house Metro held on the project.

The Metro staff proposal for the nature park calls for a limited parking area with just eight spaces, with additional off-street parking available in the neighborhoods to the south and west.

"It is one of our smaller sites," acknowledged Rod Wojtanik, Metro's parks and nature planning manager. "Historically, we've had chances to open properties to the public that were 200-, 300-acre sites or larger where we could develop a more extensive trail network."

Wojtanik said Metro envisions up to about a half-mile of trails in the East Council Creek Natural Area once park amenities are fully built out — a very modestly sized system.

"We feel that with the extent of the trail network, it's probably not going to be a big regional draw. It will serve as more of a neighborhood natural experience," said Wojtanik, adding, "We don't anticipate the site drawing more than eight cars at one time."

As on all Metro park and natural area properties, pets will not be permitted, Wojtanik said.

Planning is being done with children and families in mind. One element of the proposed concept plan is an "off-trail play and exploration area," where Wojtanik suggested kids could play on boulders or logs or build with natural building materials placed for their enjoyment. The area will not feature play structures, swing sets or similar equipment.

"We want kids to play like kids did 100 years ago, not on play equipment," Wojtanik said. "Not to say that play equipment isn't important — it's just we want to provide nature-based play experiences."

"It's a nature park, and we really want kids to be playing in nature and with natural objects," Turula added.

Along with soft-surface trails along the south side of Council Creek, Wojtanik said planners would like the East Council Creek Natural Area to have a boardwalk to allow people to access the creek in all seasons. He said staff believe that visitors will want to "visually connect with water" on the site.

The proposed concept plan must be approved by the Metro Council before it becomes official.

"We are currently looking at presenting to Metro Council sometime either in late summer or fall," Turula said.

Metro has been funding the planning project through a voter-approved levy. Turula said the design and engineering phase of the project, which will begin after the Metro Council grants plan approval, is also funded. Sources of funding for construction have not yet been identified, Wojtanik said, and a price tag for a first phase of development has yet to be determined.

If the funding can be lined up, Metro envisions construction beginning as soon as the summer of 2020.

The regional government has held multiple public events to gather feedback, some of which is displayed on the project website. Wojtanik said Metro has been "very pleased" with its community engagement and the attendance at those events.

"I think it's an important resource for people in the neighborhood now, and they're looking forward to formalized improvements," he said of the East Council Creek Natural Area.

Turula noted the natural area is "pretty difficult to currently access." With trails and other amenities now planned for the area, she added, "We're hoping that people have an opportunity to access nature close to home."

By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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