On Dec. 6, Metro is opening its Newell Creek Canyon Nature Park designed to be a haven of woods and waterways to provide central Oregon City residents place to connect with nature close to home.
Nearly 2 miles of dedicated mountain biking trails are featured as part of 236-acre forested park with a multiuse trail system that provides 2.5 miles of walking and hiking paths. When the Metro Council approved the project in 2016, officials predicted the Newell Creek construction project could be completed by "early 2018."
"It's a long time coming, and I'm super excited," Metro Councilor Christine Lewis said.
Lewis thanked voters for approving parks and nature bonds in 2006 and 2019 to pay for the construction of Newell Creek and other Metro parks and natural areas around the region.
"It's a balance of connecting community to the land and also creating safe habitats and special places for species like frogs and steelhead," Lewis said.
Newell Creek's sensitive habitats support many animals, including beavers, red fox, black-tailed deer, pileated woodpeckers and cottontail rabbits. Lewis acknowledged that Newell Creek canyon has historically struggled with illegal campers destroying habitats in the area.
"We are prepared for that to change," she said. "We believe that by introducing active, positive and consistent staff presence — with the regular use — plus staff there every day, we can and will change the culture of use."
Mayor Rachel Lyles Smith expressed concern about Metro being able to keep the restrooms and park safe and clean. Lewis responded that Metro staff will be walking the trails daily, asking homeless people to move away from the park where camping is illegal, providing alternative resources and moving on to enforcement actions if necessary. Dogs are also banned from Metro parks.
"We operate parks throughout the region and have had a lot of success keeping those amenities nice," Lewis responded. "I do think that having folks on site every day helps that."
When pressed by city commissioners, Lewis said that the county has been slower than originally hoped in helping Metro to respond to the growing regional homelessness crisis.
Oregon City Police Chief Jim Band said he was confident that the various partners would be working together successfully on the issue. While the park itself is in the jurisdiction of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, its parking lot is within city limits.
"I'm confident we'll come up with good solutions," Band said.
Find the parking lot for Newell Creek Canyon Nature Park on Fox Lane just off of Molalla Avenue's intersection with Warner Milne Road. Offering picnic tables at the day-use area, the parking lot will be locked from dusk to dawn.
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