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Metro Measure 26-203 Land Grab

By Eric Fruits, Ph.D.

Soon, Portland area voters will receive their November ballots. One of the items is Measure 26-203: a $475 million bond measure by Metro, the regional government. Metro wants the money so it can buy more land for its so-called parks and nature program. Measure 26-203 will raise the region’s property taxes by $60 million a year.

Cascade Policy Institute urges a vote NO on Measure 26-203. Voters have already approved two such measures in 1995 and in 2006. Most of that money has been spent to buy up more than 14,000 acres of land. Yet, less than 12% of these lands are available for public use. This summer, a Metro lawyer told Cascade staff that they don’t want the public to know where the park land is because they don’t want the public to visit it.

More than two-thirds of the land bought with bond money is outside Metro’s jurisdiction and outside the Portland Urban Growth Boundary. That means most voters will never use Metro parks because they are so far away—even if the areas were open to the public.

In some ways, most of Metro’s nature properties are Oregon’s own Area 51—they’re owned by the government, they don’t show up on maps, and no one knows what’s going on there.

It’s time to put an end to Metro’s expensive land grab.

Eric Fruits, Ph.D. is Vice President of Research at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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  • Jim Labbe

    The argument presented here totally ignores a primary goal of Measure 26-203 and past bond measures: to protect the highest value lands for fish, wildlife and clean water. Not all lands acquired are meant for public access, but to secure the public benefits of preserving natural areas. Of course a significant amount of land acquired is beyond the UGB. That is because these are some of the highest value natural resource lands for conserving biodiversity and water quality AND they are more affordable lands to acquire with limited public funds. AND while those lands are currently farther from the bulk human populations, they won’t always be. In 1907 when the City of Portland proposed bond measure to acquire parks, many complained that buying Mt. Tabor was a bad decision because it was “too far out.” Thank goodness that reasoning did not prevail. And it hopefully it won’t now.

    But it should also be pointed out that a large bulk of the local and community grant program share of this bond measure renewal will go to fund parks, trails and natural areas within the UGB as have past natural area bond measure. These include dozens of parks and natural areas across the region like Mt. Talbert in North Clackamas, Nadaka Nature Park in West Gresham, Rock Creek Nature Park in Hillsboro, Graham Oaks Nature Park in Wilsonville among many others. And don’t forget popular regional trails like Fanno Creek Greenway, the Springwater Corridor, the Trolley Trail and many others.

    Finally how is willing seller acquisition program a land grab? Willing seller is the primary alternative to regulating land uses and it is the best tool for preserving land in perpetuity.

    • 6:45 pm - September 19, 2019

  • Paul Edgar

    I live in a National Register Historic District of Canemah, which is part of Oregon City. Metro bought and save much of the Canemah Ridge and improved some very close in trails. But 90% of it is not accessible by the public. The Canemah Ridge hs great potential if it only had some priority in opening it up with cross Ridge Routes. I have talked directly with the decision-makers and advance close in properties that could greatly tie together trails, that could be part of improving urban wilderness type experiences. I agree that it is time to reduce that of acquiring more property and start making what we/they have bought, get opened up and accessible.

    • 11:55 pm - September 19, 2019

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