Metro plan for North Tualatin Mountains spurs controversy

A protester holds a sign Friday, April 8, 2016 in Portland to protest Metro's new parks plan. (KATU Photo)

Dozens showed up outside of Metro's Northeast Portland office Friday afternoon to protest a new parks plan. It's supposed to create better access for the public on lands Metro owns in the northwest part of the city. Some think it's a horrible idea.

Hank McCurdy admits activism isn't his thing, but he put that aside for his passion.

"Our issue is just habitat, when you reach the tipping point where it's destroyed," McCurdy said.

He believes Metro broke a promise it made to voters over the years to protect wildlife on land in the North Tualatin Mountains adjacent to Forest Park. He claims Metro's proposal to add trails and increase public access to the land in question actually puts recreation before wildlife.

"They haven't done the science and they've made it a political issue ... because the March plan they issued is a public relations document," McCurdy explained.

He's a member of the Tualatin Wildlife Alliance. It's a grassroots group upset with Metro's plan. McCurdy believes ballot measures in 1995, 2006 and 2013, which provided millions of dollars in property tax funds for land management and improvement, emphasize wildlife protection. For example, the description of ballot Measure 26-152 reads, "Shall Metro improve natural areas, water quality for fish...?"

"They haven't done site conservation inventory to see what wildlife is there," McCurdy said.

Andrew Jansky, and a few of his buddies, also showed up to the demonstration. They agree with McCurdy that wildlife protection is important, but their agreement ends there.

"We're just trying to show Metro that we're here to support them," Jansky said.

Jansky is the advocacy chair for the Northwest Trail Alliance. He said he's worked with Metro on the park plan.

"All we want to do is have access to be able to ride our bikes in nature and go on hikes, a lot of our members are trail runners," Jansky explained.

Metro spokesman Jim Middaugh tells KATU News that Metro has not published a research study on the land in question. He said they have studied it, however, going back to the early 1990s when it was first purchased.

"We're using the very best science available to manage the ... Doug fir forests, to protect air and water quality and wildlife habitat," Middaugh said.

Still, McCurdy doesn't buy it, and he's not giving up his fight.

"What I want Metro to do is put this plan on the shelf for now, and commission some independent scientists to simply do a feasibility study," McCurdy said.

Metro will hold a meeting about parks plan on Thursday, April 14, 2016. Metro will vote on the plan on April 21, 2016.

Middaugh said anyone who has an opinion on the plan is welcome at the meeting.

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