Opinion: Metro’s parks and nature levy deserves a ‘yes’ vote
Bob Sallinger and Ashton Simpson
Sallinger is conservation director of Audubon Society of Portland. Simpson is councilor-elect for District 1 on the Metro Council.
The Metro parks and nature levy is up for renewal on the November ballot. This levy, which has been in place for more than decade, ensures funding to maintain and restore regional natural areas and provide grants for programs that increase access to nature. The levy, Measure 26-225 , is critical for supporting a system that protects water quality, provides habitat for fish and wildlife, creates resilience in the face of climate change
, and provides equitable access to nature for all the region’s residents.
Metro takes a two-pronged approach to funding our regional system of parks, trails and natural areas. Greenspace bonds, like the one that passed in 2019, allow for capital expenses such as the purchase of new land. Levies fund operational expenses such as maintenance , habitat restoration and community engagement grants. They are the flip side of the same coin: Bonds allow us to expand the system, and levies ensure that the system we have is safe, healthy and accessible.
Metro took on ownership, management and restoration of regional parks and natural areas more than three decades ago specifically because local jurisdictions were not equipped to handle the complexity of big regional parks and natural areas such as Oxbow, Blue Lake and Chehalem Ridge. The regional agency developed staffing, resources and expertise for that purpose. The results are spectacular: The system grew, tens of thousands of acres were restored to health and millions of people now have the opportunity to enjoy nature. There is no local park district—three decades ago , or now–prepared to take this on.
And Metro parks are some of the most visited in the entire region. Funding from levies, including this one, are critical to making them more accessible. Sites such as Killin Wetlands and Newell Creek Canyon saw huge improvements in public access under the last levy. Renewal of the levy will allow for even more access. Metro has a strong history of providing opportunities to experience nature, while protecting and restoring fragile natural areas in a way that also improves water quality, increases fish and wildlife habitat, sequesters carbon and makes our landscape more resilient to change climate.
Community partnerships and grant programs are so important. They get people into the parks we have, as well as bring nature education into schools and community nature projects into neighborhoods. For relatively little investment, these levy-funded programs can help more kids, folks with low incomes and people of color access and appreciate nature’s benefits without vastly expanding the number of nature parks or miles of trail. The levy helps everyone, no matter where they live, have access to nature.
This renewal does not raise the tax rate. It simply maintains the existing levy at 9.6 cents for $1,000 of assessed property value—or about $2 a month for a home with an assessed value of $250,000. There are so many reasons to invest in nature across nature the metro region: human health, equity, clean air and water, recreation, climate resilience, carbon sequestration. The need and the demand have never been more apparent. We have a great system of regional parks and natural areas, and by continuing our existing investment we can ensure that this system is maintained, restored and becomes more accessible over time.
We urge you to continue to help us invest in protecting nature for our future generations to enjoy, by voting yes on the levy renewal.
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