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Parks & Recreation

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

Whitaker Ponds Nature Park Entry Improvement Project

Project Description

Whitaker Ponds Nature Park, master planned in 1995 and 2006, contains ponds, sloughs and associated natural areas that are used for educational purposes, birdwatching, access to the Columbia Slough for light watercraft, and other nature-based recreation. Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R), the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) and the Columbia Slough Watershed Council (CSWC) actively invite school groups, volunteers, and other partners to the site for educational and volunteer programs. However, access to the site is difficult since there is no developed parking or sidewalks. 

In 2012, the CSWC, partnering with BES, produced a concept design for improvements to the entry area off of NE 47th Avenue. PP&R, partnering with the two groups, applied for and has received a grant from METRO Nature in Neighborhoods to help fund the project, which will implement the 2012 concept in an environmentally responsible manner. 

The improvements planned include sidewalks, a parking lot, stormwater treatment facilities, accessible routes to the educational facilities, and a small natural gathering area. Local students, community members, and project partners will contribute by installing natural landscaping in the area around the parking lot to enhance wildlife habitat and improve water quality. The Nature in Neighborhoods grant funding will be supplemented by an allocation from PP&R’s Systems Development Charges (SDC) program.

These improvements will increase park user safety, accessibility, and aesthetics, while creating a more inviting public entry. The effect will be an expansion of the educational, recreational, and stewardship activities within the Nature Park.

June 2017 Project Update

Entry Improvements
PP&R has selected a contractor through a low-bid process, Raimore Construction, LLC. We expect to break ground later in June. 

There will be no access to Gazebo or the Pond Boardwalk during the construction period because we will be building improvements in those areas.  Access to the Columbia Slough Watershed Council building, the Whitaker Slough boat launch and the rest of the Nature Park will remain open. Please see the diagram here for details.

Sidewalks Along NE 47th Avenue
PBOT continues design work on the NE 47th Avenue LID project (sidewalks, bike lanes and the reconstruction of travel lanes between NE Columbia Boulevard and NE Cornfoot Street). Drawings that illustrate the features of the revamped street are included on PBOT’s LID webpage at

The Entry Improvements Project is expected to break ground in mid-June. Active construction should last through September. A dedication event is being planned for later in the fall of 2017. Due to the complexity of the utility design, construction of the NE 47th Avenue LID project is now estimated to begin in early 2018.  Please consult the website listed above to obtain more information on that project.

Funding Acknowledgement
This project has been funded by a capital grant from Metro’s Natural Areas Bond Measure’s Nature in Neighborhoods Capital Grants Program and by Parks System Development Fees.

January 2017 Project Update

Entry Improvements
Design is complete with no significant changes from the Schematic Design illustration above. The building permit for the Entry Improvements was approved, and City Council has authorized a low bid procurement to obtain a contractor.

Sidewalks Along NE 47th Avenue
PBOT continues design work on the sidewalks, bike lanes and the reconstruction of NE 47th Avenue between NE Columbia Boulevard and NE Cornfoot Street. Drawings that illustrate the features of the revamped street are included on PBOT’s LID webpage.

The Entry Improvements Project is still on schedule. Bidding is targeted for February. Construction is expected to begin after Memorial Day and end in the fall. Due to the concurrent construction in NE 47th Avenue, estimated to begin during the summer, PP&R is planning a dedication event for the following spring of 2018.

June 2016 Project Update

Entry Improvements
The design team is working on developing the details of the materials, site topography and planting plans.  Parking lot lighting will conform to best practices around both security and wildlife-friendly lighting, incorporating recent recommendations from the Audubon Society.  We are also coordinating with the design team at the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) working on the reconstruction of NE 47th Avenue.

Sidewalks Along NE 47th Avenue
City Council gave final approval for the NE 47th Avenue LID (Limited Improvements District) part 1 in early April. The LID will deliver sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides of NE 47th Avenue between NE Columbia Boulevard and NE Cornfoot Street, as described previously. Imagery that illustrates the features of the revamped street is included on PBOT’s LID webpage at

The City’s Urban Forestry Tree Inspectors performed a detailed inspection of the two non-native Willow trees at the north edge of the project site, near NE 47th Avenue. They determined that both Willows are old and rotting, and currently pose a hazard to park users. As a result, they will both be removed June 2016. Please contact Parks’ Community Engagement Coordinator Hun Taing 503-823-5596 with any questions.

Both the Entry Improvements Project and the NE 47th LID project are still on schedule. The Entry Improvements design will be submitted for permits early this fall and construction is expected to begin in about a year, with completion expected in fall 2017.

February 2016 Project Update

schematic designEntry Improvements
The plan for the entry improvements has been updated to reflect feedback received at the December open house (see below). The current plan can be seen here. The parking lot features one-way circulation, bus parking and drop-off, 22 parking spaces and low-level lighting. Other amenities include a small entry plaza with benches, a bike rack and an enclosure for the portable toilet, plus a naturally-landscaped gathering area with log and boulder seating arranged around an existing Douglas fir tree. The new walkways will be of accessible and durable concrete. Stormwater flowing off of the parking lot will be collected and cleaned in a Stormwater Management Area. The lighting will be confined to the parking lot, and will emit a very low level of illumination: just enough for visibility without spilling into the rest of the site nor into habitat areas of the Nature Park. New plantings will screen the parking lot, help clean the stormwater and will feature natives to improve habitat conditions, support our native pollinators and help remind visitors of our Pacific Northwest location.

Sidewalks Along NE 47th Avenue
One of the goals of this project was to provide sidewalks along the street frontage of the Whitaker Ponds Nature Park, but also to investigate how the sidewalks could be extended south to join with sidewalks near NE Columbia Boulevard. This would provide a much safer way to walk to and from the site. We are pleased to report that the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), in partnership with Portland Parks & Recreation, the Bureau of Environmental Services and other property owners along NE 47th Avenue, is planning to install sidewalks and bicycle lanes along the entire length of NE 47th Avenue between NE Columbia and NE Cornfoot Road, on both sides of the street, in addition to reconstructing the travel lanes themselves. The City Council will discuss the proposal in early March. The Bureau of Transportation is funding the majority of the project using PBOT Systems Development Charge funding.

Public Involvement
On December 12, 10:00am to 12:00pm at the Colwood Golf Center, PP&R hosted a public open house to provide information on the entry improvement design. Our design consultant, Steve Roelof from ESA Vigil-Agrimis and Project Manager, Allison Rouse, were present to answer questions. Andrew Aebi, LID Coordinator with PBOT was also there to provide information on the proposed LID at NE 47th Ave.

Four out of the nine attendees filled out a comment card. The comment card asked people to rate how well our design met the goals for the improvement project. The goals of this project are to:

  • Increase user safety and access to the Nature Park in an environmentally responsible manner;
  • Create a more inviting public entry; and
  • Enable growth in the scope of the educational, recreational and stewardship activities at the Nature Park.

These comment cards were also available on our website for an additional two weeks for the public to participate. All the comment cards that we received came from the participants at the Open House. With the exception of one person, the results of the comment card reflect an agreement that we have met our goals for the project very well.

Three weeks before the open house, Community Engagement Coordinator, Hun Taing, notified the neighbors and business with flyers in Spanish and English, posted Spanish/English lawn signs at NAYA, Columbia Slough Watershed Council, Hacienda Community Development Commission, park site, major intersections, sent email blast to our list serve, and made phone calls to these organizations.

Project Timeline

Timeline may shift based on unforeseen circumstances.

      • Design             Fall 2015 – Summer 2016
      • Permitting        Summer – Winter 2016
      • Construction    Spring – Fall 2017
      • Dedication       Fall 2017

Project Manager
Allison Rouse,