Let’s do this together — vote YES on Measure 26-203

A YES vote on Measure 26-203 is a vote for restoring habitats, protecting wildlife, and preserving awe-inspiring places like Willamette Falls across our region.

Former Oregon City millworker Janet Malloch was the first woman hired as a shift supervisor at the mill perched next to Willamette Falls. Here’s why she’s voting YES for Nature for All on November 5.

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During my long career at the paper mill now known as Blue Heron, the magnificence of Willamette Falls was a daily reminder to me of what makes Oregon such a special place to live.

My office at the mill overlooked the Falls. The view was stunning—with peregrine falcons nesting on the river banks and soaring alongside eagles, kingfishers and blue heron. The view never ceased to amaze me.  

That stunning view should be open to all—and our chance is now.  

That’s why I’ve pledged to vote YES on Measure 26-203—the Nature for All bond—that dedicates funding to the Willamette Falls Riverwalk project. Please join me.

This November, we have the opportunity to vote YES for Nature for All to protect our state’s precious natural resources, and YES to investing $20 million in the Willamette Falls Riverwalk. All without raising taxes.

As Oregonians, we’re surrounded by vast and rich natural beauty and it’s up to us to protect it. Measure 26-203 will ensure that future generations can experience the diversity of wildlife like the lamprey and salmon thriving along the Willamette River.



Join me this November in voting YES on Measure 26-203

As we draw closer to November 5—and our opportunity to vote YES on Measure 26-203, the Nature for All Bond—we’re honored to hear from people around the region about why they are voting YES.

Without raising taxes, the Nature for All Bond will raise funds to protect our state’s precious natural resources, including $20 million for the Willamette Falls Riverwalk.

First up, Marcelino Alvarez, founder of Uncorked Studios, shares why he’s standing behind for Nature for All. 

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My connection to the magnificent Willamette Falls is deeply personal. I have family in Oregon City, and have spent many summers swimming, kayaking, boating, and fishing in the Willamette near the Falls.  

Each time I visit the Falls, my mind goes to the “what ifs”:

  • What if the buildings were restored?

  • What if people could access the area more easily?

  • What if the ecosystem was brought back to its natural splendor?

  • What if restaurants, retail, and community came together to create a world class experience? 

The vision for the Willamette Falls Riverwalk answers all my “what ifs.”

There’s no other project like this in the United States, maybe even the world. The waterfalls are rich in history—a complicated story, but one that I want to be told to everyone. Every Oregonian should have the chance to reflect at the Falls about what it means to them. And, although we each may walk away with something different, the experience will also bring us all together.

Nature for All gives us a chance to stand for the things that we love about our region. It means that our children and grandchildren will be able to experience and understand Oregon’s unique history and ecology for generations to come.

This isn’t just a vote for us, it’s a vote for our future. 

Marcelino J. Alvarez
Founder, Uncorked Studios

Willamette Falls Trust endorses YES on Measure 26-203

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Willamette Falls Trust Board has officially endorsed the YES on Measure 26-203 campaign. Join us and endorse the campaign!

Nature for All is a ballot measure that, without raising taxes, renews the region’s investments in parks, hiking and biking trails, and conservation areas – including the Willamette Falls Riverwalk.

The measure will:

  • Invest $20 million in the Willamette Falls Riverwalk project

  • Preserve our region’s rivers, headwaters, and local streams and wetlands – keeping them safe for everyone to enjoy

  • Protect forests, open spaces, and areas important for wildlife habitat, recreation, and needed to safeguard our air and water

  • Improve access and facilities at regional parks and in communities across the Metro region to better serve our growing, diverse populations.

This November, Oregonians have an opportunity to preserve our rich green spaces and parks for generations to come and make our shared vision to restore the Falls a reality.

As Oregonians, it’s up to all of us to preserve the natural beauty we enjoy every day. Now, more than ever, as our state grows and flourishes, we need to protect our wetlands, rivers, forests and open spaces.

Show your support for Nature for All and vote YES on Measure 26-203.

It's official. A historic day for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde announced today that they have purchased the 23-acre site at the former Blue Heron paper mill, which includes the planned future site of the Willamette Falls Riverwalk.

“This is a historic day for the Grand Ronde Tribe and our people,” said Cheryle A. Kennedy, Chairwoman for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. “Since 1855 the government has worked to disconnect our people from our homelands. Today, we’re reclaiming a piece of those lands and resurrecting our role as caretakers to Willamette Falls – a responsibility left to us by our ancestors.”

Willamette Falls Trust will continue to partner with both the Willamette Falls Legacy Project and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde in shaping the future of the Riverwalk. Our shared vision is to create a world-class public space at Willamette Falls—connecting people to the natural beauty, cultures and histories of this iconic place.

We look forward to continuing to work with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde on the Riverwalk project. They have been a valuable and active supporter in its development and will continue to be an active part of planning moving forward. We value their active support of the Riverwalk project.

Along with the Willamette Falls Legacy Project, we remain committed to working closely with each of the sovereign tribal governments that have ties to Willamette Falls and who have actively shaped the Riverwalk vision to date — The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation.

Riverwalk groundbreaking at the site is coming in 2020 – we can’t wait to share more.


Photo by Timothy J. Gonzalez/Smoke Signals

Photo by Timothy J. Gonzalez/Smoke Signals

Willamette Falls Riverwalk will move forward even if site sells — Portland Business Journal

One of the first questions that came to mind with the recent news that the former Blue Heron paper mill site in Oregon City was up for sale: What, exactly, will become of the riverwalk that’s been planned there for years? The one that public and private partners have been conjuring up for more than five years, that will cost more than $30 million and create public access to one of North America’s largest waterfalls for the first time in decades?

Thanks to an easement on the 23-acre site, the riverwalk will likely continue moving forward no matter who owns the property.

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“That’s what’s enabled us to do everything that we’ve done so far,” said Andrew Mason, executive director of the Willamette Falls Trust, the nonprofit that's been coordinating some of the fundraising and partnerships that have fueled the effort thus far. “The easement is with the Willamette Falls Legacy Project and is in perpetuity.”

The issue rose to the surface recently when the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde made it known that it was in negotiations to acquire the site from its current owner, Tacoma developer George Heidgerken, who bought it for $2.2 million in 2014. The tribe is also looking to acquire another property about four miles upstream that includes more than a mile of waterfront along the Willamette River.

According to Mason, the easement, which was signed in 2014, covers a significant portion of the Blue Heron site — close to 50 percent of the 23 acres. That’s in part because the site will be a complicated one to develop thanks to its proximity to the falls, the scores of structures that still stand on the property and other factors.

“I think it’s just so complicated, so it made sense for the owner to say, ‘OK, let’s do an easement there,’” Mason said, adding that the easement serves almost as a development agreement that will guide how the site can be developed. Public partners will be mostly involved in creating public access to the falls via the riverwalk, while a private owner would be the party that could develop revenue-generating projects on parts of the property.

While the easement would transfer with the deed if the property changes hands, Mason said there is still a chance that it could be re-negotiated with the new owner. That could potentially tweak how development might unfold at the site, but Mason said he thinks the partners will have “good leverage with whoever the landowner is.”

As for the riverwalk itself, plans are moving ahead full steam whether the sale to the tribe goes through or not. The partners just signed a contract with MASS Design Group, a renowned nonprofit architecture and design firm that will focus on programming activities at the site.

Last month, the team also signed a contract with the general contractor Lease Crutcher Lewis. Construction drawings should hit 30 percent completion by this fall and construction on the first phase of the riverwalk is scheduled for next spring and should wrap up in 2022.

Mason noted that the first phase of the riverwalk will only provide access to about two-thirds of the way out to the falls, where an observation deck will be constructed. Future phases of the project would extend the riverwalk even farther, possibly out to the Portland General Electric dam that extends into the falls.

Mason also said the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, along with four other tribes, has been very involved in the planning process for the entire Willamette Falls area.

“We have been very aligned and working well together,” he said. “And we look forward to continue working with them.”

In a statement, tribal chairwoman Cheryle Kennedy said the tribe looks forward to working with all the partners should the deal to acquire the site be sealed.

“Should the Tribe purchase the property, we’re excited to work with Metro, as well as local, state and federal partners in a collaborative manner to shape the future of the property,” she said.

Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde sign sale agreement with Falls Legacy, LLC

Yesterday, we learned that the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde signed a purchase and sale agreement with Falls Legacy, LLC, the company that owns the land with the planned location of the future Willamette Falls Riverwalk. 

While the purchase is not yet final, here’s what’s happening at Willamette Falls:

  • The development of the Riverwalk can proceed even if there is a land sale. With a construction contractor signed, Riverwalk Phase 1 construction remains scheduled to begin in spring 2020, with completion in spring 2022.

  • The Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde have been a strong partner on the future first phase of the Riverwalk project, actively participating in the project’s Native American Advisory Board and engaging with programming and interpretation planning as the project has advanced.

  • This project has been strengthened by the participation of the tribes and tribal organizations active on the project – The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, and The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation.

  • We remain committed to working closely with sovereign tribal governments to realize a new vision for Willamette Falls, alongside federal, state, regional and local governments and the local community.

We look forward to creating a place that centers the site’s cultural heritage and practices and creates opportunities for public access to Willamette Falls. Thank you for your continued support.


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Otak to take us one step closer to the Riverwalk!

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After reviewing many proposals, the Willamette Falls Legacy Project has chosen Otak to bring the world-class design of the Willamette Falls Riverwalk to life!

The local, award-winning design and engineering team will be leading a team that includes Mayer/Reed, Snøhetta, KPFF, Pacific Habitat Services, and others with their construction management expertise. Over the next three years, Otak will oversee the creation of safe and secure interim public access onto the former Blue Heron paper mill site, a prominent view of Willamette Falls, habitat restoration along the riverbank, and building demolition that will prepare the site for future phases. With only a year until construction is set to begin on phase one of the Riverwalk, you can see them now at the site preparing and developing a plan to get started!

To learn more about Otak and other projects they’ve worked on, you can visit their website here: https://www.otak.com/

Willamette Falls Trust Announces $7 million in Donations to Willamette Falls Riverwalk

Willamette Falls Trust—the key philanthropic and community engagement partner of the Riverwalk—is proud to announce $7 million in new gifts today, generously donated from two philanthropic families. Connie Ballmer, the co-founder of Ballmer Group, has donated $5 million towards the Riverwalk, and the Ann and Bill Swindells Charitable Trust has donated $2 million.

Ballmer grew up in Oregon City and worked at the Crown Zellerbach mill on the west side of Willamette Falls as a college student. She founded the Ballmer Group with her husband and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Based in Portland, Ore., the Ann and Bill Swindells Charitable Trust focuses on improving the quality of life for Oregonians, and seeks to sustain the state’s cultural, scientific and historical endeavors.

"It’s as if someone put a roof on the Grand Canyon and kept it hidden away for all these years,” said Connie Ballmer about the Falls. “It's time to lift the roof off Willamette Falls so that more Oregonians can experience this beautiful place. These kinds of projects don’t come along very often, so it’s an important moment for the region and state. I am delighted to lend support to Willamette Falls Trust and Oregon City’s beautiful waterfront.”

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The current plans for the Willamette Falls Riverwalk include repurposing one of the former mill buildings into a three-story structure which will provide visitors with an overlook of the falls and Willamette River, restored habitat and gathering spaces as well as historic and cultural interpretation of the site.

“These generous gifts buoy our efforts to complete the first phase of a world-class Riverwalk, demonstrating community and regional support of our plans to create a new experience at Willamette Falls that will give everyone new opportunities to explore the rich habitat, culture and history of this significant place,” said Alice Norris, Board Chair of Willamette Falls Trust.

The Willamette Falls Riverwalk is a public/private partnership, with government and nonprofit organizations working together to bring the project to life. Willamette Falls Trust works alongside the Willamette Falls Legacy Project, a four-government effort comprised of Oregon City, Clackamas County, Metro and the State of Oregon.

With a fundraising goal of $35 million for Phase One of the Riverwalk, $19.5 already contributed by the Willamette Falls Legacy Project partners, and this additional $7 million donated by individuals, the project has now raised more than 75% of the funds needed to meet the goal. A capital campaign to raise the remaining $8 million is currently underway.

Willamette Falls Riverwalk Plan Earns Honor Award from American Society of Landscape Architects

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At the 2018 American Society of Landscape Architects Awards, Snøhetta, Mayer/Reed and Dialog were recognized with an Honor Award in the Analysis and Planning Category for their work on the design of the Willamette Falls Riverwalk.

“Here we see the combining of public access, habitat, historic and cultural interpretation and economic development in a project that’s very tangible in terms of its potential to being implemented.” - 2018 ASLA Awards Selection Jury

Click here to learn more about the 2018 ASLA Awards.

Progress at Willamette Falls: A New Executive Director Leads Efforts at the Falls

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Andrew Mason has been selected as the first full-time executive director for Willamette Falls Trust, the nonprofit organization created to raise resources and advocate for the revitalization of the former Blue Heron paper mill site in Oregon City and the Riverwalk experience.

The Riverwalk will connect downtown Oregon City to Willamette Falls. It will create a world-class public space with views of Willamette Falls that have been hidden from the public for over a century.

Mason, who assumed his new role on April 2, 2018, has a strong background in fundraising, strategic planning, program development, and executive leadership. He has knowledge and experience in government relations, collaborative management, and a recent capital campaign. He has also successfully secured federal, state and local public and private sector funding. He most recently served as the executive director for Open School in Portland, OR.

Mason holds a Bachelor of Arts from Reed College and a Master of Social Work from Portland State University.

“I come to this project with a strong sense of its value to our community, state, and nation. Its success will take committed and unwavering investment from the entire region and an ability to leverage and extend our community connections and assets. I look forward to working with the Board and the many voices involved in visioning such a challenging and inspiring future for the Willamette Falls Legacy Project,” Mason shared.

The Willamette Falls Trust Board is comprised of volunteer leaders from business and industry, education, labor, civic and environmental organizations, and engaged citizens.

TrustBoard president Alice Norris expressed her appreciation for the groundwork laid by retiring executive director, Shelly Parini. “We have thrived under Shelly’s active leadership, with new communication materials, a strategic plan and a capital campaign plan. Andrew will help us build, execute and leverage our broad base of supporters and champions.”