Monday, May 02, 2011

..Metro approves purchase option on Roslyn Lake..

Small option price would hold the land while zoo experts weigh its value for elephants

By Jim Hart
The Sandy Post, Feb 15, 2011, Updated Feb 16, 2011

The Oregon Zoo elephants are one step closer to getting their just desserts. Zoo officials plan to establish an off-site reserve, and last Thursday the Metro Council voted unanimously to allow the expenditure of Metro monies to buy options on land suitable for a reserve.

One such site, probably the best one located to date, is the land surrounding the former Roslyn Lake.

“It holds a lot of promise,” Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette said. “It has a lot of things that would really be exciting for us.”

Buying an option for a small fraction of the eventual purchase price allows Metro to place a hold on the sale of several suitable sites until it is determined which site is best and a purchase price is negotiated.

At the present time, only the Roslyn Lake site is in need of an option because the other suitable site, near the Willamette River in Clackamas County, is already owned by Metro.

The Oregon Zoo is “a world leader in elephant husbandry,” Collette said as she began a presentation to the council last week.

She also praised Mike Keele, director of elephant habitats, for being what she called “probably the No.-1 zoo elephant expert in the world,” and she said No. 2 would be Oregon Zoo Director Kim Smith.

Not only with these zoo officials, Collette said, but also with the people who voted for the zoo bond measure in 2008, elephant care is a high priority — providing funding to explore and plan for an off-site remote elephant center.

“We want to have two herds of elephants,” Collette told the council, “and we would be able to maintain them the way they would (live) in the wild
“The point of today’s resolution is to enable staff to take an option on land that could then become our off-site elephant reserve.”

The option is necessary to give zoo staff sufficient time (put any potential sales on hold) to examine sites that meet some of the criteria and begin to seek funding. Metro staff members have been talking with PGE people about the potential purchase, Collette said Monday night.

Councilor Rex Burkholder seemed pleased with the project proposal, noting the zoo is helping to improve elephants’ quality of life and “rescue a species rapidly becoming endangered in the wild.”

“If successful,” he said, “this (project) will become an amazing resource for the region and a place we can all be proud of . . .

“This will be a leading activity for the country, maybe even internationally.”

After attending the foundation board’s meeting, Councilor Shirley Craddick told the council the board was very excited about the project.

“As the representative for the east part of the (Metro) region, I am sure there will be many people who live in that part of the region very excited to have this, (especially) if that property you are researching (Roslyn Lake) becomes the property that we hope it will be.”

The 2008 bond measure didn’t have enough funding to operate an off-site facility, just a feasibility study and purchase of land. But zoo staff members plan to secure private funding through the Oregon Zoo Foundation for construction.

The project will take a number of years to develop, even if the Roslyn Lake site is chosen. That site already has some of the facilities needed in the remote center.

“This could be really nice for Sandy,” Collette said. “It’s not open to the public all the time, but we want to be good neighbors.”