Doing the right thing for neighbors, visitors and the community
The zoo prides itself on being a good neighbor. As new plans and projects move forward, the zoo works with its neighboring attractions and residential neighbors toward shared goals.
The Oregon Zoo operates under a conditional use permit issued by the City of Portland. Every ten years, when the zoo updates its master plan, Metro submits a conditional use master plan application to the city for review and approval. When the zoo submits its application, the city conducts a thorough evaluation of the zoo's proposed new development and its potential impacts as well as benefits, to surrounding neighborhoods and other users of Washington Park. Metro and zoo staff work with city officials, other park attractions and residential neighbors to address any concerns regarding zoo operations.
There are two primary ways zoo construction affects neighbors and broader community interests: 1) Washington Park access, traffic and parking and 2) stormwater management.
Getting to the zoo
As the zoo makes improvements to its animal habitats and education facilities, it must also consider how people travel to the zoo, if the numbers of visitors are likely to increase and how increases in visitors would affect the community.
Parking in Washington Park can be challenging. On summer weekends and during events the lots fill early. The parking lot used by the zoo is owned by City of Portland Parks & Recreation and is shared by the Oregon Zoo, the Portland Children's Museum, Hoyt Arboretum and The World Forestry Center. Together with TriMet and Portland Parks & Recreation these organizations established a transportation management association for Washington Park. This is the first of its kind in the nation and offers a structured means for addressing transportation to and within the park. The Washington Park TMA, called Explore Washington Park, is now a nonprofit organization whose board is comprised of the directors of these park attractions along with representatives from TriMet, Portland Parks, the adjacent neighborhood associations and two at-large community members. Together they seek ways to accommodate a variety of modes of travel so that park visitors have safe and efficient options to access the park that minimize environmental impacts and effects on adjacent neighborhoods. Learn more about transportation options and explore Washington Park.
The City of Portland will soon launch a master planning process for the park. The park master plan has not been revised in over 20 years. It is expected that this planning process will provide the forum to address the park's southern entry from U.S. 26, parking challenges and appropriate gateways through the northern park to minimize traffic through neighborhoods.
Water in its many forms – ground water, creeks, and stormwater – is a key element of the zoo site, and water use is a sizable element and cost of zoo operations. As zoo staff and consultants developed the master plan, they incorporated water conservation and reuse into all aspects of site planning. A new backflow prevention valve was installed on the zoo's main water line to prevent collected rainwater from contaminating city tap water, facilitating rainwater harvest throughout the zoo. The zoo is harvesting rainwater at the new Veterinary Medical Center and reusing it within that building in places where the water doesn't have to meet drinking water standards such as flushing toilets and hosing down animal areas. Each new facility will incorporate similar water conservation measures. The zoo is also protecting stormwater that leaves the site. New construction avoids environmentally sensitive areas and stream corridors that cross zoo property, ensuring that there will be no impacts on downstream habitats.