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Nature in Neighborhoods grants: land acquisition

Grants    Nature in Neighborhoods capital grants    Land acquisition

By protecting special habitats, Nature in Neighborhoods capital grants give communities a place to connect with nature.

White Oak Savanna

White Oak Savanna

From white oak savannas to urban creeks, land acquisition projects are preserving some of the region’s most special places.

Communities have come together to protect local assets that aren’t covered by Metro’s regional efforts to buy natural areas. Preserving these small neighborhood jewels unites groups as diverse as local governments, neighborhood associations, churches, businesses and nonprofit organizations. Sometimes, land trusts help get the job done.

As a tried-and-true conservation tool, land acquisition provides a straight-forward way to make a difference. But purchasing land isn’t an ending point. It’s often the first step in a community’s mission to open a nature park, build trails or restore habitat.

case study

Grant connects neighbors with nature in St. Johns’ Baltimore Woods corridor

Baltimore Woods

Baltimore Woods corridor, $539,000

($158,000 in 2010, $381,000 in 2012)

Recipients: City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, Three Rivers Land Conservancy/Columbia Land Trust, Friends of Baltimore Woods

Partners: Portland Parks & Recreation, Audubon Society of Portland, SOLV, Port of Portland,Cathedral Park Place LLC

Baltimore Woods was in limbo. While the recession kept developers at bay, the area gave rise to weeds, litter and neglect.

But neighbors around the 30-acre corridor in North Portland’s St. Johns neighborhood saw a community asset. And with the support of a Metro Nature in Neighborhoods capital grant, the woods were given a new lease on life.

Much of Baltimore Woods borders homes, garages and lawns north of Cathedral Park, stretching toward Pier Park. The trees, some crawling with ivy and blackberry, act as a buffer between the elevated residential area and industrial sites below, on the eastern banks of the Willamette River.

Friends of Baltimore Woods had been advocating for restoration for several years, but with development looming, it was time to act. They contacted Three Rivers Conservancy – which has since become part of the Columbia Land Trust – and met with Virginia Bowers, who specializes in helping acquire land for preservation. There must be an option for rescuing the woods, the group thought. After hearing their vision, Bowers said, “it seemed appropriate for Three Rivers to have a spot at the table."

Meanwhile, a study funded by the Port of Portland looked at ways to route two proposed regional trails through Baltimore Woods rather than on a nearby street. The report noted support for preserving the woods as a trail asset and buffer, improving storm water filtration, saving 30 Oregon white oaks and potentially creating an area for environmental education.

Barbara Quinn, chair of Friends of Baltimore Woods, said the group hoped to purchase several lots, which peaked in value a few years earlier and were now less appealing to developers. But purchasing the land could be difficult, Bowers explained. Urban properties often don’t meet the criteria for grants that protect wildlife habitat and endangered species.

Baltimore Woods

Metro's Nature in Neighborhoods capital grants, funded by the region’s voter-approved 2006 natural areas bond measure, are a rare exception. The Baltimore Woods project was chosen in 2010, with commitments from the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services' Grey to Green program, the restoration volunteer group SOLV and the funding match of the City of Portland's Parks & Recreation department. Metro provided $158,000 toward the $475,000 price tag.

With financial backing, Bowers helped the group scoop up five vacant tax lots – including the site of proposed condos that were home to a large oak grove.

“The recession has had a silver lining because people were willing to sell,” Quinn said. “Some saw that we were very interested in this project, and they wanted to do something good for the neighborhood as well.”

SOLV organized volunteers to remove invasive species and plant new natives. A number of groups, representing both schools and businesses, have taken part.

A second Nature in Neighborhoods grant, awarded in 2012, will help for preservation.  blwers thanks Metro for truning a grassroots efforts into real progress for the St. Johns community.

“Without the grant from Metro, it wouldn't have happened,” she said. “No way.”

Need assistance?

Mary Rose Navarro

girls playing by a creek

featured projects

Summer Creek, $1 million

At 43 acres, Summer Creek is Tigard’s second largest park. Nestled along Summer and Fanno creeks, the mature forest, wetlands and open spaces are blossoming as a hub for environmental education. Nature lovers might spot turtles, frogs, salamanders, red-tailed hawks, owls and herons.

White Oak Savanna, $334,000

Protecting the 14-acre White Oak Savanna in West Linn preserves a rare habitat – and, for commuters who zoom by on Interstate 205, a spectacular view. A soft-surface trail will allow visitors to experience this unique habitat, showcasing remarkable vistas over the Willamette River to Canemah Bluff.

Nadaka Nature Park, $220,000

A two-acre expansion makes it easier to find Gresham’s Nadaka Nature Park, a beloved community asset that has united many neighborhood, community and conservation groups. The park, which was tucked away in the East Wilkes neighborhood, can now be reached from Northeast Glisan Street.

Lilly K. Johnson Park Expansion, $345,000

Nestled south of Farmington Road in Beaverton, Lilly K. Johnson Park serves as a neighborhood destination and a potential wayside along the future Westside Trail. With a new addition, it will more than double in size and grow exponentially in wildlife habitat.

Featured tool

Interactive map screenshot

Explore from home

Experience Metro grant projects and natural areas through photography, video and writing on an interactive storytelling map. From Forest Grove to Troutdale and North Portland to Wilsonville, the region is filled with tales of the land. Go

Protected by voters

Chehalem Ridge

12,000 acres and counting

Thanks to two voter-approved bond measures, the Metro Natural Areas Program has protected more than 12,000 acres across the Portland metropolitan area. Caring for this land enhances water quality, wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities for future generations. Learn more

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