Nature in Neighborhoods grants: land acquisition
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
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.
Grant connects neighbors with nature in St. Johns’ Baltimore Woods corridor
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.
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.”