If you are looking for a new adventure out in nature, you should head over to Leach Botanical Gardens in East Portland. The garden just opened its new upper garden, which features a tree walk and a bee pollinator garden. Metro was able to help with this ambitious project through a Nature in Neighborhoods grant from the 2006 bond measure. We’re so excited for the garden, its staff and the Pleasant Valley and Lents neighborhoods.
As a reminder, every person 16 and older in Oregon is now eligible to get vaccinated.
On to bond updates.
Contacts: General bond comments and questions, Beth Cohen, [email protected]
Community involvement, Humberto Marquez Mendez, [email protected]
The Natural Areas and Capital Performance Oversight Committee, the body appointed by the Metro Council to oversee the parks and nature bond program, had its first meeting April 16. The group spent their time getting to know each other and beginning their deep dive into Metro's parks and nature work and the 2019 bond measure. Their next meeting will be in May, and when available, meeting materials and information can be found on our website at the link above.
Now on to program updates. It turns out it’s tool-making time for the parks and nature bond.
Protect and restore land
Contact: Protect and restore land, Shannon Leary, [email protected]
The protect and restore program, which manages Metro’s land acquisition and conservation work, has been working with members of greater Portland’s urban Indigenous community to co-create one of the assessment tools we use to prioritize land purchases and conservation projects within the bond’s target areas. This tool (which we call a target area ecological assessment) gathers existing data on geography, land-use and land-cover patterns, natural resources, and restoration and conservation potential to help our scientists and real estate team best spend bond dollars.
For the past year, the protect and restore program team has met with urban Indigenous community members through collaboration with the Native American Community Advisory Council to develop the tool. This work is required by the bond to fulfill its meaningful community engagement and racial equity criteria. From these conversations, the assessment tool now includes more data sets that look at pollution, water quality and soil toxics. It will also include opportunities to daylight streams and remove inline ponds, both of which affect salmon, lamprey and other fish. Indigenous community members will be part of the assessment process for particular target areas.
- The next step is to conduct three pilot target area ecological assessments and use the results to settle on a final template over the next two months. Our goal is to launch assessments for all 24 target areas beginning in June.
- Interviews with organizations and individuals that have local knowledge of existing conditions in all 24 target areas will run at the same time as the ecological assessments and these groups and individuals can expect to hear from us in late May or June to plan for these discussions in the summer.
- We are continuing to gather information about target areas through engagement with the Indigenous community and engagement with tribal governments.
- We plan to pull all this information together and then hold robust community engagement in the fall to help establish goals and priorities in each target area. We will share more information about those engagement opportunities this summer so you all can know what to expect, how to participate and how to share with others in your community.
- We expect Council to reflect on this input and give staff direction on goals and priorities for land acquisition in early 2022.
Local parks and nature projects (local share)
Contact: Local parks and nature projects, Marcia Sinclair, [email protected]
Local share is the program that distributes bond dollars to greater Portland’s 27 parks providers so they can build projects that serve their local communities.
The handbook for local share was distributed to local park providers in March. Staff expects to be ready for park providers to submit priority projects as soon as June.
Earlier this month, the local share team hosted a virtual lunch-and-learn with staff from park providers across the region to share strategies and approaches for connecting with communities of color and other communities that have historically been left out of engagement and decision-making processes. It was fantastic to see 21 of our local park providers show up to learn from one another. There were more than 40 staff in attendance.
This is a deep, rich topic, and we are planning on future sessions with our partners to continue the conversation and to learn from each other.
Metro park improvements
Contact: Metro park improvements, Melissa Bergstrom, [email protected]
Out at Blue Lake, crews are starting the initial work on a new water line. This is a vital project that improves fire safety and will in turn set up future work to update and modernize Blue Lake’s bathrooms and other facilities. Elsewhere at the park, the fishing piers have been roped off. The structure was becoming unsafe and will be removed later this year.
At the end of March, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued a clean-up plan for Willamette Cove, a former industrial plot in Portland’s St. Johns and Cathedral Park neighborhoods. Last year, the Metro Council made Willamette Cove eligible to receive potential bond funding in this program area. On April 28, the Metro Council held a work session to discuss next steps for the site.
Walking and biking trails
Contact: Walking and biking trails, Robert Spurlock, [email protected]
This week, the walking and biking trails program hosted two community engagement events. These events were created to ensure we hear the voices of Black, Indigenous and people of color, and we’ve worked with more than two dozen community-based organizations to get the word out and bring people together. We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who shared the events with their communities.
The events focused on gathering community guidance on an assessment tool that will help us prioritize where to fill the gaps in trails and where to make connections between trails. Across greater Portland, there are many potential trail expansion projects, and prioritizing what types of projects should get bond dollars is the program’s first step.
This tool, which will basically be an algorithm that weighs a bunch of different factors, needs to reflect the values and needs of community members. At these engagement events, community members provided feedback on the factors and offered their views on what factors matter most to them. Metro staff will do our best to make sure the tool responds to what we heard. Along with community input, the tool is being designed to meet the bond’s criteria and values for racial equity and community engagement, and we’re incorporating the technical knowhow and understanding of trail managers and advocates.
We look forward to additional opportunities in the coming months for community members to shape the assessment tool and influence trail investments.