On Thursday, the Metro Council awarded 15 community groups and organizations nearly $800,000 in grants for projects designed to support and create partnerships in local communities.
The projects that received funding from Metro’s Nature in Neighborhoods grant program include efforts to re-green city spaces, develop job skills for youth from historically marginalized communities and provide ecology education, among others. Nature in Neighborhoods grants go to projects that focus on community partnerships to improve water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and economic and environmental equity.
The grants come from the parks and natural areas levy that voters renewed in November 2016. This year, Metro received 33 applications that requested funding for projects totaling $1.9 million. This spring, Metro’s Parks and Nature Department implemented its diversity, equity and inclusion action plan, making racial equity more prominent in the grant’s selection criteria.
“What we have found in our grant giving in the past is those grants that are most successful are the ones where partners have mission alignment,” said Crista Gardner, program manager of Metro’s Nature in Neighborhood community grants. “Each one of these grants require three or more partners. So when you’re talking about diversity, equity and inclusion, often the way that works is through bringing together a culturally specific organization (and) an organization with an environmental focus or one that has community engagement as their main focus."
A good example of this type of partnership is a project led by Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, which received $50,000 for its Student Crew Leadership Training Program. The program provides low-income youth and youth of color with opportunities for habitat restoration and mentorship that could help them get careers related to natural resources.
Leigh Rappaport, the program manager of the center, said the program has grown tremendously since its partner, Friends of Trees, started in 2006 as a small work-study program. With input from the youth, they have added leadership trainings, site field trips and education to the program.
“The program teaches current leaders not only nature landscaping,” Rappaport said. “It teaches them communication, advocating for themselves, working as a team, public speaking, problem solving, networking. The student crew leader training program has connected them to nature, their communities and the greater Portland community.”
Liz Coll has been a student of POIC Rosemary Anderson High School the past two years and became a crew leader of Friends of Trees this year.
“I’m excited for all the opportunities Friends of Trees has given me,” Coll said at the Metro Council meeting. “I’ve grown from not wanting to sit here and speak out to being a little nervous to speaking out and talking to you guys. The program has opened me up and connected me with many different people, and I have possible job opportunities in the future.”
Another grant will provide first-time recipient National Indian Parent Information Center with nearly $50,000 toward an Indigenous, multigenerational approach to habitat restoration with a holistic program that includes all ages and abilities. This includes giving extra assistance to someone with a disability or a family with multiple children, or an elder who may need help planting a tree. Money will be spent on project supplies, snacks and water for volunteers and giving stipends to workers providing special expertise.
“The primary site we’ll be working out of is a landfill that was turned into a park,” said Christine Bruno, president of the National Indian Parent Information Center, talking about Cully Park in Northeast Portland. “Our section has turned into a Native garden of native plants for people to enjoy and learn and share cultural knowledge to hopefully connect and heal themselves, feel better while they’re out there.”
Full list of 2018 Nature in Neighborhoods nature education and outdoor experiences grant recipients:
Backyard Habitat Certification Program – Washington County Expansion and Equity Project
Recipient: Audubon Society of Portland
Grant amount: $64,658
Project Partners: Tualatin Soil & Water Conservation District, Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation, Clean Water Services and the Cities of Tigard, Tualatin and Beaverton
Program summary: Expansion of the Backyard Habitat Certification Program to provide technical assistance, incentives, resources, and recognition to Washington County residents as they enhance native wildlife habitat, control invasive weeds, reduce pesticides, and manage stormwater at home while deepening the diversity, equity and inclusion training for program staff.
Young Black Environmentalists Internship Program
Recipient: Camp E.L.S.O. Inc.
Grant amount: $100,000
Project Partners: BEAM Village (Black Educational Achievement Movement), Friends of Tryon Creek, The Blueprint Foundation, Crag Environmental Law Center, Portland Harbor Community Coalition and Reed College
Program summary: Internships, education, and exposure to all levels of environmental careers for Black students to increase leadership, engagement, and representation for people of color in the broader environmental movement.
Seiben Creek Landowner Stewardship Engagement Project
Recipient: Clackamas River Basin Council
Grant amount: $22,000
Project Partners: Clackamas River Basin Council, Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District and the Clackamas River Community Cooperative
Program summary: A riparian zone restoration and residential stewardship education project on the property of the Clackamas River Community Cooperative, a nonprofit, resident-owned manufactured home community with riverfront property along the Clackamas River.
Depave the Centennial School District
Grant amount: $42,000
Project Partners: Centennial School District: Powell Butte, Patrick Lynch, and Oliver-Parklane elementary schools, Mercy Corps Northwest, Portland Bureau of Environmental Services Clean Rivers Education and Johnson Creek Watershed Council
Program summary: This project will develop, plan and implement two to three re-greening projects at Title 1 Centennial School District elementary schools. Depave will conduct a community design process, and create ~10,000 sf of new greenspaces with 800 native plants, nature play and on-site stormwater elements.
Collaborative Community Stewardship: Restoring Public Land through Traditional Knowledge
Recipient: Ecology in Classrooms and Outdoors
Grant amount: $75,452
Project Partners: Wisdom of the Elders, Portland Parks and Recreation and Portland Public Schools: Lent, Kelly, and Marysville school sites
Program summary: Project Partners will create a collaborative approach to improving local habitats, whereby members of Indigenous groups mentor students in Traditional Ecological Knowledge while meeting the restoration needs of public lands.
Gladstone Nature Park Butterfly Hill
Recipient: Friends of Gladstone Nature Park
Grant amount: $11,600
Project Partners: Gladstone School District, Boskey Dell Nursery, City of Gladstone and Exceed Enterprises
Program summary: This project will rehabilitate a 25-foot tall hill located in the Gladstone Nature Park using park and city volunteers, along with middle and high school students and their families, to restore it with native plants that will attract pollinators including butterflies.
Mitchell Creek Floodplain Restoration
Recipient: Johnson Creek Watershed Council
Grant amount: $36,750
Project Partners: Centennial School District, The Nature Conservancy, Portland General Electric, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, Wisdom of the Elders, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Program summary: A 35-acre property in the Mitchell Creek Floodplain contains an artificially constructed and impounded in-line pond that is both a fish passage barrier and a cause of lethally high summer temperature for salmonids. This project will remove the barriers and add large wood for habitat.
Re-Indigenizing the Urban Landscapes
Recipient: National Indian Parent Information Center
Grant amount: $49,819
Project Partners: City Repair, Portland Parks & Recreation, Indigenous Nations Studies at Portland State University
Program summary: An Indigenous multigenerational approach to restoration; healing the land and ourselves. Revitalizing cultural connections to Place by creating an inclusive community utilizing Traditional Ecological Knowledge to restore waterways and wildlife habitats.
Green Job Workforce Development for High School Aged Youth
Recipient: Northwest Youth Corps
Grant amount: $86,751
Project Partners: Girls Inc., Friends of Trees, Forest Park Conservancy, City of Troutdale, Portland Workforce Alliance
Program summary: A collaboration with Girls Inc. to improve the ability of high school aged youth from historically marginalized groups to help restore the region's natural areas, as they earn money, and engage in green job workforce development.
Student Crew Leadership Training Program
Recipient: Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center Inc.
Grant amount: $50,000
Project Partners: Friends of Trees, Portland Parks & Recreation, Gresham Parks and Recreation, Friends of Nadaka Nature Park, Columbia Slough Watershed Council, Friends of Columbia Children's Arboretum and Ecology in Classrooms & Outdoors
Program summary: Through the Student Crew Leadership Training Program, project partners provide low-income youth and youth of color with the opportunity to restore local habitats and receive career-track natural resource mentorship/education.
SW 25th Ave ROW Community Trail Restoration
Recipient: Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation
Grant amount: $12,500
Project Partners: Habitat Restoration NW, LLC, SW Watershed Resource Center, West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, SOLVE, Mittleman Jewish Community Center, Portland Jewish Academy, Hillsdale Neighborhood Association
Program summary: This project is located along a popular SW Portland community trail used by a diverse group of people. This project engages the community in a variety of restoration and educational programs to improve and maintain this neighborhood green space.
Balch Creek Restoration Partnership
Recipient: The Forest Park Conservancy
Grant amount: $100,000
Project Partners: Portland Parks and Recreation, Rosario Franco, Inc., Ash Creek Forest Management, City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, Portland State University
Program summary: The Balch Creek Restoration Partnership has three elements: 1) Habitat restoration, 2) Promotion of community stewardship, and 3) Improving economic and environmental equity. The project will directly benefit 200 acres of Forest Park in the Balch Creek Watershed.
From Labor to Leadership: Advancing People of Color into Restoration Careers
Grant amount: $30,599
Project Partners: Columbia Slough Watershed Council, VOZ Workers' Rights Education Project, Hacienda CDC and City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services
Program summary: This project will provide a series of site-specific restoration trainings in the Columbia Slough Watershed designed by low-income people of color, taking Verde Landscape from labor to leadership in the local environmental sector.
Restoration Equity: Stewardship and Job Skills for Immigrant Workers
Recipient: Voz Workers' Rights Education Project
Grant amount: $50,000
Project Partners: City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, People-Places-Things, Verde, Oregon State University Master Gardener Program and East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District
Program summary: Project partners will work together to provide restoration skills trainings and hands-on restoration experiences that improve economic outcomes for day laborers.
Westside Wildlife Corridor for People and Habitat
Recipient: West Willamette Restoration Partnership
Grant amount: $63,000
Project Partners: Portland Parks & Recreation, Columbia Land Trust, Friends of Marquam Nature Park, Friends of Terwilliger, West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, Wisdom of the Elders, Community Engagement Liaison Services, Central City Concern and Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership
Program summary: The West Willamette Restoration Partnership will enhance 20 acres of forest habitat in SW Portland and implement a community engagement project with culturally-specific organizations to inform planning for trails and access to nature.