Community investments support a variety of projects: community stewardship and restoration, nature education, outdoor experiences, land acquisition, capital improvements, visitor amenities and more. Altogether over the last 25 years, the public – through Metro – has invested nearly $100 million to support a broad range of community nature projects across the region, helping to preserve land, restore habitat, expand access and more. The 2019 parks and nature bond will provide more than $130 million to this legacy of investment.
In the face of the COVID pandemic, Metro’s community partnerships program acted quickly to create a capacity-building sponsorship program to support community organizations that are run by and work for communities of color. More than $180,000 went to 36 organizations that had to expand their work to meet the needs of community members navigating COVID. $50,000 in sponsorships supported community organizations to hold events and activities in nature over the past year.
Since 1995, each of the natural areas and parks bonds have included a “local share” program that supports local park providers with fund for parks and restoration projects that matter to their communities. Throughout 2020, the $92 million local share program was redeveloped to include the 2019 bond measure’s focus on racial equity and meaningful community engagement. The program launched in spring of 2021, ready to receive proposals from local park providers. Every month, Metro joins a roundtable with the cities and parks districts that receive local share funds to discuss how to create projects that advance racial equity and are informed by meaningful engagement with community members.
Work began in fall 2020 to develop the $40 million capital grants program in the 2019 parks and nature bond measure. The bond includes a pilot grant program of $4 million that will be designed by community members and award grants through a participatory process. It’s a new way of distributing grants that puts more decisions into the hands of the community.
In July 2020, the Metro Council awarded 12 grants totaling $700,000 for projects designed to increase racial equity and climate resilience in greater Portland by connecting people of color to nature.
These grants include a project that brings together Indigenous students and teachers at the Sandy River, another that provides year-round, culturally specific environmental science education, and a career mentorship program that offers youth with low incomes opportunities to learn about natural resource management as they restore local habitats.
The grants are funded by the parks and natural areas levy renewal. This year, Metro received 42 applications that requested funding for projects totaling $2.38 million. Racial equity criteria have guided the grant program since 2018.
“One of Metro's roles in the region is to be a convener,” said Crista Gardner, who was the program manager of Metro’s Nature in Neighborhood community grants. “Our nonprofit partners are coming together through these grant dollars, each bringing their particular skills, knowledge and abilities to the program.”
From “Metro awards $700k for Nature in Neighborhood grants”