For a year now, we’ve sent out monthly updates on the process launching of the 2019 parks and nature bond measure. The goal of bond refinement was to launch programs that will fulfill the bond’s criteria of racial equity, community engagement and climate resilience. Last year, the local parks and nature program (local share) and take care Metro parks programs launched, along with a community centered pilot of the Nature in Neighborhoods capital grants program and a solicitation for local governments to apply for grants to plan and build regional trails.
In the next few months, the Metro Council will consider approval of the refinement plans for the protect and restore land and walking and biking trails programs, providing staff with road maps to acquire land through our willing seller program for habitat protection and where local partners will one day build regional trails. With those refinement processes for those programs winding down, we won’t have nearly as much to share with you every month. This will be the last regular monthly update.
We’ll still have news to share with you through this newsletter. The Nature in Neighborhoods capital grants pilot is beginning an exciting next phase, and we’ll share periodic updates on the work to ramp up bond funded projects safety and accessibility improvements at Metro parks, land purchases, investments in parks, trails and natural areas in communities across the region, conservation projects and more.
You can continue to stay in touch by signing up to receive Our Big Backyard, Metro’s free quarterly parks and nature print magazine, or for Parks and Nature News updates online. If you have questions about a specific program, please contact the programs listed at the bottom of this newsletter or email [email protected]
Bond program updates
Protect and restore land
Contact: Shannon Leary, [email protected]
Last month, the protect and restore land team shared their drafts plans for prioritizing land purchases in each of the bond’s 24 target areas. We asked community members to provide one last round of input to shape the plans before they are sent to the Metro Council for consideration. We received more than 1,700 responses.
We were totally blown away by the investment of time and care that so many of you put into the review. Thank you! Meaningful community engagement is the keystone of this bond refinement process, and the team is now at work reviewing what you told us. That information will join the information from dozens of other community engagement opportunities, stakeholder feedback, and data and science reviews to help shape the final plans for land purchases that will be brought to the Metro Council for consideration this spring.
While bond refinement has been underway, Parks and Nature’s real estate team has been able to buy several properties. When the bond passed, the Metro Council recognized that chances to buy properties sometimes come once in a generation, so it directed the department to make purchases that we were certain would meet the bond’s criteria. Recently, Metro added 52 acres to Killin Wetlands Nature Park, including 35 acres of peat swamp and an upland area that will attract western pond turtles when they lay their eggs.
Walking and biking trails
Robert Spurlock, [email protected]
The bond measure’s trails program aims to close gaps in the region’s trail network. The bond’s regional trails team is close to completing and sharing for Metro Council consideration the plan that will guide property purchases and acquisitions that will connect trail segments and link different trails.
There are more potential projects than even $40 million can fund, so Metro has worked with community members and partners over the past year to rank projects based on their needs and priorities. This community input is being used to create a prioritization tool has helped Metro develop a plan about which trail projects to invest in with limited resources.
We will bring these plans to the Metro Council for consideration in spring 2022.
We so appreciate your involvement to shape the plans that will guide Metro’s trail acquisitions for years to come.
Here are a few highlights of that work from the past year:
Local park providers consistently report that Metro’s easement acquisition work is the most important service we provide in helping them advance regional trails.
- Last spring, we worked with more than two dozen community organizations to invite Black, Indigenous, and people of color to trails engagement events. More than 100 people showed up to the two virtual events in late April to share their insights into what they want prioritized when we are buying those properties – things like safety, connections to work and access to nature. You can find the report on this engagement event here on our website.
- The second round of outreach took place in November 2021, and featured two virtual open houses geared toward a general audience, and a third event tailored specifically to local park providers.
- Participants reviewed online draft prioritization maps and provided input via an electronic survey. The survey asked participants to identify any anomalies in the maps, such as trail segments drawn in the wrong place, or prioritization scores that didn’t make sense. 127 people filled out the survey.
- The survey asked respondents to name the specific trail or trail segment for which they were providing feedback. This question elicited comments on 26 different trails from 31 respondents. Some trails received three, four, or even five comments, but most trails received one or two comments each. The nature of these comments ranged from advocating for higher prioritization scores to increasing operations and maintenance efforts.
- Operations and maintenance was also a recurring theme in the responses to the survey’s other question, “is there anything else we should be considering?” This question received 60 responses, which included concerns related to people who are experiencing houselessness along trails.
- A full summary of the November engagement is available at oregonmetro.gov/trails.
Nature in Neighborhoods capital grants
Contact: Crista Gardner, [email protected]
We have a capital grants pilot design and review committee. A total of 44 applicants raised their hands to join the committee during a recruitment process last fall, and we were blown away by the talent and passion represented in the applicant pool, which reflected the rich diversity of communities in the region.
The committee is: Anthony Bradley, Alisa Chen, Blanca Gaytan Farfan, Theresa Huang, Kevin Hughes, Jeffrey Lee and Jairaj Singh. The committee has met twice this month. Meeting information can be found on the Metro calendar and on the capital grants pilot project webpage.
The committee members were chosen based on a recommendation from a selection panel of Metro staff, Participatory Budgeting Oregon representatives, and community partners.
Members of the committee will help design the program and ultimately recommend up to $4 million in grant funding to the Metro Council. Working within the bond framework, they’ll establish a shared vision for the program and create the ground rules and values that will guide the program from start to finish. From there, they will design the process by which projects are identified and evaluated. In addition, committee members will help evaluate, support and review funding applications from the community. After a community vote that prioritizes projects, the committee will recommend projects to the Metro Council for funding.
Natural areas oversight committee meeting
Contact: Beth Cohen, [email protected]
The Natural Areas and Capital Program Performance Oversight Committee met on February 22 and has another meeting on March 3. The committee is focused on finalizing themes for its year one report to the Metro Council expected this spring and identifying additional topics to focus on this year. You can find the recordings from the February 22 meeting and information about the March 3 meeting on the committee’s webpage.