Over the past month, the 2019 parks and nature bond reached a critical milestone: a majority of the bond’s programs have finished refinement and are now at work fulfilling the promises Metro made to voters when they approved the bond.
The program that funds capital improvements at Metro’s parks and the local share program have been up and running at full tilt for a year. Now they’re joined by Metro’s two land acquisition programs – protect and restore land and walking and biking trails – which are ready to make investments that help conserve the region’s special places and buy land where local partners will one day build regional trails.
These two programs showed that refinement isn’t a pit stop between bond passage and the important work that will be done over the next decade or more. This bond puts racial equity and community engagement at the forefront, and that meant these programs, which were well established from previous natural areas bond measures, were going to do their work differently.
This refinement process, through asking for and acting on critical insights and direction from hundreds of community members, established what different would look like and is an important step in shifting how Metro does business. The feedback we received through engagement activities during the last year of refinement has tangibly helped shape priorities for land and trail gap acquisition through emphasizing the importance of conservation priorities like native fish and ensuring certain geographies, such as lower Johnson Creek, are included as eligible investment areas. Another example is the North Portland Willamette Greenway Trail, one of several regional trails with gaps that emerged as high priorities for future acquisition. These trail gaps scored highly based on a set of prioritization factors created with community input to guide trail investments including safety, connections to work and access to nature.
There is still work underway that needs input from you and other community members, and the programs that are spending bond dollars have projects that require community insights. We’ll keep you posted over the coming months through this newsletter and through other channels.
Bond program updates
Protect and restore land
Contact: Shannon Leary, [email protected]
The protect and restore land program completed its refinement work! Earlier this month, the Metro Council approved the road maps that will guide Parks and Nature as it buys land across greater Portland. The team had continued to make strategic land purchases during the last year and a half, but now the real estate team has the bright green light to go.
They have up to $155 million to purchase natural areas.
The team reached this milestone thanks to the time, energy and expertise of a huge number of community members, conservation professionals, government staff and more folks who care about strengthening nature.
As with plans from past bond measures, Metro staff relied on extensive scientific data and the input of experts from across greater Portland. These road maps also were shaped by insights from communities of color, members of the disability community, people with low incomes and other communities who haven’t been included in past planning processes. In particular, Indigenous community members were closely involved in developing the road maps, and their contributions can be seen throughout the plans.
The plans show how conservation, racial equity and community engagement work together to make each other stronger and help us create a resilient place for people, plants and animals.
Walking and biking trails
Contact: Robert Spurlock, [email protected]
You can help Metro choose projects that will improve trails, sidewalks and roadways in communities across greater Portland. Metro administers the regional flexible funding program that distributes federal transportation dollars to the region’s cities, counties and other transportation providers. The 2019 parks and nature bond’s walking and biking trails grant program is being run through the flexible funding program.
The program needs your help picking among 29 projects that requested funding to improve trails, sidewalks and roadways in communities across the greater Portland region. There is $67.3 million available, $20 million of which comes from the bond, and not all the projects can be supported.
Tell decision makers which proposed investments you think are most important during a public comment period that will start May 17. Visit oregonmetro.gov/rffa starting May 17 to participate in online survey and learn how to submit comments through email, voicemail and mail.
The online survey will be available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Russian and Korean.
Metro will post the survey to its news feed and social media. Stay tuned.
But that’s not all for the trails program. The Metro Council approved its plan for how we will spend up to $10 million to purchase land that helps fill gaps on trails and connects trails to each other. Just like the protect and restore land program, the trails team did extensive community engagement that focused on hearing from people of color. That invaluable input will shape the course of our region’s trail system for years to come.
Nature in Neighborhoods capital grants
Contact: Crista Gardner, [email protected]
The Nature in Neighborhoods capital grants pilot project is moving ahead and reaching some exciting milestones.
The Design and Review Committee for the pilot, which has been meeting since January, will help design the program, shape the process for a community vote on projects, and ultimately recommend up to $4 million in grant funding to the Metro Council.
Committee members have been using a range of activities to share their perspectives, prioritize and give recommendations on parts of the process and are helping shape the guidebook that will launch the solicitation of projects from the community. Over the next few months, the team will be working with the committee to finalize the guidebook for solicitation of projects from the community.
Staff also celebrated the completion of a year-plus long partnership with staff from Participatory Budgeting Oregon that helped launch the pilot. PBO’s insights and hard work has made a positive and important impact on the work and has positioned the committee and Metro staff well to continue building out this exciting pilot.
Contact: Beth Cohen, [email protected]
In alignment with its role to report annually to the Metro Council, the Natural Areas and Capital Program Performance Oversight Committee has submitted its year one report back to the Metro Council. The year one report back includes initial takeaways from the committee’s first year of work, topics the committee is hoping to focus on in 2022 and a more detailed report from staff to the committee on bond work and bond spending completed to date. You can find the report on the committee’s webpage.
The committee will meet again on May 11 in working groups to continue discussions with Metro staff about bond land acquisition, community engagement and bond finance and contracting.