Metro Council awarded nine Nature in Neighborhoods grants worth $700,000 for projects that improve water quality and fish and wildlife habitat, create and deepen partnerships between community institutions and organizations, and address racial inequities in the conservations movement.
This round of Metro’s Nature in Neighborhoods community stewardship and restoration grants supported projects that will create community gardens, restore creeks and other habitats, re-green concrete spaces and support STEM education for children of color and children of families with low incomes.
“Funding [went to] projects designed to support the needs of communities of color with an emphasis on building transformational partnerships for the future and more diverse conservation workforce and leaders,” said Mychal Tetteh, community services director of Metro’s parks and nature department.
The grants are funded by voters who approved the renewal of the parks and natural areas levy measure in November 2016. This year, Metro received 32 applications that requested funding for projects totaling $2.2 million. Racial equity criteria have guided the grant program since 2018.
The review committee included local experts in nature education, outdoor experiences, cultural programs, racial equity and related fields. The committee rewarded proposals that leveraged thoughtful, authentic partnerships and collaboration between organizations.
“The committee was very happy to see proposals done by and with BIPOC communities, rather than for them,” said Jude Perez, a grant review committee member. BIPOC means Black, Indigenous and other people of color. “We noticed that even if a project isn’t led by BIPOC organizations, you can really tell which proposals were influenced by strong BIPOC leadership and BIPOC partnerships.”
Each awarded program has between three and nine partners, with most bringing together five or six schools, governments, community organizations and conservation nonprofits.
One project, a restoration project at Leach Botanical Gardens, is providing conservation workforce training for Indigenous community members while also offering STEM education training for teachers and learning opportunities for young people.
“Although it’s a restoration grant, each partner gets something different out of the grant,” said Daniel Newberry, the executive director of the Johnson Creek Watershed Council.
East Portland Climate Greening + Health Community Advisory Board (CAB)
Recipient: Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO)
Grant amount: $100,000
Project Partners: APANO, Friends of Trees, Portland State University
Program summary: APANO has partnered with Friends of Trees and Portland State University to engage community members living in outer East Portland to both oversee a research study on neighborhood greening and to build connection and community power amongst neighbors.
Educational Invasive Species Removal and Restoration Reimagining Project
Recipient: Beaverton School District Native Education Program
Grant amount: $54,735
Project Partners: Beaverton School District's Native Education Program, Five Oaks Museum, Friends of Tryon Creek
Program summary: A collaborative DEI endeavor centered on increasing BIPOC educational career opportunities within environmental restoration. Additionally we will shift normative conservation narratives seeking to highlight traditional ecological knowledge as best practice.
Food Sovereignty for Immigrants and Refugees in East Portland
Recipient: Center for Intercultural Organizing- DBA Unite Oregon
Grant amount: $100,000
Project Partners: Unite Oregon, City Repair, Depave, Portland Parks and Recreation
Program summary: A cohort of over 20 immigrants and refugees will learn about building community gardens, pollinator habitats, and native planting in high urban density areas, and establish a community garden at Knott Park, created by and for immigrant and refugee community members.
Depave NARA TerraNova CNA 2021-3
Grant amount: $49,940
Project Partners: Depave, City of Gresham, East Multnomah SWCD, Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest, Portland Clean Energy Fund, Terra Nova School/Beaverton School District, Tualatin SWCD, Tualatin Watershed Council
Program summary: Depave will complete two community re-greening projects, a healing garden at NARA Gresham and a learning rain garden at Terra Nova School in Beaverton. We will also expand past site support and a community needs assessment to communities beyond Portland.
Wayfinders and Tappin Roots Expansion
Recipient: Camp E.L.S.O. Inc.
Grant amount: $100,000
Project Partners: Camp E.L.S.O. Inc., BEAM Village, Blueprint Foundation, Friends of Tryon Creek, Greater Than, Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership, Metro Parks and Nature Naturalist team, Tualatin Riverkeepers, US Fish and Wildlife
Program summary: Expanding and improving year-round, culturally relevant STEAM education programs for BIPOC youth which are designed by and for BIPOC communities in collaboration with schools and community organizations, with a focus on expanding STEAM career pathways.
Leach Botanical Garden Community Restoration Project
Recipient: Johnson Creek Watershed Council
Grant amount: $56,619
Project Partners: Johnson Creek Watershed Council, African Youth & Community Organization, The Blueprint Foundation, David Douglas High School, Leach Garden Friends, Wisdom of the Elders
Program summary: Over 3 acres of unmanaged land at Leach Botanical Garden will be restored and monitored over 5+ years. This collaborative effort by 5 partners uses restoration as an opportunity for hands-on STEM youth education and workforce development.
Partnering to Sustainably Restore Centro Cultural's Cornelius Campus & to Foster Deeper Connections to Nature: A community project
Recipient: Portland Audubon
Grant amount: $88,706
Project Partners: Portland Audubon, Centro Cultural de Washington County, Clean Water Services, Columbia Land Trust, Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District
Program summary: Centro Cultural, Backyard Habitat, and Tualatin SWCD are partnering on a community-led project to sustainably restore the land at Centro's campus to create habitat and connect Centro participants and the community to the nature around them.
Student Crew Leadership Training Program (SCLTP)
Recipient: Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center Inc.
Grant amount: $50,000
Project Partners: Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center Inc. and Rosemary Anderson High School, Blueprint Foundation, Columbia Slough Watershed Council, Friends of Columbia Children’s Arboretum, Friends of Trees, Gresham Parks and Recreation, Metro, Outgrowing Hunger, Portland Parks & Recreation
Program summary: Through SCLTP, POIC+RAHS and Friends of Trees (FOT) provide low-income youth and youth of color with the opportunity to restore local habitats and receive career-track natural resource mentorship and education.
Verde Rain Garden & Naturescape Project
Grant amount: $100,000
Project Partners: Verde, Backyard Habitat (Portland Audubon & Columbia Land Trust), Columbia Slough Watershed Council, Habitat for Humanity Portland, Hacienda CDC, Portland Audubon, Reynolds Learning Academy: Multnomah Youth Cooperative Program, PGE Project Zero
Program summary: Expand program capacity to install 36 rain gardens/naturescapes, extend our reach to include homeowners in East Portland, deliver bilingual training to Hacienda CDC and NAYA youth and work with them to design and install 6 rain gardens.