There’s more to parks and nature than just restoring habitat or opening new parks. To develop future conservation leaders and nurture their passion for these special places, it’s crucial to provide meaningful experiences for people of all ages and abilities to connect with nature through conservation education programs and volunteer opportunities.
Expanded conservation education programs has meant more fun classes with Metro naturalists, including nature walks, survival skills classes and other activities that families can enjoy together.
Metro’s Youth Ecology Corps, now in its second year, continues to serve low-income, disconnected youths in the greater Portland metro region. The Youth Ecology Corps is a partnership between Metro and Project Youth Employability Support Services to provide youths aged 16 to 21 in the east Multnomah County area with paid work opportunities in habitat restoration, conservation education and workforce development.
On the volunteer side, more site stewards now visit natural areas at least twice a month to serve as eyes and ears at their locations, reporting wildlife sightings and other issues they might notice.
Metro has also expanded opportunities at the Native Plant Center and developed relationships with various community groups. For instance, members of the Blind Ambition Dragon Boat Racing team, who are visually impaired, have volunteered on multiple occasions to pull ivy at Glendoveer Golf and Tennis Center, add bark to the Glendoveer fitness trail and more.
Scouters Mountain Nature Park popular destination for field trips, naturalist classes
More than 500 people celebrated the opening of Scouters Mountain Nature Park in Happy Valley in August 2014.
Well after the grand opening celebration ended, students and visitors continued to visit the new park in high numbers, with particularly impressive numbers of participants in school field trips and naturalist classes.
Six public naturalist events were held at the park, including free, guided tours with naturalists and classes designed especially for families with children. About 850 visitors participated in conservation education programs at Scouters Mountain, including 500 youths and adults who attended 16 field trip classes.
The park offers students a chance to see a herd of deer, elusive mountain beavers and a variety of birds in the large Douglas fir forest.
“They get excited, especially when they get to see a woodpecker,” said Alice Froehlich, a Metro naturalist who led the field trips and other programs at Scouters Mountain. “They just get really excited about wildlife and being outside and fresh air and looking at things closely. A lot of times, you hear from teachers that it’s the best field trip they’ve been on all year.”
Scouters Mountain proved to be a particularly popular field trip destination for schools in the North Clackamas area. The park’s location in Happy Valley was a much shorter drive than other field trip destinations, such as Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area in North Portland and Oxbow Regional Park east of Gresham.
“It’s a great classroom,” Froehlich said. “There are a lot of animals who use the space. It’s a nice spot that’s not far away but feels pretty wild.”