All of us at Metro hope you and your loved ones have stayed safe and warm. Metro’s park rangers and land management crews spent much of the past two weeks cleaning up downed trees in our parks and cemeteries, clearing roads, and generally continuing their heroic efforts to keep our parks open and safe for the public over what is about to be a full year of unprecedented challenges. We know you are doing the same for our communities, and we’re incredibly thankful for you.
For the parks and nature bond refinement team, winter has been a time of hunkering down. There’s been a lot of work behind the scenes that’s going to break out with the spring.
For folks who are new to the newsletter, bond refinement is the department-wide effort to build each of the six programs outlined in the 2019 parks and nature bond measure, which is a promise made by Metro to the voters of the region to build upon its decades of conservation work and continue its mission to protect clean water, restore fish and wildlife habitat, and provide opportunities for people to connect with nature close to home.
Metro, with the help of tribal governments, community members and partners will identify how each program will invest funds over the life of the $475 million bond measure. Despite challenging working conditions, staff have been and continue meeting key milestones and are making significant progress getting programs and projects ready to go.
Guided by community engagement, racial equity and climate resilience
Contact: Humberto Marquez Mendez
The bond measure provides Metro the opportunity to do its work differently and better because of its clear goals of community engagement, racial equity and climate resilience. All three of these criteria ask that each bond program takes time to listen to communities of color, Indigenous communities, people with low incomes, and other historically marginalized communities so they can meaningfully and effectively influence the programs and how bond dollars are spent.
Through this new approach to our work, Metro’s commitment to conservation values is unwavering, and the 2019 bond will continue our decades of good work. Over the past several years, Parks and Nature has worked hard to identify how conservation values connect to the values of racial equity, diversity and inclusion. Over and over, we’ve seen there are many connections, something Black, Brown and Indigenous communities have been saying for decades.
As Metro continues our work, we are beginning a new body of work to establish successful relationships with tribal nations who have interests in the greater Portland area. Working with tribal governments will help Metro improve our efforts to protect and preserve natural and cultural resources across our region, and create opportunities for tribal nations to share their wealth of expertise in the development and implementation of our conservation actions.
Convening and listening to communities of color and tribal governments – and acting on their input – is a relationship-building process. As we’ve acknowledged, this has and will take time, and it will have lasting implications for how we do our work after the initial refinement period, into bond implementation and beyond. And we know how important this type of meaningful engagement is: It’s what set the values and direction of this bond.
We’re excited to share more about the work underway and plans for upcoming engagement with tribal governments, community members, stakeholders and local park providers.
We expect a very busy year launching several bond programs and bond-funded investments including:
- Advancing key infrastructure investments to address urgent health and safety issues at Metro parks and deliver on Metro’s promise to provide safe and welcoming access to nature.
- Supporting 27 local park providers in identifying projects eligible for bond funding and beginning to implement those projects in communities across the region.
- Completing data collection and engagement to identify priorities for land protection, habitat restoration and trail gap acquisition.
- Launch solicitation for projects that help connect nature and green spaces to other community assets like affordable housing and transportation for funding through phase 1 of the large-scale community visions program.
- Setting the stage for the future bond-funded capital grant programs and the participatory grant-making pilot program.
In the coming weeks, be sure to check out our webpage for an updated timeline that will show these and other engagement opportunities coming up for each bond program. This timeline will continue to be updated as we make progress.
Ongoing and upcoming refinement work:
Contact: Beth Cohen
Metro and the entire Parks and Nature team are committed to making sure the 2019 bond measure is executed well and fulfills our department’s mission to protect clean water, restore fish and wildlife habitat, and provide opportunities for people to connect with nature close to home.
To do this, it is important to define what success looks like, how we will measure it and how we will hold ourselves accountable. The bond team has spent the past few months laying this important groundwork.
The Metro Council established a set of principles and three criteria – meaningful community engagement, racial equity and climate resilience – that guide the refinement and implementation of the bond.
This spring, Metro will work with community members and partners to establish how climate resilience, which includes environmental justice and racial equity, will be defined in the department. Climate change and its effects on greater Portland have long been part of the department’s conservation efforts, but bond refinement is the first department-wide project that Parks and Nature has taken on with climate resilience as a criteria. The input from community members and partners will influence how programs are shaped and projects are prioritized.
For each of its funding measures, Metro has relied on independent community oversight to ensure we stay accountable to voters and deliver on the promises made to them. The oversight committee for the 2006 bond wrapped up its work at the end of 2020, and a new oversight committee will be appointed by the Metro Council by the end of February. It will be responsible for oversight of the 2019 parks and nature bond and capital investments from the five-year parks and natural areas operating levy.
Finally, Parks and Nature staff are establishing the outcomes that will help evaluate the success of the bond programs. These outcomes will be based on the bond measure’s principles and criteria. Once the Metro Council approves them, the oversight committee will use these outcomes to evaluate whether we are meeting the goals approved by voters.
Program staff and Metro’s tribal liaison are beginning conversations about the bond with tribal governments that have treaty rights and interests in greater Portland as part of the Metro Council’s goals to establish relationships with these governments.
Protect and restore land
Bond funding: $155 million
Contact: Shannon Leary
We know that this program is important to a wide range of our partners, stakeholders and community members. We are working to center tribal government and Indigenous communities’ relationship with the land and natural and cultural resources in our decision making. In working collaboratively with members of greater Portland’s Indigenous community to prepare ecological assessments of each of the 24 target areas outlined in the bond resolution, Indigenous community members identified gaps in our analysis and helped us set a stronger foundation for addressing environmental justice.
This direction from community members broadens the information available for each target area and helps us make more equitable and informed decisions. We hope to gather further input from our tribal government partners in this regard as well.
Over the next year, we will hold opportunities for tribes and community members to review the data and feedback compiled for each target area’s assessment and, most importantly, help the Metro Council to shape priorities within each of the target areas.
While this work is underway, Metro is continuing to purchase land.
When the bond passed, the Metro Council directed the department to continue conservation work as we completed refinement. This ongoing work is based on the plan established for the 2006 bond, and properties purchased must align with the 2019 bond measure criteria and target area priorities. This direction has allowed Metro to purchase an 86-acre natural area in the Sandy River Basin, just southeast of Oxbow Regional Park. Bond dollars have also purchased a 5.2-acre wetland along Council Creek in Cornelius and 8.6 acres on Gabbert Butte in Gresham.
Local parks and nature projects (local share)
Bond funding: $92 million
Contact: Marcia Sinclair
Many people across the region will see tangible results from this bond measure right in their own neighborhoods and communities, thanks to the vision and commitment of local park providers putting the local share program of the bond to work. We know these local park providers and their communities are eager to invest these funds, and we are eager to support them as they identify, submit and build their priority projects.
Program staff are focused on creating a program handbook this month, and by April they expect to have an application package ready for our region’s 27 park providers. These materials will provide clear, achievable and consistent direction to help park managers engage communities of color, prioritize projects and prepare project proposals that meet the bond measure requirements. These materials will also include a community engagement toolkit and resources to support that work.
As this work is underway, local share program staff are available to meet with our park providers to review potentially suitable projects and answer questions. We expect to schedule meetings with all partners starting in April. For other interested parties, we will share the handbook when complete.
Nature in Neighborhoods capital grants
Bond funding: $40 million
Contact: Crista Gardner
The capital grants program includes up to $5 million for a participatory pilot to engage community members in grantmaking. Metro is partnering with Participatory Budgeting Oregon and Unite Oregon to launch this pilot this spring. The pilot projects seeks to engage community members in grantmaking and participatory budgeting, a tactic to promote democratic values and civic engagement in public budgeting, which involves shifting decision-making power to community members.
Metro park improvements
Bond funding: $98 million
Contact: Melissa Bergstrom
At Blue Lake Regional Park, projects are underway to modernize the park’s water supply and improve the maintenance facilities. Blue Lake is home base for most of Metro’s park maintenance operations, so these improvements will benefit parks across the region. At Oxbow Regional Park, project managers are planning accessibility improvements, water system updates and road repairs. Work is also underway to help us better anticipate and plan for long-term effects of the Sandy River’s natural patterns of erosion. We’ll also be focusing on accessibility improvements at Graham Oaks Nature Park.
Much of the initial work for these projects is figuring out scope and schedules and determining how community members can meaningfully shape them. Some projects, like the water supply at Blue Lake, are driven by engineering and regulatory requirements, and community engagement couldn’t change the project. We also heard clearly during previous community engagement that people wanted Metro to go ahead and take care of infrastructure improvements for health and safety.
For projects community members can influence, we will have community engagement that ensures investments meet community values and needs.
Walking and biking trails
Bond funding: $40 million
Contact: Robert Spurlock
Staff from the trails program are building a tool to help prioritize the hundreds of gaps in the regional trail network that should be purchased through our willing-seller program. Filling these gaps between trails allows Metro and partners to better connect and extend the regional trail system.
To decide which factors are most important when, we have held a series of meetings with each of the local park providers. We are also planning to have these conversations with tribal governments starting this spring. We will go to community members later this year and ask them to share their priorities and needs on factors like access to nature, local demographics, safety, network connectivity and the number of visitors a future trail would receive.
We’ve also been gathering information to shape a new grant program that will fund regional trail projects. Details for this new grant program are still in the works.