The Metro Council has appointed a new independent oversight committee for the regional government’s parks and natural areas. The new Natural Areas and Capital Performance Oversight Committee, which replaces a nearly identical body that wrapped up their work at the end of 2020, will oversee how Metro uses voter investments, including the $475 million parks and nature bond measure that passed in 2019.
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Metro manages more than 17,000 acres of parks, cemeteries, trails and natural area that help protect greater Portland’s air and water, restore fish and wildlife habitat, and provide places for people to connect with nature near their homes.
Oversight committees have been critical to Metro as it built this system with the support of voters. The new committee will ensure Metro keeps its promises to the region’s residents by spending bond dollars on projects and programs that fulfill the goals of the bond measure. Among other criteria, these include racial equity, community engagement that provides residents a chance to meaningfully affect how bond dollars are spent, and climate resilience.
The Metro Council placed a high priority on creating a committee that reflected the diversity of greater Portland as well as formal expertise and expertise from lived experiences.
Meet the committee
Tana Atchley Culbertson
Tana Atchley Culbertson is the director of network coordination at the Willamette River Network. An enrolled citizen of the Klamath Tribes who is of Modoc, Paiute and Karuk descent, Tana’s personal and cultural connections to rivers run deep. Growing up along the Sprague River in southern Oregon, Tana witnessed the effects of the degradation in her home watershed. This motivated Tana to dedicate herself to addressing the environmental harm that afflicts our watersheds and the people who depend upon them. Tana has nearly two decades of experience working in youth education and career development in higher education and tribal settings. She currently serves on the board of OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon and the University of Oregon Alumni Association. Tana writes that advancing racial equity means “going beyond performative actions and truly working with BIPOC communities that are impacted by the work of the parks bond.”
Burton T. Edwards
Burt T. Edwards leads the public engagement team at Friends of the Columbia Gorge. Before joining Friends, Burt worked for over 20 years in Washington, D.C. where he last served as communications and media director for InterAction – the largest alliance of international non-governmental organizations and partners in the United States. Previously, he worked nine years at the Pew Charitable Trusts and National Environmental Trust where he managed communications projects, and he served six years at the U.S. Institute of Peace – first as public affairs officer and later as USIP's first web editor. Burt writes, “As a voter who supported this bond effort and as a Black conservation professional, I am interested both as a chance to give back to my community and to apply my 25 years of experience in public affairs to ensure this bond both benefits and is accountable to all metro residents, no matter their race, ethnicity or economic background.”
John W. Ferguson
John W. Ferguson is a retired geotechnical engineer who has worked on engineering projects ranging from the Mt. St. Helens eruption to flood protection, water quality, landslides, earthquakes and residential and commercial developments. He served in a civic capacity as the chair of a Natural Features Team planning for the urbanization of 10,000 acres in the Damascus area to evaluate and protect high-quality natural areas. He has served on three other urbanization advisory committees. John writes, “I continue to immerse myself in nature, to witness the impacts of climate change, of pollution, and of development and know the urgency to protect what we have left and to provide for as many people as I can the emotional sustenance, spiritual enrichment, and physical joy that the outdoors and nature provides.”
Lisa Freedman is a former executive in the U.S. Forest Service, where she worked for 35 years in natural resource management and policy development. As a lifelong public servant, Lisa holds a deep appreciation and love for the resources and people of the Pacific Northwest. At the Forest Service, Lisa coordinated large-scale, multi-year complex projects that included major coordination efforts between different partners. She currently serves on Legacy Health Systems’ board of directors. She writes, “Advancing racial equity means listening to all voices and being willing to accept that the direction forward is not simple, linear, or conforms to majority culture.”
Nicole Johnson is the community engagement manager at 1000 Friends of Oregon. She has experience in land use, environmental law, working lands and working in coalitions that center diversity, equity and inclusion, and her work includes the engaging with young and dedicated land-use advocates. Nicole is excited to support the bond to achieve short-term and long-term goals in preserving natural areas, advancing racial justice and making parks and natural areas accessible to all. She writes, “I think the most rewarding challenge will be interrupting the status quo of doing things. We have to think differently about implementation and fulfilling the [bond] criteria. I believe if we get this right, it will set a new direction for Metro to do this work.”
Shantae Johnson, co-owns Mudbone Grown and manages a 19-acre farm called Feed’em Freedom in Corbett. Mudbone Grown is a Black-owned farm enterprise that promotes intergenerational, culturally specific, community-based farming that creates measurable and sustainable environmental, social, cultural and economic impacts in the community. Shantae serves on the Oregon Board of Agriculture, the environmental equity committee of Governor Kate Brown’s Racial Justice Council. She is on the leadership team of the Black Food Fund and Black Oregon Trust. She writes, “As a Portland native, I have a deep passion for supporting the Pacific Northwest environment, land and connecting community and farmers back to the land. I feel this bond needs a committee that not only reflects the community it serves, but has unique perspective on equity and access.”
Michelle Lin is passionate about supporting equitable and inclusive access to the outdoors. She has a professional background in strategy and management consulting, partnering with organizations to navigate transformational change, conduct strategic planning and build successful partnerships. As an active community member, she volunteers as an adventure leader for Wild Diversity and is part of the TEDxPortland organizing team. She loves getting outside and enjoys hiking, backpacking, cycling, climbing and foraging. She writes, “I gain so much joy and nourishment from the outdoors and it pains me that these spaces feel inaccessible or unsafe for residents in communities with which I identify. I want to be an active participant and utilize my experiences and skills in organizational change, project management and stakeholder management to help achieve the goals of the parks and nature bond.”
Martita Meier works in technology as a scrum lead and has a work background in digital marketing and user experience. Her educational background is in anthropology, which has greatly influenced her vision of community. Martita is half Ecuadorian and was raised by her single mother and aunts – the Ecuadorian side of her family. She feels being the daughter of an immigrant and having white American family on her father's side has given her a unique perspective on both cultures. She writes, "Anthropology has really allowed me to understand how important subtle cultural differences can be when looking at the way people interact with others, the spaces they inhabit, and their government."
Padmanabhan K. (PK) Melethil is a traditional Chinese medicine physician and environmental scientist. He recognizes the importance of equitably distributed urban and suburban green spaces in both protecting and improving public health. PK serves as an associate director of Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District, a position that has shown him the critical role local government plays in promoting conservation education and building community resilience. He writes, “Inequity threads through our communities and often remains unseen because those who are marginalized are neither heard from, nor represented, in governmental decision making.”
Bryan Mercier is the Northwest regional director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Born and raised in western Oregon and an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon, he is a Native Oregonian in the truest sense of the term. Bryan has spent more than 15 years working in public service, most recently as the executive manager of fish and wildlife for Bonneville Power Administration’s environment, fish and wildlife program, which is the largest environmental mitigation program in the United States. He writes, “I'm interested in assisting Metro in allocating funds in a culturally sensitive manner that engages people of color in our regional parks and public lands.”
Georgena Moran is an advocate for people with disabilities and an International Code Council-certified accessibility specialist. She is well versed in the ADA and ABA accessibility standards, applying them to facilities and parks, with an emphasis on hiking trails. Georgena is the founder and project manager of Access Recreation and the co-owner of Access for All, LLC, advocating for the rights and empowerment of people with disabilities. She writes, “I would like to provide a perspective as an avid recreation user living with a disability. I believe people with disabilities have been largely left out of the decision-making process on what denotes equitable access to recreational opportunities and I would like to assist in furthering equity and inclusion by sitting on the advisory committee.”
Michael Morrow has always been interested in establishing parks and natural area in greater Portland. Michael has served on North Clackamas Parks and Recreation advisory committee, Water Environmental Services advisory committee, North Clackamas Watersheds Council, Clackamas River Basin Council, Clackamas Community College budget committee, Sunrise Water budget committee. He writes, “You have to provide the opportunity to discover, see and learn about nature.”
Tabitha Palmer-DuPrau is an underwriting counsel for Fidelity National Title Group where she helps people across Oregon complete their real estate transactions. Her career focuses on helping others complete their real estate transactions. She enjoys working with people from all over the state. She loves Oregon’s natural beauty and the state's commitment to making sure all people have access to its beaches, rivers, parks, forests, deserts, mountains and everything else.
Eric Peterson is the vice president of operations for Newland, where he leads a multi-disciplinary team leading the development of Reed’s Crossing in Hillsboro. In his free time, Eric enjoys playing tennis, cycling and fly fishing the beautiful rivers of the Pacific Northwest. Eric writes, “A community that places a priority on their parks and open spaces is indicative of a community that cares about the wellbeing of its residents.”
Shannon R. Shoul
Shannon R. Shoul works at Nike as the director of procurement sustainability where she leads Nike’s ambition to reach 100% renewable electricity in its owned and operated spaces globally by 2025. Her position also supports work to move the company’s supply chain into renewables. Shannon was born and raised in Oregon and has more than 20 years of experience in sustainability, spanning nonprofit, media and corporate. She served in Metro’s previous Natural Areas Program Performance Oversight Committee. Shannon and her family are avid campers and explorers, enjoying green spaces throughout the West, including those in the Metro area. She writes, “I believe in the power of public spaces to provide solace and connection for our sense of place, our community, and one another.”
Vivek Shandas is the director of Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Change and the Sustaining Urban Places Research lab. As first-generation American and person of color, he wants to be a voice for those who don’t have time or capacity to take part in decision-making processes about green spaces. His research focuses on helping cities develop strategies to address the effects of climate change on its people and infrastructure, and he brings this expertise to committees like the City of Portland’s Urban Forestry Commission, which he chairs. He writes, “While the Metro region contains diverse and extensive green spaces, their distribution and community accessibility remain disproportionately skewed towards those with privilege. We can do better.”
Erin Upton is an environmental social scientist and landscape architect with a doctorate in earth, environment and society from Portland State University. She is passionate about understanding the human dimensions of complex environmental challenges. Erin is curious about decision-making around water and land, climate change resiliency, and sustainable futures in working landscapes. She is committed to applied interdisciplinary research, the co-production of knowledge and elevating diverse community voices. Erin writes, “Advancing racial equity means not only equitable access and equitable use, but also equitable representation in decision making and positions of leadership and power. I think it relates to this committee and the parks bond in general by acknowledging and addressing structural racial bias, promoting and elevating diverse voices, and engaging with BIPOC communities for decision making.”
Cary Watters is a member of the Tlingit Tribe (Raven Moiety and Dog Salmon Clan) and a lifelong member of the Portland urban Indian community. Early on, family and community members instilled a passion in her for first foods and other cultural resources of Salmon Nation. She has worked on policy with Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, managed civic engagement and advocacy at the Native American Youth and Family Center and works as the contract equity coordinator at Portland Bureau of Transportation, where she engages with Portland's diverse business community and facilitates systems change that produces equitable outcomes now and for future generations. She writes, “I will bring my analysis and skills from cross-cultural movement building to this space in a way that uplifts racial equity as a whole, while still recognizing the unique cultural strengths and diverse experiences of different communities.”
Owen Wozniak is the land transactions program manager at the Land Trust Alliance. He cares deeply about the ecological health of the region and the ability of all residents to connect to nature. Owen serves on the board of directors of the Intertwine Alliance. He writes, “If the challenges of 2020 have offered anything positive, it is that they’ve illuminated the fundamental connections among public health, economic vitality, justice and the resilience of social and natural systems. These issues simply cannot be addressed in silos.”