On June 29, the Metro Council unanimously approved $2.7 million of Nature in Neighborhoods capital grants for seven projects. The Metro Council chamber filled with applause as the first round of projects funded by the grants since voters approved the 2019 parks and nature bond was passed.
Nature in Neighborhoods is one of the six programs funded by the $475 million parks and nature bond passed by voters in 2019. It provides three-year grants to projects led by community organizations, park providers, local governments and other organizations. The grants are for publicly owned capital projects, which include buildings, large conservation projects, real estate purchases and other physical projects. It also must meet criteria listed in the 2019 bond, including advancing racial equality, preparing the region for climate change and conducting meaningful community engagement.
Of the 16 grant applications, seven projects were chosen for full or partial funding. The committee noted that affordable housing providers had a stronger presence than in previous grant cycles. The committee appreciated the variety of size, creativity of ideas, breadth of projects, and the number of projects submitted to the Nature in Neighborhoods program.
“I was so pleased to see the variety of both project applicants and their project partners in the first round of applications,” said Crista Gardner, the Nature in Neighborhood capital grants program manager. “It really speaks to not only the importance of meeting habitat restoration, water quality and climate resilience criteria, but also racial equality and community engagement.”
The seven projects were chosen by a committee of Metro staff, parks and nature experts and community members with relevant experience and expertise. Chips Janger, co-founder of Urban Green, an activist environmental group that protects and restores the urban ecosystems of Oak Grove, was one of the committee members. Janger was a former applicant for the Nature in Neighborhoods grants.
“When we submitted our application nine years ago, the word equity was not even a part of the conversation,” Janger said. “I was really excited to be part of this new thing, to be able to have a different filter to look at these projects. That was personally a thing I was really happy to be involved in.”
Friends of Tryon Creek received one of the grants. The non-profit is dedicated to community stewardship, ecological restoration and environmental education at Tryon Creek State Natural Area in Portland and Lake Oswego. The funds from their grant will help create a sustainably built classroom with a focus on Indigenous design and art.
Gabe Sheoships, executive director of Friends of Tryon Creek, spoke at Thursday’s meeting.
“We expect a community education pavilion that will amplify the community, that will serve as a living monument that indigenous people have always been and are still here and that our arts our culture, and our life ways are essential to the survival of the contemporary world and how to sustain our local ecology,” he said.
In a memo to Councilors, the Nature in Neighborhoods grant team said the committee was inspired by the proposals, the intention put into the process and geographic distribution of the capital grants programs included in the proposals.
“These are excellent projects that reflect so many goals that Council has set and that parks has set,” Councilor Juan Carlos González said. “I can’t wait for these projects to make a difference.”
Back 5 Garden Expansion
Leach Botanical Garden was awarded just over $100,000 grant in support of opening its Back 5 property to the public. Acquired in 2016, this 5-acre property has become a robust hands-on educational site in collaboration with organizations serving primarily youth of color. Leach Botanical Garden worked in partnership with the Wisdom of the Elders, the Blueprint Foundation, David Douglas High School, and African Youth Community Organization, Johnson Creek Watershed Council, National Society for Black Engineers PDX Chapter
3-Creeks Restoration Project
Clackamas Water Environment Services, in partnership with North Clackamas Watersheds Council and North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District, was awarded $620,000 to restore a deeply incised Mount Scott Creek in the 89-acre 3-Creeks natural area, enhancing habitat for threatened fish, improving community resilience to extreme weather and connecting residents to nature.
Future Generations at Tryon Creek
Friends of Tryon Creek, in partnership with Oregon State Parks, Cultural Lifeways Community was awarded $350,000 to create a new education space for the whole community within the urban forest, grounded in ancestral design.
Connecting more people to nature by improving accessibility and education and gathering spaces at Hoyt Arboretum
Hoyt Arboretum Friends was awarded $500,000 to increase connection to nature for visitors by improving accessibility while creating meaningful learning experiences in a unique global tree collection. The funding will support new outdoor classrooms or gathering spaces. Hoyt Arboretum Friends are partnering with Portland Parks & Recreation, Henneberry Eddy Architects, COLAS Construction.
Milwaukie Neighborhood Park Development
The City of Milwaukie was awarded $350,000 to finish the design and construction of the city’s remaining undeveloped neighborhood parks. The request will provide for design charrettes for play features with new and existing community partners. The city is partnering with the Equity Steering Committee, Parks and Recreation Board, FACT Oregon, Boys & Girls Club of the Portland Metropolitan Area.
Gresham Civic Hub
Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon in partnership with the Multnomah County Library, City of Gresham, Native American Rehabilitation Association were awarded partial funding of $389,000 to construct a sustainably designed plaza that brings the natural environment into an urban civic space. This creates outdoor space at the new East County Library to provide responsive programs with a wide community appeal.
The Housing Authority of Clackamas County was awarded $389,000 to partially fund a variety of green and recreational improvements to enhance the quality of life for residents living in 275 units of affordable housing at Hillside Park.