Metro has been working on bond refinement for more than a year, with nearly the whole process taking place during the pandemic. Like everyone else, we had to adapt and re-adapt again and again and are readying to adapt yet again to a changing reality and way of life this summer.
The work of the last year, building new bond programs and updating existing programs to reflect the bond criteria of racial equity, meaningful engagement and climate resilience would not have been possible without the commitment of Metro staff and partners across the region. The updates in this month’s newsletter really highlight the important work that community members, local governments, park providers and Metro staff have done to bring the bond measure to life during very challenging times.
One of these public servants, Marcia Sinclair, the local share program manager, is retiring this summer. Marcia, who had previously worked on the Oregon Zoo’s bond program, joined the Parks and Nature team in spring 2020 and put in that hard work over the past year building the local share program from the ground up. We’re so appreciative of her care and expertise. Thank you, Marcia!
While we are in the process of recruiting for a new local share program manager, Alex Gilbertson, a planner in Parks and Nature, will be stepping into the interim role and looks forward to continuing collaborations with our partners.
Protect and restore land
Contact: Protect and restore land, Shannon Leary, [email protected]
Acquisitions are at the heart of Metro's protect and restore program area. There are many more properties in the region than Metro can purchase, so the first job of refinement for the program is to prioritize what types of properties we should focus on. The bond includes 24 target areas, each of which covers an area with broadly shared features, like similar habitats or a watershed. We need to assess each of these target areas to better understand where we can best make purchases that uphold the bond’s values and criteria and support conservation work, including those done by our partners in other agencies and organizations.
As a first and foundational step, Metro staff has been working with members of greater Portland’s Indigenous community to develop an ecological assessment framework that can be applied across all 24 target areas. The assessments describe the geography, land-use and land-cover patterns, natural resources, and restoration and biodiversity conservation potential in each target area. From conversations with Indigenous community members, the assessments now include more data sets that look at pollution, water quality and soil toxics. It will also include discussion of opportunities to daylight streams and remove inline ponds, both of which affect salmon, lamprey and other fish.
This work is at an important milestone. We just finished pilot ecological assessments for three target areas, and Metro has spent the last weeks working with members of the Indigenous community and conservation partners to provide a detailed review of these pilot assessments with an eye toward finishing a framework to be applied across all 24 target areas.
Assessments of the rest of the target areas will begin in July, and we expect these to wrap up in September. Indigenous community members will participate in the assessments of particular target areas. Along with the assessments, this summer we’ll interview partners, organizations and individuals, who have local knowledge of conditions in the target areas.
Stay tuned for more information about opportunities this fall to learn about the information compiled for each of the target areas and to weigh in and help shape the goals and priorities within each one.
Local parks and nature projects (local share)
Contact: Local parks and nature projects, Alex Gilbertson, alex[email protected]
The local share program is running at full steam. Earlier this month, the local share team met with park directors from across the region and shared updates on the programs. Top of the list is that park departments and districts in the region can now submit projects for review and potential funding. We know many park providers have been waiting for this, and we’re eager to see what projects are going to be built or improved in communities throughout our region.
As with all the bond’s programs, local share projects must fulfill the bond’s racial equity, meaningful community engagement and climate resilience criteria. We look forward to the exciting work ahead, discovering the many creative ways park providers deliver on these criteria.
The local share team plans to meet with each of the park departments and districts this summer to discuss project proposals, visiting some of their proposed project sites and approving projects for funding. We expect bond funds will begin to flow to these projects later this summer.
Metro park improvements
The first of the bond’s park improvement projects are moving forward at Blue Lake Regional Park. The last time we shared updates about work at the park, crews were just beginning to work on replacing the water line to the park and the fishing pier, which had become unsafe and was roped off. The water line work is moving along, but we haven’t gotten to the big-equipment stage of the project just yet.
Other improvements are planned at Blue Lake, which will help revitalize its aging infrastructure and improve health, safety and accessibility at the beloved destination for years to come. Staff is shaping the community engagement process for those improvements. Part of doing meaningful community engagement is making sure that when we ask community members to weigh in, their input can actually influence the project. Some parts of a project have so many constraints that no matter what we hear from community members, we have to do the work a specific way. The water line is a good example of this: Metro is designing the water line to meet code and engineering demands. Asking for community input on the project won’t change the work, so engagement would have no meaningful influence.
We want our community engagement to focus on questions that will shape what we build and don’t build and how those decisions affect the experience of visitors at the park, especially in ways that make the park a safer and more welcoming place for communities of color. As we continue to plan, we’ll better understand the opportunities and constraints of the project and, from that, how community members will be able to shape the future Blue Lake Regional Park.
Sign up to be notified when community engagement begins for future Blue Lake improvements:
Walking and biking trails
Contacts: Walking and biking trails, Robert Spurlock, [email protected]
Community involvement, Humberto Marquez Mendez, [email protected]
At the end of April, we hosted two community meetings for Black, Indigenous, and people of color to share their concerns, priorities and values to inform how Metro will invest in future trail projects. More than 100 people participated, offering valuable feedback.
Some common themes included:
- The need to create safe and welcoming spaces for people of color. Participants expressed a great deal of concern around physical safety when visiting trails or other natural spaces. Many expressed fear around being harassed or attacked by white people, as well as having the cops called on them because of their race.
- Trail projects should prioritize engagement of Indigenous communities, and Metro should work with them on this process.
- Projects need to honor Indigenous land, history, culture and traditions – signs that honor Indigenous names of the land, protection of natural and cultural resources, and creating gathering spaces for Indigenous ceremonies.
- Investments should focus on communities who do not have immediate access to trails or other natural spaces.
- When possible, use as many methods as possible for communicating about the regional trail system to ensure everyone can learn about and use trails in the region, including those without access to the internet.
- Projects should implement strategies to prevent displacement and gentrification that can result from building new trails or parks.
- Engage folks experiencing houselessness in this process to understand how they are impacted by this program and how we could address their needs.
Our team is continuing to review the feedback that was received to create a more comprehensive summary. This summary will be shared with community members who participated in the meetings, along with next steps to incorporate what is possible and what is not. This will also be made available to our partners as a resource for how they can consider future trail investments in their communities.
Our team is also planning to engage the broader community this summer and fall to share what we’ve heard and learn about additional priorities for trail projects, so stay tuned.