It’s been a busy year in Parks and Nature, and we want to take a moment to reflect on the work we’ve accomplished so far with the help of our many partners and look forward to the work ahead. Much of the work to turn the 2019 parks and nature bond into programs ready to invest in our region's parks, trails and natural areas is on track to be complete by spring 2022. The investments from the 2019 bond measure will continue to strengthen our unique system with nature at its heart. Many of you have been involved in one or several of these processes, and we thank you for your insights and guidance to create programs that protect clean water, restore fish and wildlife habitat and provide access to nature for communities across the region.
As you may know, we recently completed two new nature parks thanks to voter investments in the 2019 parks and nature bond measure: Chehalem Ridge just south of Forest Grove and Newell Creek Canyon in Oregon City.
The local share program is ready to make investments in parks, trails and natural areas in communities across the region, health and safety updates and renovation projects are underway at Blue Lake and Oxbow regional parks, and an application process is open for up to $20 million in grants for local governments to plan and construct regional trails.
The voters of the region have asked us to do our work differently with this bond and that means taking the time to listen and learn about the needs and priorities of communities who haven’t benefitted equitably from previous investments. In the last year, we’ve been so grateful to you, our partners across the region, for continuing to help us shape program priorities.
We will continue to see the fruits of these efforts in the coming year, with the region’s park providers bringing forward projects in their communities and in the Metro Council formalizing priorities for land acquisition to protect the region’s special places. We’ll also see a committee of community members come together to launch a participatory budgeting process to award $4 million in capital grants to community nature projects.
Read below to hear some updates and what to expect for the work ahead. In addition, please check out the full digital version of Metro Parks and Nature department’s annual report or a shorter version that will appear in the next issue of Our Big Backyard.
Thank you for reading and for your engagement over the last year. Happy holidays and have a happy new year!
Bond program updates
Protect and restore land
Contact: Shannon Leary, [email protected]
Join us in January to learn about our work to develop plans to protect special places across the region through land acquisition and restoration. Over the last year, we have been learning as much as we can about each of the 24 target areas outlined in the bond measure and working with members of greater Portland's urban Indigenous community to find the best ways to apply the bond criteria and community input to shape the plans for protecting land. Many community members and partners have also participated in engagement opportunities, allowing us to glean additional information and insights to shape this work.
We want to share the work done to date, and hear what we got right or what we might have missed before we bring these plans to the Metro Council for consideration in spring 2022. Once approved by the Metro Council, these plans will provide the road map for acquiring and restoring land through our willing seller program.
Please join us for the following sessions, and visit these links to register. Each session will cover the same information and include the same opportunities to provide input. Staff will be following up with those of you who’ve already participated in a session on land acquisition this past summer and fall with details for a follow up session in January.
Thursday, Jan. 20, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. – General community session
Thursday, Jan. 27, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. – Community session geared toward Black, Indigenous and people of color, though all are welcome
Even as work is underway to finalize plans for land acquisition priorities, we’ve continued to acquire land, focusing on once-in-a-generation properties.
In the past month, Metro acquired two purchases totaling 169 acres that are now part of Metro’s 17,000-plus acres of natural areas and parks. Out at Killin Wetlands Nature Park, near Banks in Washington County, 52 acres were added to the natural area surrounding the park. And in the East Buttes area right on the Clackamas-Multnomah county line, 117 acres connect to the Sunshine Butte Natural Area. The property includes a hilltop where several small streams begin their way down to Johnson Creek.
Metro parks improvements
Contact: Melissa Bergstrom, [email protected]
At Blue Lake Park, work has begun to renovate and update the park, including work to connect the park to the City of Fairview’s water system. In addition, a request for proposals is out for a consultant team to support park renovation planning and design. The goal of the park renovation project is to develop a vision for the park as a whole that prioritizes racial equity, climate resilience and operational sustainability, and integrates visitor experiences and habitat improvement, and then prioritize/design a first phase of construction to match available budget. A meaningful community engagement process centering people of color and folks from other groups who have not benefited equitably from Metro’s past investments will guide the changes that are coming to the park.
Nature in Neighborhoods capital grants
Contact: Crista Gardner, [email protected]
Applications for the capital grants review and design committee are in! This committee will help design the program for $4 million in a capital grants pilot project that will use an innovative funding approach called participatory budgeting. The process is designed to give community members a direct voice in choosing which projects to recommend for funding in their communities. After a big effort to recruit community members to serve on the capital grants design and review committee, we received strong community interest with over 45 applications. We expect the committee to be formed and begin meeting in early January 2022.
Walking and biking trails
Contact: Robert Spurlock, [email protected]
Applications are now being accepted for the $20 million grant program for local governments to plan and construct regional walking and biking trails.
Metro will allocate these grant funds through the same process as the 2025–27 Regional Flexible Funds (RFFA) Step 2 federal funding, allowing our local government partners to submit one application to be considered for funding from both sources. All projects submitted will be evaluated according to the similar criteria for each program.
You can find instructions and application materials at oregonmetro.gov/RFFA.
Metro staff hosted a proposers’ workshop on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021 to assist applicants in developing their proposals, with a particular focus on creating accurate project scopes, budgets and timelines, and you can watch a recording of the workshop.
To learn more about the grant program, please contact Dan Kaempff at [email protected] or Robert Spurlock at [email protected].
Project proposals are due on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022.
Local parks and nature projects (local share)
Contact: Antonia Machado, [email protected]
The local share team is planning a series of roundtables for the region’s local park providers about engagement with tribal governments, starting with an introductory session on Jan. 12, 2022. These monthly roundtables serve as gathering spaces to share ideas and strategies around addressing the bond criteria. For more information or for the link to attend future roundtables, please contact Amandeep Sohi at [email protected].
Natural areas oversight committee meeting
Contact:Beth Cohen, [email protected]
The Natural Areas and Capital Program Performance Oversight committee met on December 7 to discuss and determine an approach to its year one report expected in 2022. Meeting materials and recordings will be shared on the committee’s webpage.