When voters approved the 2019 parks and nature bond, they called on Metro to meaningfully engage communities of color, Indigenous communities, people with low income and other historically marginalized groups. And then prioritize the projects and needs they identify.
Metro is committed to keeping this promise.
Protect and restore land engagement
The protect and restore land program goes back to Metro’s first bond measure in 1995 and is the heart to Metro’s conservation work. In this program, Metro will use funds to buy land from willing sellers and restore them to support plants, animals and people.
The 2019 bond measure directs Metro to work within 24 areas across greater Portland that include river and stream banks, headwaters, floodplains, wetlands, oak and prairie habitat, forests, and culturally significant sites. Metro staff were charged with developing refinement plans, or specific action plans for purchasing land, for each of the target areas to present to the Metro Council for final approval.
Last fall, Metro and Lara Media Services hosted a series of engagement sessions with Black, Indigenous, and other people of color and people with disabilities to learn about their experiences and how they could provide additional context in the refinement plans. More than 100 people participated in these conversations.
In January 2022, Metro and Lara Media Services hosted two follow up sessions for these individuals to report back on the feedback we heard and how it shaped our work. Additionally, Metro hosted three sessions for the broader community to share the work done to date, find out how community input has influenced the plans and to provide one last opportunity for feedback.
Participants shared their experiences and insights into what they want prioritized when buying new properties. The team has incorporated the input from participants into the refinement plans and Lara Media Services has summarized highlights from the series of discussion into an engagement report. Metro hopes that this report supports the work of our partners and other agencies across the region as they work to advance racial equity and accessibility in parks and nature.
Regional trails engagement
Across greater Portland, a network of regional trails provide community members car-free routes to commute, bike, run and walk. Many of these trails have gaps where the trail is broken up or two or more trails don't easily connect, which means trail-goers have to use streets to complete their journeys. The 2019 parks and nature bond provides money to fill in these gaps by purchasing properties and right of ways from willing sellers.
In April 2021, the walking and biking trails team 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. Thanks to the support of community leaders and organizations, more than 100 people participated in the virtual events.
Participants shared their insights into what they want prioritized when we are buying new properties, things like safety, connections to work or access to nature. The team has incorporated the input from participants into the prioritization tool and has summarized highlights from the discussion into an engagement report. Metro hopes that this report supports the work of our partners and other agencies across the region as they consider future trail investments in their communities.
What is meaningful community engagement?
Meaningful engagement is providing community members who will be affected by a program or project opportunities to influence how they run and what they create.
Metro works towards this by creating events and spaces for Black, Indigenous and people of color, people with low income and other historically marginalized groups to share their values and priorities. Throughout the region’s history, these groups have been denied opportunities to influence the policies, programs and projects that affect their communities.
Meaningful engagement means community members see the fruits of their insights at Metro’s parks and natural areas and in their communities. Metro will report back to community members, telling them how their input changed a project. And when Metro can’t or chooses not to act on what it hears from community members, Metro will explain that, too.
And meaningful community engagement is asking community members to share their experience and expertise on the topics and questions they can truly influence and at the times when their input will have the most impact.
Every bond program and project is constrained by things like budget, time, rules and regulations, engineering needs, and Metro’s role in the region. Sharing these limitations openly and honestly allows community members to provide the best insights into a project. During community engagement, Metro staff will do their best to share these limitations and be open to questions about them.