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Updated tree code protects Portland's urban canopy

New rules are stricter but easier to follow

January 7 2015

Updated tree regulations took effect January 1, 2015, as part of the City of Portland's efforts to clarify existing code and meet its tree canopy goals. Revisions protect the urban canopy, provide consistency and improve customer service. 

The changes create new protections for trees on public and private property, and tough penalties for those who don’t follow them. The new rules, we hope, are less confusing and easier to interpret and follow.

Perhaps the biggest change is that permits to remove trees are now required on all private properties. 

All tree regulations can be found here. A new website, hotline, and email address provide direct connections to staff who can answer tree-related questions.

A little history:

The City of Portland has been managing the urban tree canopy since 1972. The 2007 Urban Forest Action Plan first spurred the effort to revamp Portland’s tree regulations. An advisory committee worked diligently with City of Portland staff to develop the updated code, which was adopted by City Council in 2011. However, the financial downturn in 2011 meant insufficient funds to implement the new regulations. 

Fast forward to June 2014, when the City Council was able to approve funds for implementation in 2015. 

What do these changes mean for the average property owner in Portland? 

If you have a tree on your property that is 12 inches or larger in diameter, you will now need a permit to remove it. Planting, pruning, or removing street trees also requires a permit. Planting and pruning permits are free. Removal permits cost $25 and will be available at the City of Portland Development Services Center. Or applications may be mailed with an enclosed check. In many cases, permits will be issued the day of application. 

Since there are some nuances to the rules, we encourage everyone to have a look at the website or give us a call to see if they need a permit. 

What about new development?

In development situations, such as a new home or a substantial exterior alteration, requirements for tree preservation and planting may be triggered. When regulations apply, a portion of the trees on site must be preserved using specific protection methods, and tree canopy density standards must be met through preservation of existing trees and planting new trees. There is an opportunity to pay a fee in lieu of preservation and/or planting. 

Tree Resources

website: www.portlandoregon.gov/trees

email: trees@portlandoregon.gov

hotline: 503-823-TREE (8733)

Development Service Center hours and information: www.portlandoregon.gov/bds/37988

Lauren Wirtis is a Portland native who earned her Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning with a focus in Community Development from Portland State University. She was hired by the City of Portland’s Bureau of Development Services and Parks Urban Forestry to assist in public outreach and implementation of the Tree Project.

Passing the torch

December 29 2014

Early this year, Sharon Gary-Smith, executive director of the MRG Foundation, told me, “who you put behind the podium at your summits sends a powerful symbolic message.” That got me thinking.

At the spring 2013 Intertwine Alliance summit, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the greenspaces movement with a retrospective honoring those who have carried the torch for many years. There was a lot of gray hair behind the podium that day, but the “geezers” (their term, not mine!) showed that they have been and still are a force to be reckoned with. The “symbolic message” was that a dedicated corps of hard-working visionaries can powerfully affect the direction of an entire metropolitan region. 

At this November’s summit, the people standing behind the podium were those who will be leading the next 25 years. We heard from youth leaders emerging from the Audubon Society of Portland’s TALON Program, the OakQuest project, the Youth Engaging in Natural Sciences (YENS) pilot project (a collaboration between Metro and Self Enhancement Inc.), the Oregon Zoo’s ZAP teen program, the Intertwine Alliance’s Plant Off, and Portland Parks and Recreation’s GRUNT program. The Momentum Alliance led an exercise that showed the exciting potential of an inclusive and diverse future, and the important role Alliance partners can play.  

 While we showcased youth programs, the take-away was much bigger than youth program best practices. Intertwine Alliance board member Judy Bluehorse Skelton summarized the day in an email to Alliance staff:

The room was electric with the powerful and passionate voices of Youth sharing their stories, the challenges of historical and family trauma, displacement, isolation, prejudice, oppression and poverty, and the peace, healing and fun found in Nature.

As a new generation reclaims their health, vitality and connection to place, the Intertwine Alliance serves to strengthen these critical relationships, recognize and reduce barriers to accessing Nature, provide opportunities for skill-building and leadership, and ultimately offer a refreshment for the spirit.

If we are to achieve Judy’s vision, the fall summit cannot be a one-off. Whether it be our initiative to bring together health and conservation organizations behind a common agenda, or our work to implement the Regional Conservation Strategy or Our Common Ground campaign, we will, individually and collectively, need to continue to make room “behind the podium” for a new generation to claim its critical place and forge the future. 

Mike Wetter has led The Intertwine Alliance as executive director since it became a formal nonprofit in 2011. Central to the initiative since the beginning, he helped launched The Intertwine within Metro while working as senior advisor to Council President David Bragdon. A visionary leader full of big ideas, Mike is an avid whitewater rafter, kayaker, cyclist and hiker.

Food parks connect city, farm and nature

Reinventing an age-old idea in our Intertwine

December 10 2014

In the next century, it is predicted, we'll see 70 percent of the globe's population residing within the modern city. At the same time, population-growth projections say we’ll need to produce 70 percent more food for an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050. Historically, food systems and infrastructure have been ignored as a function of city, county or local governments. Unlike civic systems such as transportation, water, wastewater and housing, “food” has generally been outside the civic agenda. 

Since the early 2000s, however, food as a policy matter has established itself as an important consideration for local governments. Food systems are fundamentally linked to issues such as health, equity, environmental sustainability and economic development. 

The Portland area’s urban growth boundary has established a clear and divided relationship between urban areas and farms, where farmlands are protected and occupy areas outside the boundary line. While the UGB defines urban areas and farms as separate entities, nature is the bridge that crosses and connects. A holistic approach to sustainability must engage all three major identities in the metro region: urban, rural and nature. 

Bringing together these separate identities are “food parks.” A way for urban residents to share time in a rural setting, food parks connect us to the farm and to the adjacency of nature interspersed throughout our rural areas. Their proliferation could compel a complete rethink about food: from the soil it grows in, to the preparation of a meal for the table, to the understanding that all food is nature and comes from nature.  

This recent trend takes us back to an old idea: that we should grow food on a scale larger than a home or community garden, in a place with proximity to nature so that we connect with the natural world around us. The concept of food parks has been found in Europe for hundreds of years in the form of seasonal migrations from lower to higher elevations; through managed forests shared by communities; and in the Russian dachas of the last few centuries. 

Dachas are typically pieces of land divided into small strips for cooperative communities, on the edge of the city or town. They provide an opportunity for local communities to grow fruits and vegetables away from their homes, and give residents time on weekends to plant seeds, tend beds and gather herbs. Each family has a small cabin they can stay in overnight, so a weekend or weeks in the summer can be devoted to personal food production. In Britain, these spaces are called “allotments;” in Greece they are “terraces.” In all countries, these food parks are adjacent to forestland, creeks or hills, affording the supplementation of grown food with foraging or hunting. 

Today we are seeing the emergence of food parks in the U.S., from managed forests and community fruit tree orchards, to small organic farms that teach children where food comes from. In 2012, Seattle launched its first urban food forest, the Beacon Food Forest. As a 7-acre public plot, it will give the working-class neighborhood of Beacon Hill the chance to harvest plants, including apples, pears, plums, grapes, blueberries, raspberries and more, that are scattered throughout the park. 

More and more food parks are emerging. They are diverse in setting and types of products, but all follow the principle of connecting people directly with their food sources. A few examples, both here and abroad:

The metro region — with its progressive politics, protected urban growth boundary and rural reserve, commitment to local food, and interest in all things green — provides a great opportunity to test the reinvention of the age-old concept of living close to nature. Imagine our own orange belt (like green) — or food belt, if you will — around the edge of the region providing small adjoining plots of land that families or small cooperative groups can cycle, bus or drive to. Imagine families, community groups or youth leaving their homes for the weekend to learn about soil, the sun, and the seasonal nature of planting and tending food, occasionally foraging in nearby forests or meadows for medicinal plants, roots, berries and the like. Small cabins provide places to gather at the end of a long day, to tell stories about the previous years’ crop success and failures. 

If all of this sounds far-fetched, just remember the successful European examples, in which people see themselves as not just urban, but also as farmers and nature lovers. This blended and trifold identity will help conversations occur more easily between the environmental, farming, and urban communities who too often see each other as coming from far ends of the spectrum. These three identities combined is how humanity used to see itself, and how we could perceive ourselves again in the future.  

What is next? Is the European model one we can easily adopt in and around the metro region? Is there a coalition out there that can come together to discuss this emerging topic and plan for our future food parks? Is there a place we can start a regional dialogue about how to grow our own food? At the moment we probably have more questions than answers. But like so many other movements, this is always a good place to start.


Mark Davison is a Parks Planning & Design Manager at Metro Regional Government and Director of Park Planning for the Mapping Lab at the University of Arizona. Prior to Metro, Mark worked for Oregon State Parks and U.S. National Parks. He has spent his career working on parks at sites covering Mexico, Italy, Poland, Germany, UK, Greece and the U.S.

Robin Craig is a Senior Associate and Project Manager at GreenWorks with 20 years of experience in landscape architecture, urban design and planning. She has an expansive background in a variety of design assignments but has focused on strategic, vision, and system planning for the past 9 years. Robin has experience with park master planning, UGB concept plans, greenway systems and more.

Urban forest fire

Coming together to curb controversy over city tree codes

November 26 2014

More than 80 people gathered in Tualatin last week for an extended conversation about municipal tree codes. The Nov. 18 Urban Forestry Summit, an Intertwine Alliance event led by the Oregon Department of Forestry, Tualatin Riverkeepers and arborists Teragan and Associates, allowed participants to share their challenges with local tree codes and to hear success stories from jurisdictions that have worked through these challenges.

Big takeaways: Urban tree policy works best when we know what our goals are, when we involve all stakeholders early on, and when we focus on desired outcomes rather than particular and predetermined strategies of how to achieve them.

Most of us can agree that, in the urban environment, trees provide some very significant benefits:  

  • Reduction of stormwater runoff, protecting urban creeks
  • Shade in the summer, reducing the heat-island effect
  • Capturing carbon and other air pollutants, and producing oxygen
  • Beautification, habitat and increased property values
  • Other less obvious but statistically documented effects ranging from calmer traffic to healthy babies

With all these benefits, you would think there would be nothing controversial about protecting our urban forests. But trees can have their down sides, too. While they benefit the entire community, the costs of protecting, maintaining and replacing trees often fall on just a few people — making efforts to regulate them contentious.

We have seen far too many cases in The Intertwine region where regulations to protect trees have had the opposite effect. Property owners have clear-cut their land before development starts in order to avoid restrictions and mitigation costs that would be incurred if trees were cut during the development process.

The opening speaker at the tree code summit, Metro Councilor and former Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen, spoke of the vexing nature of developing a tree code. When charged with revising Tigard’s tree code, he said, city staff reacted as if they had been asked to “walk through fire every day for the next several years.” Polarized interests fell into two camps: those who wanted to punish every act of tree removal and those who wanted no restrictions at all to any action on private property. 

Other conference participants described going through a several-year process of developing a tree code that satisfied one side, only to be torpedoed by the other side at the end of the process — stopping any new urban forestry policy from taking place.

We hold Tigard’s tree code revision process up as model because it managed to avoid this polarized approach — by involving diversified interests from the very beginning. In the end, Tigard arrived at a consensus between tree cutters and tree huggers, developers and environmentalists, for an approach that will increase tree canopy in the city from its current 25 percent to 40 percent by 2047. 

One purpose of last week’s gathering was to encourage other jurisdictions to follow Tigard’s collaborative process in order to improve the effectiveness of their local urban forestry programs. Different places have different situations, and will need their own unique mix of regulation and incentives to promote healthy urban forests. But Tigard shows us that open participation of diverse interests throughout the process is the key to reaching a successful consensus. 

Many important discussions were started at the summit, and many opportunities identified. My organization and other Intertwine Alliance partners are excited to move this work forward in the months and years ahead.

Brian Wegener, a Tigard resident for the past 30 years, is the Advocacy & Communications Manager for Tualatin Riverkeepers and serves on the board of Oregon Community Trees. He has worked on policy and demonstration projects promoting the use of urban forestry for stormwater management. He is also allergic to tree pollen. 


Embracing bugs and birds

A nature-loving, summer-camping TALON transformation

November 12 2014

TALON at Ape CavesMy earliest memory of feeling connected to nature was going to outdoor school in sixth grade. It was a week-long SEI Academy program at a campground on Mill Creek, a tributary of the Willamette River.

I had a blast. I was the kid who “accidentally” fell in the water when learning about aquatic life, just because I wanted to get a little closer to the newts. It was also my first time camping, which seemed really strange and scary at the time. Dark! Can't see what's coming! No door to lock! But I’m a seasoned pro now.

I returned to outdoor camp in seventh grade, but my exposure to nature was pretty limited after that. As I high school junior in Gresham, I heard about the TALON program, and I knew it would give me many opportunities to be that kid again. I wanted to be more in tune with nature. So I applied, and was accepted.

A program of the Audubon Society of Portland, TALON educates and employs young adults ages 16 to 22 to Teach, Advocate, Lead, Observe and Nurture. It provides skills for participants to move into and excel in conservation-related professions. Based out of Audubon’s Eastside branch at Leach Botanical Garden, the program aims to reach diverse cultural and ethnic communities, especially those in East Multnomah County.

Before TALON, bugs made me uncomfortable, birds were a nuisance, and plants were just plants. TALON helped me realize that all living things are beneficial to humans in so many ways. Without spiders, there would be an uncontrollable, uncomfortable and unreasonable (in my view) amount of mosquitos. So now? Big fan of spiders.

Trees protect our drinking water by preventing erosion, and plants with edible and medicinal properties can be found throughout our forests. I started seeing and really getting these connections. TALON opened my eyes to the natural world.

TALON is a pretty new program, and I was lucky to be part of its first two summers (2013 and 2014). The fun starts with a 10-week training in local natural history, environmental science, and local and regional conservation issues. We visited the Tillamook Forestry Center for hands-on conservation lessons. We pulled English ivy at the Audubon Center to learn about sanctuaries. We organized an all-ages nature fair at Leach Botanical Garden. Did we bond? Heck yeah!

After the training, program members are assigned apprenticeships. I was a camp counselor both years, working with kids ages kindergarten through 11th grade. I helped with day camps at Audubon and Leach Botanical Gardens, and overnight camps in places like Newport and the San Juan Islands.

One camp that stands out in my memory is a two-week trip for high schoolers to the San Juans. One day, thousands of dead jellyfish washed ashore. We starting pulling them out of the water with a big stick, amazed at how pretty they were. I had never seen a jellyfish before. Another time, a fox strolled right by our campfire at twilight.

Two summers as a TALON member developed my love for and knowledge of nature, plus the job skills and professional connections needed to apply for and get an office assistant position with The Intertwine Alliance this fall. I joined the team in October. It’s my first office job. With long-term goals to become a surgeon and one day open a nonprofit health clinic, the skills I’m gaining now will help me down that road.

I look forward to meeting partners and friends of The Intertwine — starting at the youth-themed Intertwine Alliance Summit this Friday, Nov. 14, at the Oregon Zoo. I’ll be there, sharing my TALON experiences. Hope to see you! (Note from editor: It’s not too late to register for the event!)

Dakota Gaines, the Intertwine Alliance’s first-ever office assistant, is 18 years old and a recent graduate of Gresham’s Centennial High. She’s starting a nursing program at Mt. Hood Community College in the spring. You’ll find her at The Intertwine Alliance office on Tuesdays and Thursdays, skillfully multitasking all we send her way.

The politics of parks

October 22 2014
A Twine Wire Feature Story


October 21, 2014 – With November elections just around the corner, voters across The Intertwine are weighing in on issues ranging from GMO labeling to gun control.

It’s also here at the ballot box where we decide the future of our parks, trails, and natural areas. Across our four-county region, parks districts and departments routinely contend with shrinking budgets, expiring bonds, and shifting politics.

When big change is needed – redistricting, large acquisitions, major maintenance – voters are asked to step in.

Sometimes, we support that change, as with Metro’s natural areas maintenance levy, passed last year with 54 percent approval. Sometimes, we’re hard to convince; in 2012, voters in Vancouver rejected the proposed formation of a metropolitan parks district with dedicated funding.

We know that one-off conservation campaigns take an excess of time, capital, and energy – resources we quickly muster across our 32 jurisdictions that deplete just as fast after Election Day.

The Intertwine Alliance was created in part to sustain the momentum of these campaigns and achieve even bigger change for our urban nature. Now just over three years old, The Intertwine Alliance, with its 125-plus partners, represents a formidable concentration of political will. How shall we focus this park-changing power?

To launch this big-landscape conversation, we look to our recent past, our present – where voters will soon decide significant actions in North Clackamas and Portland – and our near future, which will be written, we hope, by partners like you.


THE PAST: Brushing up on Intertwine Political History

Before The Intertwine, there was Esther Short, and John Charles Olmsted.

In 1855, Washington Territory, still thirty years from statehood, received a gift from a remarkable pioneer woman. Just eight years prior, Esther Short, along with her husband and ten children, had homesteaded a wilderness property near Fort Vancouver.

But with the young town of Vancouver soon booming all around her, Esther wanted parkland, and donated a four-block plot to create what is now Esther Short Park – the oldest public square in Washington, and one of the West's oldest parks.

Across the Columbia River nearly fifty years later, Portland’s newly formed Parks Department invited a landscape architect from New England to map a more beautiful vision of their rapidly industrializing lumber town.

The ambitious report submitted by John Charles Olmsted in 1903 established an early framework for what, in time, would become The Intertwine.

John Charles’ report set forth 18 best practices in park-planning and recommendations for dozens of key landscapes to preserve, including Mount Talbert, Johnson Creek, and what would later become the 40-Mile Loop.

In many ways, we’re still fulfilling Olmsted's vision – at Rocky Butte, for example, and along Terwilliger Parkway. In other ways, we’ve channeled our growing sense of regional identity into projects far more ambitious than he conceived, as outlined in the Metropolitan Greenspaces Plan, the Portland-Vancouver Bi-State Trails Plan, and The Intertwine’s Regional Conservation Strategy.

BY THE BALLOT: a select Intertwine history
1988 - In Gresham, the passage of a $4.5 million bond sets a local mandate for new parks.
1990 - Gresham voters approve an additional $10 million for parks acquisition.
1992 - Metro Bond Measure 26-1 fails; The Oregonian advises "try again."
1994 - Portland voters pass a 20-year Parks Replacement Bond (now up for renewal).
1995 - Metro voters pass a $135 million bond, with 63 percent approval, for natural area acquisition.
1998 - Portland voters narrowly reject a parks levy.
2002 - Portland voters says yes to Ballot Measure 26-34, a $50 million five-year levy.
2006 - Metro voters pass a second natural areas bond, allowing Metro to purchase a total 13,000 acres of public wilderness.
2008 - Bond measure 34-156 passes in Beaverton, leveraging $100 million for the Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District.
2010 - Tigard voters approve Measure 34-181, a $17 million bond for parks and open spaces.
2012 - Vancouver voters say no to creating a Greater Vancouver Metropolitan Parks District.
2013 - Metro voters approve a five-year local option levy, providing $10 million a year for  natural areas maintenance and education.
2014 - ?

Planning is one thing; implementation is another. At current rates of investment, Intertwine Alliance Executive Director Mike Wetter anticipates it will take 190 years to complete the trail network in the Bi-State Plan.

“To me, this number highlights that unless we do something different, achieving our vision is going to take longer than any of us would like,” Wetter says.

“Ballot box success has demonstrated that voters support this topic.  Now we need a sustainable funding solution that will allow the vision to be realized.”

By support, Wetter refers to a string of closely-spaced initiatives that date to 1988, when Gresham voters approved a $4.5 million parks acquisition bond measure. A $10 million bond to protect and pay for these lands – a first for the region – followed in 1990.

The next few decades brought more bond measures and levies. In 1995, voters across three counties passed the $135 million Metro Open Spaces Bond (Measure 26-26) with 63 percent approval.

Nine years later, in 2006, Metro area voters passed a land acquisition bond that aimed to improve protections for fish and wildlife as a companion to Metro's Title 13 policies.

In 2008, Beaverton voters approved Measure 34-156, a $100 million bond to develop trails, preserve natural areas, and improve parks and facilities across the Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District (THPRD) – itself created by vote in 1955, and now the state’s largest special parks district.

And in Tigard two years later, voters approved Measure 34-181, a $17 million parks and open space bond measure that has helped to facilitate the purchase of parkland at locations including Sumner Creek, the downtown Fields Property, and Bull Mountain.

Of course, along with these many positive steps, Wetter notes, have been Election Day disappointments. Among them, a failed 1992 Metro effort, timed with the adoption of the Metropolitan Greenspaces Plan, a rejected 1998 City of Portland bond measure, and the 2012 dismissal of Vancouver’s proposed parks district.

“We’ve made progress over the last few decades, even in very difficult economic times,” says Wetter. “Now that we’re seeing some economic recovery, it’s easier for voters to respond positively to support our urban wilderness.”


THE PRESENT: New Chapters in Greenspace Action

In just two weeks, Intertwine voters in the City of Portland and Clackamas County will decide on two possible next steps for the evolution of The Intertwine.

Will Portland voters renew a bond to fix up their parks? Thirty miles southeast, will residents in North Clackamas create an independent Parks and Recreation District, loosely modeled after Beaverton’s pioneering THPRD?

Each time, the politics of parks are different. Here’s what two Intertwine communities are currently debating – and why campaign advocates hope once again, they’ll choose to say yes to parks.


Independent living: North Clackamas and Measure 3-451

“North Clackamas residents highly value wildlife habitat and the quality of life that comes from parks,” says Eleanore Hunter, an Oak Grove community activist and chair of the Yes for Parks 3-451 campaign.

“Our population has grown to 116,000 people, but our parks department has not had a funding increase for 25 years,” Hunter adds. “People have been clear that they want more parks, more natural areas, more programming for seniors and teens. It’s time to invest in our community.”

If passed, Ballot Measure 3-451 would entail an annual 89-cent tax rate per $1,000 in assessed property values for homeowners in the 36-square mile district. This funding – still the lowest rate of any parks district in the state, says Hunter – would finance an independent North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District (NCPRD) managed by a new, publicly-elected board.

“North Clackamas has a great diversity of opinions, but we’ve received tremendous support,” Hunter says. “There are very pragmatic reasons to vote yes for parks: increased property values, recreational opportunities, quality of life, and a third space for communities to grow. Everybody benefits.”


Protect what you have: Portland Parks & Recreation and Measure 26-159

In Portland, another energetic campaign has been raking up support for the city’s underfunded parks maintenance programs through Ballot Measure 26-159, the Parks Replacement Bond.

According to Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R), $365 million dollars will be needed over the next decade for major repairs and maintenance, from fixing trails and replacing aging playground structures to refurbishing 12 of the city’s 13 public pools.

But with PP&R’s budget derived entirely from the city’s squeezed general fund, these higher-cost items may never be addressed.

“There’s almost no money set aside for fixing major things, but the needs aren’t visible to the average citizen,” says Nick Hardigg, Executive Director of the nonprofit Portland Parks Foundation. “Only when something people love gets shut down do people realize there's a systemic problem here.”

Hardigg says the eye-opener for Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz came this past spring, with the condemning of downtown Couch Park’s deteriorating wooden play structure. Recognizing the lack of funds available to PP&R for urgent repairs, Fritz advocated with City Council to bring Parks Replacement Bond Measure 26-159 to the November ballot.

For Portland voters, the cost of passing Measure 26-159 is literally none: the measure entails no tax rate increase, but rather a continuation of current rates as a twenty-year-old expiring parks bond is renewed.

"The only way we have to bring substantial relief to parks is through ballot measures," Hardigg says. "But when funding comes in unpredictable chunks, it can wreak havoc on maintenance and planning."


THE FUTURE: Large Landscapes take Big Picture Thinking

Squeezed general funds. One-off ballot measures and levies. Revenue dependent on fluctuating property taxes and shifting politics. Without longer term solutions for parks agencies across The Intertwine, voters can expect to see frequent campaigns like Measures 3-451 and 26-159.

“Why bond measures and levies? The answer goes back to state law,” says Heather Nelson Kent, Grants Program Manager for Metro’s Natural Areas Program.

“Across the nation, sales tax is one of the top sources of funding for programs like ours. Obviously that’s not an option for us here in Oregon,” Kent adds.

So what other tools can we access here in The Intertwine? From establishing independent parks districts and private conservancies, to seeking gas taxes, tax increment financing and urban renewal funds, a wide range of funding tactics have been employed by parks agencies across the nation (and their friends).

By necessity, we have to be that savvy, says former PP&R Director Zari Santner.

“When there are deficits in other general fund spending, parks budgets are looked at, and are often reduced, to fill the gaps,” says Santner. “Parks departments have to be opportunistic.”

But what about even larger landscape thinking? In Clark County, where voters rejected a parks district two years ago, long-time environmental advocate Jean Akers maintains hope that someday a regional collaborative approach might unite the county’s half-dozen parks jurisdictions.

“We had a blue ribbon committee in 2010, and they all acknowledged that their funding wasn’t stable, that parks were always ready to be cut. But they weren’t ready yet to take up a regional approach. They were in maintenance mode,” Akers says.

“Now that property values have picked up, maybe the pressure is less,” she adds.

Akers isn’t the only conservationist who hopes that the climate for political collaboration, and voter support, is starting to improve.

Intertwine Alliance Board member Don Goldberg, a Senior Project Manager with the Trust for Public Land and veteran of many local conservation campaigns (several here mentioned) says that even with diminishing federal and state funds for public services, Intertwine communities still rally reliably for parks.

“Every community has a threshold for how much they’re willing to tax themselves. As communities take on more, some that normally wouldn’t blink about funding parks and trails started to question it. They’re overburdened.”

“Having said that,” Goldberg adds, “we’re incredibly fortunate to live in an area that’s highly supportive. The goal is to have all children live within a ten minute walk of a park, trail, or natural area.”

For Intertwine Executive Director Mike Wetter, the rapid growth of The Intertwine Alliance (now 125-plus public, private, and nonprofit partners and counting) is evidence that large landscape thinking – backed by sustainable funding – is more possible now than ever before.

“Over decades, so many have worked to bring the vision of Olmsted and his precursors to life,” Wetter says. “To me, the momentum we’re seeing now means we’re finally ready for big things here in The Intertwine.”

On November 4th, we’ll once again test that momentum, as voters decide what’s next for The Intertwine.



Through storytelling outlets like Outside Voice and the 2013 Our Common Ground Report, Writer & Editor Ramona DeNies uses her words to raise awareness of The Intertwine Alliance’s 125+ partners and their work to build and enhance The Intertwine Alliance. A journalist and former nonprofit Executive Director, Ramona has called Oregon home since 2001.

A River Runs Through Us

A podcast series aims to chart a forward course for Willamette restoration

October 1 2014

With credit and a humble apology, I take the title of Norman Maclean’s book A River Runs Through It and strive to make it more personal and inclusive by replacing “It” with “Us.”

For we, the people who now call Oregon home, should have a personal relationship with the many river arteries that run through our state: the Deschutes, John Day, Klamath, Malheur, Columbia, Trask, Pudding, Wilson -- the list goes on.

But no river has been altered, used, abused, and loved like the Willamette.

Call it the happenstance of human migration, the mistakes of our mothers and fathers, progress, or opportunity; this river, which many of us see each day, has defined where we live.

What the Willamette has seen; from the earliest human settlements thousands of years ago, to the massive and repeated Missoula Floods, where the depth of water rose up to what is now the highest floors of our Portland bank towers, to the commerce and recreation of the recent past -- this river was and does shape our lives.

As the Willamette Valley changed, so did the river. Where once grasslands, oak savannas, meanders and floodplains made for a natural balance of nature, our river has now has been “tamed” into a channel.

Over the “modern” years, it has been used as a garbage dump, toilet, a place where “out of sight, out of mind” was the operating procedure, manifested by either letting waste materials leach into the soils adjacent to the waterway, or by simply pouring it directly into the water.

Such was the accepted practice for almost 100 years.

We have used the Willamette for commerce, manufacturing, ship-building, industry and recreation. Yet for centuries, this river was a major source of life giving food and materials to the Native Americans. You can see where the uses conflicted with one another.

Which brings us to where we are now. How do we rectify past abuses that stemmed from industrial progress? How do we go forward?

There is hope. Tribal Nations, environmental and recreational organizations, large and small companies, government agencies and neighbors -- all share a common goal: to bring the lower Willamette back to a healthy state.

We know that we will never be able to rewind history and arrive at where the river was before we came here. But, working together, we can create a new legacy where past ills are identified, worked on, and corrected.

For over 18 years, I had the honor of serving Oregon as the executive director of Governor Tom McCall’s non-profit organization, SOLVE.

One of my favorite quotes of all time came from this remarkable lover of his adopted state. Tom McCall proclaimed, “Heroes are not giant statues, framed against a red sky. They are people who say, “this is my community and it is my responsibility to make it better.”

And so, I extend a heartfelt invitation to become a hero for your Oregon.

In 2013, I was approached by the Port of Portland to be involved in an ambitious, public undertaking. It was not only to help tell the story of the Willamette, but also to engage us, the people, in an effort to become aware and take part in this process of restoration by creating a series of podcasts. Together, we interviewed over 40 representatives associated with the river in some way. The series -- called "One River, Many Voices" -- is now available free on iTunes.

For me, this has been and continues to be a personal, educational journey. Now, it's my hope that you will take an opportunity to listen to the series and get involved as the remediation process progresses. We owe it to our families, our neighbors and ourselves to become part of the Willamette's next chapter.

From 1990 to 2008, Jack McGowan was Executive Director of SOLVE, a coastal beach cleanup which has now spread to over 100 foreign countries. Over the past five decades, he has worked as an on-air radio and television host, assistant to Portland Mayor J.E. Bud Clark, producer of the Mt. Hood Festival of Jazz, and Public Relations Director for the Oregon Zoo. In 2013, the Port of Portland asked Jack to create the podcast series "One River, Many Voices," which interviews over 40 representatives with a stake in the restoration of the Willamette River.

Inviting Mr. Olmsted

110 years later, Terwilliger Parkway celebrates a new milestone in the architect's plan

September 24 2014
Invitation To: Mr. John Charles Olmsted, Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architects
For: Dedication of Eagle Point addition to Terwilliger Parkway
When: 10:00 am Saturday Sept 27, 2014
Where: At the crest of Eagle Point

Dear Mr. Olmsted,

It’s been over 110 years since you proposed a scenic network of parks and parkways throughout Portland. Your plan was so far-sighted that we’re still working to complete it! You should enjoy attending our dedication of the city’s recent addition of Eagle Point to Terwilliger Parkway.

Your 1903 plan, which referred to Terwilliger Parkway as the South Hillside Parkway, advised the city to complete it “as soon as possible, lest its course be interfered with by the erection of dwellings and by rising values of the land near the city.” Fortunately, we acted relatively quickly, creating the initial parkway within 10 years of your report.

In fact, although parts of your system are in place throughout the city, Terwilliger Parkway is the only one of your west-side parkway recommendations built and maintained for public use consistent with your vision. The 3 1⁄4 miles from Sam Jackson Road to Barbur Boulevard still curves gracefully through a naturally forested area punctuated by occasional panoramic views.

As you foresaw, Portland grew, and our population and traffic make us ever more appreciative of this scenic corridor. On any day you’ll see the bike lane and pathway in active use for serious training, casual recreation, and both bike and pedestrian commuting. As your plan envisioned, the benefits extend beyond the Parkway itself through connections to our larger network of natural areas.

Downtown’s South Park blocks begin just a few blocks from the north end. Then, the Parkway connects to trails in Marquam Nature Park and George Himes Park and to several SW Trails routes. Beyond the Parkway’s south end, Terwilliger continues as a residential street with sidewalks but returns again to a bike and hike paths through forest at Tryon Creek State Park.

Terwilliger’s popularity helps us carry on your original vision, embodied in the city’s Terwilliger Parkway Corridor Plan and Design Guidelines. Weekends often find dedicated volunteers working to remove invasive species threatening to overwhelm native forest plants. And strong supporters of the original goals seek practical solutions to potential conflicts – actively participating in City hearings and planning meetings, and working with partner organizations and local employers. So we hope you can attend our Eagle Point celebration, Mr. Olmsted.

There will be time for general conversation plus presentations on Eagle Point’s importance, future, and history, by Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz, Parks Department Director Mike Abbaté , architect and historian Bill Hawkins (who may have some interesting questions for you!) and Friends of Terwilliger President Anton Vetterlein.

To others reading this, please also join us Saturday, September 27 at 10:00 am. Check the Friends of Terwilliger website for location, schedule and parking options. In keeping with the active recreation nature of the Parkway, consider making the event the endpoint of a morning hike or bike ride. (We’ll have bike racks on site.) Form your own group or link up with the SW Trails folks at Wilson High School at 9:00 a.m.

The Friends of Terwilliger is an all-volunteer non-profit dedicated to preserving and enhancing Terwilliger Parkway, a forested section of the Intertwine starting at the edge of downtown Portland. Board member Cathy Turner is a long-time supporter of forests and trails in our City.

Project Wild Thing

The U.K.’s “Marketing Director for Nature” brings his pitch to The Intertwine

September 10 2014

David Bond wants to sell you something. He’ll say anything, really. As long as it gets you and your kids outdoors.

In his new documentary Project Wild Thing, the British filmmaker – alarmed that his young daughter was choosing to spend 97 percent of her waking time indoors – sets out to reverse shrinking demand for outdoor play by employing the same marketing tactics that sell Nintendos.

Now Bond is bringing his pitch to America, with a week-long set of Portland events that starts today.

We Skyped with Bond the day before his flight, in an interview that ranged from Norwegian villages to lightning rods and Hollywood blockbuster The Hunger Games.


So why does the United States need Project Wild Thing?

The United States fares quite badly in terms of reported childhood wellbeing on the Unicef survey.

Nationwide, it's a big issue for you, as it is for us in Britain, that children are less and less connected to their natural environment.

An enormous amount of the thinking that led to Project Wild Thing – from the Nature Network to Richard Louv – has come out of the States. In some ways, you're ahead of us. In other ways, you're really a catastrophic representation of what can go wrong.

What’s gone wrong?

We've identified 11 major barriers between children and the outdoors, things that are high in the U.S. and U.K.. Things like traffic and road safety, perceptions toward stranger danger (fear of strangers in the media).

A risk averse, litigious culture makes it hard for organizations to let children roam freely without panicking about the risks.

Project Wild Thing isn't just a film anymore. What's happened since your October 2013 release?

Well, in the film, as a kind of joke, I appoint myself the Marketing Director of Nature, and then we start this campaign to try to sell nature to children. In the process, we actually do a campaign – we get lots of free ad space and creatives helping us.

As a result of doing that, we got a lot of real people coming and saying “we want to join the movement.” We started signing people up, and the Wild Network was born. Now it has thousands of members, and quite a wide reach. It's been amazing to see, just in the last months since we launched.

What does the Wild Network do?

The insight from the film is that while there's a supply of green space out there, and organizations that offer natural experiences to children and parents, in economic terms, people aren't demanding it.

The reason for this shrinking demand is that the alternatives are demanded more voraciously: screen time, computer games, time indoors playing with toys. The Wild Network exists so that all of the organizations that want to sell outdoor play to children can use it to make a big noise about the benefits of their product.

When will you know that this big marketing noise is successful?

If you're marketing Nintendos, you know precisely how many you sold. But there's very little measurement of outdoor time for children. So it's a challenge to figure out if we're having an effect. At the moment, we're judging success by whether debate has been stimulated in the U.K.. We're looking at creating a measurement for time spent outdoors as well.

There's a gap there that we need to figure out. Do we use proxy sales, like rubber boots? Some power companies have suggested that we correlate power consumption with time spent outdoors. We also want to ask questions like what's the most outdoorsy city and the most outdoorsy day? We need answers like these to sell nature in an ongoing, cost-effective, celebratory way.

What nations, in your opinion, should we look to? Who already does what you call "Wild Time" well?

There's that great saying, if you design a town for a child and an eighty-year-old, then you end up with a really great town. Certainly in Northern Europe and Holland, they're much better at the supremacy of the child and the older person over the automobile.

I've just written a blog about the Norwegian philosophy of love of the outdoors. Land is considered to be everyone's to roam on, to move freely through fields.

Scandinavians also have the belief that children need to be plugged into the natural world from a very young age. Newborns are often taken outdoors their first day. There's a different intention there. Formal education starts later, but they end up scoring well compared to nations like ours, which school our children much younger.

How do you counter the fears of risk-averse cultures like ours?

I have to be careful how I answer so as not to be rude, but it's nonsense. If you look logically at the risk of contracting these diseases, they're vanishingly small. It's equivalent to worrying about being struck by lightning. We don't attach lightning conductors to our children's heads when we take them outside. We don't act on the risk. But for some reason in the U.K., and the U.S. I think, we act on the fear of disease or stranger danger in very illogical ways.

In the U.K., some are reacting quite strongly to the Wild Network, saying that our product is dangerous. But it's in fact really good for you, and the alternatives are dangerous. A life lived indoors, in front of the screen, is far more sinister in terms of the long-term risks of diabetes, heart disease, obesity.

But as Nature’s Marketing Director, that’s not the sales pitch you use in the film. What’s your angle?

We try to be playful, to get people to see our product as fun and free.

A lot of charities, NGOs, organizations who have traditionally been responsible for selling the joys of an outdoor life, have often done so through quite negative messaging: get your children outside or the climate will suffer, or they won't understand polar bears. In the Wild Network, we're trying really hard to have fun, not make people feel badly.

What demographic is proving the hardest sell so far? Parents?

Actually, it's teenagers. There's scientific evidence that says if you don't get children normalized to an outdoor life by the time they're seven or eight, then it just gets increasingly hard to persuade them to enjoy it. If you're a teenager in the depths of hormonal change, deep into social media and that's the way you're expressing yourself, having someone like me come along and say “Hey, let's put on some Wellington boots,” that's not even going to begin to break through. You'll see some of those kids in the film, who are almost unreachable.

Is there any way you've found to break into this particularly tricky market?

The Hunger Games is a really interesting representation of a wild life that teenagers really understand. The message is that there's something highly resilient about an outdoor person – that they're more determined, more likely to survive and be tough.

Teens in the U.K. respond well to a statistic that 80 percent of successful entrepreneurs were tree climbers when they were kids. So if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, a good place to hone the skills of a self-starter is in the outdoors.

So the sell there isn't climate change or understanding polar bears?

Appealing to a teenager's self-interest can be highly effective. That's been a big insight for us. You and I might respond well to an ethical consideration that we want our children to be nice to each other and know the names of plants and animals, but there are waves of people who are more motivated by financial gain or status. And these are people we have to communicate with as well. Finding those pathways has been really fun.

What's the plan for your week here in The Intertwine?

I'm really excited that a Wild Network might be launched in Portland. We're gathering nature's marketing department here for a big brainstorming. This would be the first Wild Network in the States, and we hope it might be the start of more marketing of nature by groups across the U.S..

Your daughter plays a big role in the film. How have your efforts to up wild time for kids worked out at home?

Well, they know they can make me really happy just by saying they want to go outdoors more. Whether they genuinely do or not, I really don't care. My daughter, who I measured at about three percent of her waking time outdoors, is now at about twelve percent. She's actively choosing to go outdoors far more than she ever did before. So that's amazing.


Through storytelling outlets like Outside Voice and the 2013 Our Common Ground Report, Writer & Editor Ramona DeNies uses her words to raise awareness of The Intertwine Alliance’s 125+ partners and their work to build and enhance The Intertwine Alliance. A journalist and former nonprofit Executive Director, Ramona has called Oregon home since 2001.

Project YESS gets three thumbs up

These teenage crew members work for more than green

July 30 2014

For more than 15 years, Project YESS at Mount Hood Community College has partnered with nature to help “at-risk” youth in East Multnomah County set sturdier roots.

Running work crews four times a year, eight weeks each, the Project YESS Youth Conservation Corps (PYYCC) hires low-income, underserved youth aged 16-21 for hardy projects like native seed collection; maintaining, building, and decommissioning trails; removing old fencing; and eradicating invasive, non-native plants.

We think conservation work is an ideal vehicle for youth development. Restoration projects at sites like Beavercreek Natural Area -- about which our crew members recently presented to the Metro Council -- engage them in a positive real-world experience, show them how to be good employees, and create opportunities to build self-esteem while giving back to families and communities.

We also think of PYYCC as a way to bring nature to young people who may not have the means or motivation to seek it on their own, thus fostering a lifelong connection and developing our next generation of conservationists.

Now, thanks to a new Metro partnership, we’re able to increase Project YESS’s focus on outdoor field work with the Metro-specific Youth Ecology Corps -- effectively doubling the number of youth on our work crews.

We’re thrilled. But what do the youth think about all this? We asked three Project YESS crew members -- Lexi, Brad and Hanna, all Gresham 19-year-olds -- about their job and what it means to them.

Why did you join the Project YESS Conservation Crew?

LEXI: Originally I joined the crew to get job experience, but within the first couple weeks I started to love working with nature and learning new things. I couldn't have asked for a better first job.

BRAD: The reason I joined was initially to get my GED. I was running low on options and my father wanted me to get out of the house and do something for a change.

HANNA: I joined because I didn’t have any work experience. I was really excited to start because I’ve always loved nature and thought this would be a great job.

What's the hardest part about the work? The best part?

LEXI: The hardest part is probably the physical part of it. We work really hard out there, and it gets hot during the summer. But it’s a good workout and I always give my 100 percent.

BRAD: The hardest part is orienting my time to get to bed on time so I won’t be weary the next day. The best part of work is absolutely everything. It’s opened my eyes to the importance of habitat restoration, and even just plain nature restoration. I feel like a much healthier person, and in the midst of doing what I love I gain valuable skills and experience to further my career in this field.

HANNA:  I would say the hardest part of this job would be the manual labor. The best part is being in nature all day.

What has been the biggest surprise for you?

LEXIFor me, it was how much I ended up loving this job. Before I started, I wasn't really sure I was going to be interested in what we were doing, but now I love being in nature all the time. We get to learn about all the different plants and animals, while working to protect our native species.

BRAD: The biggest surprise for me is how much knowledge my brain can hold now. Before I joined Project YESS I felt like my brain just wasn’t able to keep up with what everybody expected of me. However, I can remember so much now! I’ve been learning about native plants and their medicinal properties. Like Verbascum Thapsus (aka Mullein). It has anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and analgesic properties. Just little things like that have made me very proud of myself.

HANNA: For me, it’s how far I can really push myself, not just physically but mentally. For example, I never thought I would be able to walk for a week on a backpacking trip. I ended up walking 32 miles, something I thought to be impossible.

Would you want to do outdoor work for a living?

LEXI: I've given some thought to working outdoors for a living, I love nature, wildlife and learning something new every day. I'd love to work with animals, that would be an amazing job.

BRAD: I don’t just want to, I am going to do outdoor work for a living, because of what society has done to our planet. Native culture has always interested me, and I would love to know botany so I am aware of the edibility, medicinal properties, and potential harm of native and non-native species.

HANNA: I most definitely want a job in the outdoors. Who would want to be cooped up in an office all day? My dream job would be to become a naturalist interpreter. I want this job so I can pass on my love for nature and help more “city” people understand what’s going on around them.

What has the job taught you?

LEXI: This job has taught me a lot about responsibility, teamwork getting out of my comfort zone, and also how important it is to protect our native species and wildlife.

BRAD: That I am not a piece of trash like I thought I was. I’m a fun-loving, hard-working, and curious person, eager to learn and to help others. And that I love, love, love the outdoors. I wouldn’t be myself without it.

HANNA: This job has taught me a lot about myself, like how if I put my mind to something I’m good at it. I also learned a lot about nature as well, not just the names of plants and trees but how to understand them and the bigger picture. Nature needs love, too.



Michael Oliver is the program coordinator for Mount Hood Community College's Project YESS Youth Conservation Corps. He has more than 18 years of experience as an outdoor educator, including extensive work creating, leading, and managing nature-based programs with underserved and “at-risk” youth. His favorite thing about his job is creating high-impact, immersive opportunities for youth to connect with nature.


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