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Stewards, not subduers

Why one church joined The Intertwine Alliance

June 16 2014

My name is Jerry Magee, and I’m the current President of the South Park Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship (I know, but our fellowship predates the popular, similarly-named cartoon by over 30 years). We're a church, and also a partner of The Intertwine Alliance.

What’s the connection, you ask, between a religious organization and the nature-based Intertwine Alliance? Why did we unanimously agree to join after Alliance Executive Director Mike Wetter kindly spoke at our Fellowship’s Earth Month service a couple years ago?

We believe it’s a total connection—which is something we’re all about.

In a world of increasing disconnect with the natural environment, we participate with and support organizations, such as the Intertwine Alliance, which attempt to overcome this societal trend. The Alliance’s efforts closely match a mission that we wholeheartedly endorse: to “foster an awareness that care for creation is integral to a life of faith.”

This mission comes from the Interfaith Network for Earth Concerns. As a program of the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, the Interfaith Network carries out a mission of earth stewardship—to connect, inform, inspire and empower people, congregations and religious institutions to work for justice and the care and renewal of the earth.

Our members similarly work for social justice and the care and renewal of the earth. We believe that we’ve inherited an exquisitely beautiful gift, and that an entity that professes to honor the Creator cannot condone desecrating the Creation. We subscribe to the Biblical translations that describe our role as stewards rather than subduers of the earth.

The Intertwine Alliance resonated with us because of its commitment to “ensure that the region’s trail network gets completed; that our natural areas get restored, and that people of all ages discover they can enjoy the outdoors near where they live.” Doing so equitably across the region will raise the quality of life for all of our Metro Area citizens. 

By linking neighborhoods and communities in every corner of the Metro Area, the Intertwine Alliance can ensure safe and healthful alternatives to automobile transportation for all citizens while promoting inter-community communication, cooperation, and common connections with the natural environment.​

These outcomes serve four of the seven principles that Unitarian Universalist congregations together affirm and promote—the inherent worth and dignity of every person; justice, equity and compassion in human relations; the goal of world community, with peace, liberty and justice for all; and respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part.

Although small in size, our Fellowship continues to vocally (in public venues), financially (through donations), politically (through our votes) and, as we’re able, physically support environmental and social justice issues and, particularly, organizations such as the Intertwine Alliance that serve to promote both.

As I said, our connection with The Intertwine Alliance is total, and it’s one we plan to maintain long into the future.

Jerry Magee is the current President of the South Park Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship in West Linn, Oregon. He and his family have been members of this small congregation since 1988. For more information about the Fellowship, please visit their website.

Sowing seeds of stewardship

Nature-based play movement taking root in Southeast Portland

September 23 2015

In a city known for innovation and love of the outdoors, Portlanders are finding new ways to connect to nature at a recently built play area in Southeast Portland. On any given day, Westmoreland Park is packed with children digging in the sand, climbing on boulders and log features, or building forts with large sequoia branches. Adults, too, are inspired by the natural elements and participate alongside children, exploring the play area’s unique features.

A recent U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project (in conjunction with the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services and Portland Parks & Recreation) restored Crystal Springs Creek to its natural flow through Westmoreland Park. The creek restoration meant that the park’s aging playground had to be moved away from the restored floodplain to higher ground. Portland Parks & Recreation saw this as an opportunity for a brand-new play area that would serve as a pilot project for nature-based play in the Portland park system. Sandra Burtzos, PP&R senior project manager, assembled a design team that included: GreenWorks, PC; environmental artist Adam Kuby; Mainline Design; KPFF Consulting Engineers; Cascadian Landscapers; Oregon Log Homes; and Stone Sculptures, Inc.

The nature-play area at Westmoreland Park officially opened on Oct. 25, 2014.

Our team anticipated that the play area would engage a broad age range. But the project has far exceeded expectations for attracting both the young and the young at heart. People come from all over the region to experience Westmoreland Park, and children are entertained for hours.

"I had the opportunity to take my daughter over to the new playground," one park visitor wrote. "She was able to reconnect with not only being human, but really with being a kid."

"It's the biggest, baddest, best play area I have ever been to!" exclaimed another visitor. Within a few short months of opening, the park is a success story for what is possible, and for what nature play can provide to enhance a community and reconnect people with nature.   

So, what is nature-based play? It's a current movement that responds to a basic human need in children – a connection to nature. Nature-based play areas provide environments where children can learn from natural elements and sow seeds of stewardship by fostering a deep connection to natural surroundings. 

Nature-based play has so many documented benefits, including improved imagination, creativity, problem solving, social development, cooperation, self-awareness, self-esteem, and improved balance and strength. 

Oregon Natural Play Initiative, a group of professionals who support and promote natural play in Oregon, says, “Natural Play challenges and fascinates children and teaches them about the wonders and intricacies of the natural world while they explore and play within it. It is intuitive and unstructured, constructive (or deconstructive), and timeless, encouraging interaction with natural materials, features, indigenous vegetation, and creative landforms.”

The theme behind the Westmoreland Park design is the restoration story of nearby Crystal Springs. We developed a sequence to the spaces that metaphorically follows the path of rainwater from the Cascades to Crystal Springs. This story is expressed through carved basalt columns accenting the pathway between the grove of sequoias and the bottom of the creek channel. 

While visually engaging, the park is also intended to be safe, with play features adhering to national safety guidelines where applicable, and maintenance-friendly. This meant that a lot of the design process took place in the field. The team worked together in the fabricators’ workshops and onsite to determine the acceptable level of risk for each play element, evaluating each boulder and log, while still providing beneficial challenges important to childhood development. 

Play features include: 

  • The Creek Channel, a concrete stream channel with willow tunnels, water pumps and sand, where children manipulate the water’s flow. Everyone has opportunity to participate in the fun; an elevated pooling area and at-grade water pump provide access to wheelchairs. 
  • The Forest Mound features salvaged logs tilted at inclines for climbing. The large and small logs leaning against the forest mound represent log jams in creeks and streams of the Cascades. The logs are sanded smooth with kerfed ends to avoid splintering, and treated with non-toxic internal wood stabilizer to increase the life cycle of each log. 
  • The eight-foot high Mountain Mound is comprised of mortared boulders of varying sizes, providing degrees of climbing challenge for all ages and abilities. 
  • The area encourages creative play with Loose Parts, including sequoia branches, pine cones, etc. Metal posts provide support for forts and other creative building. 
  • The Log Climbers are salvaged log segments for climbing, functioning as both sculpture and play. Logs are cut at angles and carefully composed to provide multiple climbing routes and challenges. 

Intrigued? Check out these other GreenWorks projects incorporating nature-based play sprinkled throughout The Intertwine:

Mike Faha is a professional landscape architect and founding principal of GreenWorks, PC. He works to create livable, sustainable communities by integrating ecology, green infrastructure and urban design on a variety of project types. Mike received his Bachelor of Science from Oregon State University, and is a board member of Urban Greenspaces Institute and the Human Access Project. 


Hopping the fence

Young activists transform Gresham neighborhood park

August 3 2015

Starting in my early middle school years, from about 2005 on, my friends and I often walked a couple of blocks to a park we called Snake Park in the Rockwood neighborhood of Gresham. It’s official name is Vance Park, but since everyone was convinced there were snakes, it was Snake Park to us. (I'm not sure who started this rumor, and I don't recall ever seeing any sort of reptile there.)

Back then, and to this day, Snake Park held an approximately 28,000-square-foot old roller skating rink that was fenced up and prohibited from public use. As teenagers, the fence didn’t stop us from entering. We used the rink as a street soccer court, with a diversity of people stopping by after school to play ball. Most were middle and high school students from the Reynolds and Centennial school districts.   

Fast forward almost 10 years, and the rink is still home to street soccer — only now in a more official capacity. In May 2014 I made a quick visit to the park and couldn’t help notice that people were still jumping the fence to play. That got me thinking. I reached out to my good friend Yesenia Delgado, and together we created a Facebook page. We called it the Rockwood Initiative, and wrote a short post about the big idea of redeveloping the old rink into an accessible futsal court for the community.

Futsal is a form of soccer typically played on a smaller field than soccer, with a smaller ball, usually on an acrylic surface. With Yesenia and I both being residents of Rockwood, we made it clear that our passion and work would focus around the neighborhood and the community. Yesenia was an intern at the time with Active Children Portland, a nonprofit organization focused on the health of children, and I an intern with Multnomah County. By bringing our networks together, we are able to attract some major attention.

By the fall of 2014, we found ourselves in big community meetings, sharing the importance of this project. We believe that sports, in particular soccer, can bring togetherness to a community with a lot of diversity. The vision is to unite residents and help decrease gang activity, violence, drug use and high school/middle school dropout rates. Rockwood is pretty commonly known as the “ghetto." From personal experience, living there means regularly hearing about nearby fights and drug deals, the lack of security in the streets, and the process in which young kids drop out of school in order to join gangs. Not all kids who drop out follow the same path, of course; some need to leave school to provide for their families.

After several meetings about the futsal court, we were able to gain the community’s support and approval. With partners Active Children Portland, Multnomah County and the City of Gresham, we sought grants to help fund the project. In December 2014, we applied for a $15,000 grant from the U.S. Soccer Foundation -- and got it, one month later.

With momentum building, we decided to pitch our idea to the Portland Timbers soccer team and the organizations Operation Pitch Invasion and Fields for All. By April 2015, we had gathered $90,ooo, enough to make our dream come true. The Portland Timbers selected Vance Park futsal as its first fully renovated Fields for All project.

We're excited to announce that construction of the new futsal court has begun. If everything lines up, it will be open and ready for use by the second week of September.  The name "SNAKE Court" — standing for Sports, Neighborhood, Action, Knowledge and Empowerment — draws on community history while representing the values the Rockwood Initiative holds dear. Once the court is built, our goal is to offer programs teaching kids the fundamentals of soccer. Tournaments and leagues will start up, too. 

The Rockwood Initiative hopes to bring a second futsal court to the Gresham area in the next couple of years. Outside resources and great partnerships can change the atmosphere of a struggling area. Rockwood is on the verge of many changes, with positive developments coming step by step to the places that need it most.

​Ricki Ruiz is a resident of the Rockwood neighborhood in Gresham, Oregon. A senior at Warner Pacific College, he’s working toward a B.A in social entrepreneurship.



Restoring an Oregon tradition

“Outdoor School For All” aims to increase down-in-the-muck learning

January 21 2015

Outdoor school has provided high-quality, place-based science education to Oregon youth for nearly 60 years. Launched in southern Oregon’s Curry County in 1957 as a way to reengage young people with nature and the natural resource economy, by 1970 more than 80 percent of Oregon middle school students attended outdoor school.

Outdoor school programs take place at a pivotal stage in a child’s development, creating meaningful memories that last a lifetime. In addition to getting real-world, hands-on, down-in-the-muck knowledge about the natural world and how it works, the skills and experiences gained through outdoor school instill self-confidence, help youth realize their leadership potential, and make them more self-sufficient.

There is something transformative about taking a group of young people into the woods for a week. Not only do they have time to learn more by doing, they learn how to live with kids from all over, with different backgrounds. Many outdoor school programs use high school students as junior counselors. Being responsible for 10 to 12 sixth graders for a week changes their lives, too.

But don’t take my word for it. Here's what Firelily, a student in Sandy, says about her time at outdoor school:

“I am a fourth-timer [student leader] at Sandy River ODS, and I believe that it is a terrific program. It is an extremely important way for sixth graders to learn about nature, conservation of resources, themselves, and how to interact with others around them. In the words of site supervisor Snake, 'We live in a made-up world; out here in the forest is the real world.' I can honestly say that ODS has helped me to become more confident in myself, and through it I have found that I want to be a special needs teacher.”

Her story is not unique. The following quotes come from letters in support of outdoor school written to the Portland Public School Board when funding was in doubt in 2012:

“Outdoor school saved my life, really.” 

“If not for outdoor school, I would have dropped out of school.”

“I am a geologist/naturalist/school teacher/better person because of outdoor school.”

Many educators across the state know how valuable outdoor education is. In addition to sending their sixth graders to outdoor school, Tillamook School District integrates outdoor education into every grade level. Why? In the words of Superintendent Randy Schild, “Doing is the best way to learn.” 

First graders learn about simple machines by moving logs across the playground. High school students monitor wetland health; develop new uses for agricultural “byproducts;” and have earned trips to national and international science competitions, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships. 

Watch a short video of Superintendent Schild on the value of outdoor education.

Outdoor school historically was available to nearly every Oregon child: urban, rural; eastern, western; affluent, poor; able-bodied and disabled. Yet today, only about 45 percent of Oregon youth have the opportunity to attend outdoor school — and mostly for a reduced, three-day program rather than a full week. This number is dropping every year, as school districts struggle to find funding for this exceptional program. We can’t afford to lose this Oregon tradition. But we are. 

In the Portland metro region, thanks to funding from Metro, outdoor school is hanging on … but just barely. Depending on the school district, students may have to pay (Portland Public Schools asks families to pay $120 for a three-day program) or raise funds to go. Some years ago, Metro enacted a $1-per-ton tipping fee on solid waste that pays for one day of outdoor school for all participating students. This has kept a three-day version of the program going in all but two metro-area school districts.

A new group, the Oregon Outdoor Education Coalition, has formed to give voice to the thousands of supporters and providers of outdoor education throughout Oregon. OOEC’s first project is to secure sufficient and sustainable funding to send every Oregon fifth or sixth grader to a full week of outdoor school or a comparable program that meets local needs. With the support of the Gray Family Foundation; Friends of Outdoor School; the Oregon Forest Resource Institute; Metropolitan Group; Davis, Hibbits, Midghall; and many others, the OOEC is mounting a public will-building campaign to persuade the Oregon legislature to invest $22 million a year to make Outdoor School For All a reality. 

We are launching the Outdoor School for All campaign on January 30 with a rally at the World Forestry Center in Portland from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. There will be fun activities for children and adults, food from local vendors, and stories from some of Oregon's most passionate outdoor school supporters — not to mention a surprise appearance from soccer mascot Timber Joey.

This is a pivotal time for outdoor education in Oregon, and we need your help showing that outdoor school programs have broad public support. So bring your wood cookie name-tag and your children, and join us.

Follow Outdoor School for All and RSVP for the kick-off on Facebook.

Trained as a biologist, Rex Burkholder has worked as a science teacher and in the Northwest forests. He helped start the bicycling revolution in Portland as a founder and policy director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. An early leader in sustainability and equity, Burkholder also co-founded the Coalition for a Livable Future, bringing together over 100 diverse NGOs in the greater Portland region. He was a member of the Metro Council from 2000-2012, where he led efforts to reform regional transportation policy and to integrate climate change into the decisions of all levels of Oregon government. Currently writing a book on Getting Things Done, he blogs about transportation, urban livability and climate change at

Fall means fútbol in our parks

Across The Intertwine, social changes shape our sports fields

October 29 2014

After a long, hot summer, the weather is finally changing. The fall season is here, bringing with it foggy mornings, pumpkin-flavored treats everywhere, and increased utilization of park space by sports enthusiasts.

Immigrants like me make up a significant number of the people vying to use The Intertwine's available park space for sport practice. And for the majority of us there is one sport that matters: soccer, or fútbol, as Spanish-speakers call it.

I grew up in Ecuador and my earliest sports-related memories are of my family watching important fútbol matches together.  When I moved to United States in 1993, I knew that soccer was not high on the list of most popular sports for Americans. However, the lack of interest I found in Corvallis, where I first lived here, still amazed me.

My Oregon friends assured me that Portland was different: Soccer City USA. But despite their stories of the old Timbers, the North American Soccer League, the games Pelé played in then-called Civic Stadium, something about it all seemed very distant.

When I moved to Portland in 1996, I found the passion I was looking for in a few scattered sports bars around town, where small but loud crowds, decked out in their countries’ team’s jerseys, screamed their lungs out. I also found that passion in neighborhood parks like Lents, Rockwood Central, and Fairview, where I saw Latinos and other immigrants coming together in any available open space to form soccer teams, and playing one another primarily on weekends.

In the late 1990s, when I worked at an east Multnomah County social service agency, I became aware that there were conflicts for park space utilization between these pick-up soccer games and the locals who practiced other sports, situations, according to the Latino immigrants I worked with at the time.

This is because fall is not just soccer season, but also American football and rugby season, which meant that there was a lot of competition for those open spaces. This problem was compounded by lack of awareness of the rules to reserve and rent park space, different expectations about trash disposal and language barriers – resulting sometimes in tense situations.

It’s a tension that, fortunately, seems to be on the decline.

Since 1990, the Portland metropolitan region has experienced significant growth in the number of Latinos and other people of color. Parallel to this demographic change, soccer has also gained in popularity and is now one of the nation’s top five most popular sports for both youth and adults.

Perhaps as a direct result of these changes in demographics and sports preference – as well as active outreach by parks and recreation districts to immigrant communities, and the development of more multi-sport park space – my friends and I have observed these conflicts over park space to be less common these days.

A great example of these successful outreach efforts is Portland Parks & Recreation’s Portland World Cup program, which seeks to celebrate the diversity of Portland’s immigrant and multicultural communities through soccer, employing the sport to better integrate recent immigrants, especially youth, into the fabric of the city.

This annual competition started in 2010, and in the 2014 tournament 20 teams (16 boys and 4 girls) with a total of 400 youth participated, representing a similar number of countries and languages.

Eight young people from Haiti, Burma, Croatia, Mexico, Morocco, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Portland participated in the organization of the Portland World Cup.

Tournament participants (and the adults in their lives) had the opportunity to share their cultural knowledge and values, develop partnerships among themselves and long-term. Portland residents, and learn more about the City of Portland and other organizations.

Soccer can be a powerful tool not just to learn the intrinsic values that any sport can teach – hard work, teamwork and good sportsmanship – but also to show people from all over the country a way to come together.

In the open spaces of our parks, shouting and sharing deep lungfuls of fresh air, we can celebrate the diversity of The Intertwine by sharing in a game beloved all over the world. Fútbol is for everyone.


Juan Carlos Ocaña-Chíu  is the Equity Program Analyst at Metro, where he works closely with community-based organizations to find creative ways to measure equity throughout the region. He lives in Portland's Lents neighborhood.


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.

Portland Park Jeopardy

Take the quiz that tests your park love

August 27 2014

Three years ago, Portland’s beloved parks system won a gold medal from the National Recreation and Park Association as the best managed parks system in the nation.

While it’s nice to be honored -- and a credit to the management of Portland Parks & Recreation -- the award does nothing to help PP&R maintain our deeply underfunded parks and playgrounds.

Did you know that PP&R’s tiny parks repair and replacement budget covers just four percent of annual needs? Or that PP&R lacks the money to restore its aging playgrounds, nearly half of which could close by 2024? Without repeated, voter-approved ballot measures, our award-winning parks will fade into history.

Now, with our last parks bond measure (passed 20 years ago) about to be paid off, voters can make sure that Portland parks don’t lose ground -- or playgrounds. The City’s 2014 Parks Replacement Bond, slated for the November ballot, will raise about $68 million for major maintenance projects without increasing the current tax rate.

That’s a painless way to keep our parks swinging in the short term. But if Portland wants to stay “Parklandia,” we’ll have to take our park love to the next level. Test yours below, with a special Portland Parks Foundation edition of “Park Jeopardy,” and visit both our website and to learn more about the challenges we face.

PARK JEOPARDY! Take the quiz that tests your park love!

Category: “Precious Parks”

  • For $100: What is the value of PP&R’s built assets?
  • For $200: What percent of annual major maintenance needs are met each year?
  • For $300: Of 13 city pools, how many have structural, electrical, or plumbing systems needing replacement?
  • For $400: How many hours of volunteer labor does PP&R rely on annually?
  • For $500: What percent of playgrounds may be lost in the next 10 years if they aren’t replaced?
  • For $600: How many park restroom buildings, of 116 total, are in poor condition or closed altogether?

* Answers: $1 billion; 4 percent; 12; nearly 500,000; 47 percent; and 42.

How can the Parks Replacement Bond help?

  • Raise $68 million for urgent repair and access needs.
  • Replace 10-20 playgrounds at risk of closure.
  • Fix three heavily used community pools.
  • Repair bridges and trails in Forest Park and along the Springwater Corridor.
  • Improve ADA accessibility for parks citywide.

What would it cost?

  • It won’t increase taxes, but simply replace parks bonds from 1994 that are nearly paid off.
  • The median cost per household would be $1.08/month.

Get the details behind the numbers at, and find out how you and your organization can #FixOurParks by signing up here for Portland Parks Foundation news!


Nick Hardigg's 15 years of experience promoting parks and natural lands includes work for The Nature Conservancy in Oregon and the National Park Service at the Grand Canyon and Denali National Park. Prior to joining the Portland Parks Foundation as Executive Director in 2011, Nick led the Alaska Conservation Foundation. In his free time, Nick roams city parks with his son.

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.

Nadaka Nature Park Plants Roots

July 16 2014

On a hot, sunny evening last week, I left behind the bustle of Northeast Glisan Street in Gresham and strolled into the shade of Nadaka Nature Park, where the air smelled fresh, birds were singing and the community was bursting with excitement.

That night, a groundbreaking celebration kicked off the transformation into a full-fledged park. But even without formal amenities, Nadaka has become a place for the surrounding community to gather and connect with nature – a testament to the many advocates who have worked together to make it happen.

Five years ago, the original 10-acre park was neglected and difficult to access. Supporters realized that, by purchasing two acres to link the park with Glisan Street, they could accomplish something much bigger. They set out to secure the land, turn it into a beautiful gateway and revitalize this much-needed park.

It would be nearly impossible to recognize all the people who brought this project to life: Passionate neighbors from Wilkes East and Rockwood. Nearby businesses, like St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church and the Pacific Garden Alzheimer’s Special Care Center. The City of Gresham. Conservation groups, including the Audubon Society of Portland and the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District. The Nelson family, who sold their land at a discounted price because they believed in the park. Schools and youth programs, social service agencies, and the list goes on.

Nadaka Nature Park embodies the collaboration and innovation that voters had in mind when they passed a regional natural areas bond measure in 2006, asking Metro to dedicate part of that money to community nature grants. It also demonstrates why voters asked us to expand those community investments last year, when they approved a parks and natural areas operating levy.

I am proud that Metro has been able to support Nadaka Nature Park with not one or two, but three, Nature in Neighborhoods grants. The first helped secure the connecting piece of land. The second supported its transformation. And the third, awarded just last week, will make it possible to launch conservation education programming.

At the groundbreaking celebration, spray paint marked Nadaka’s future community garden and nature play area. They are so close to being here, on the ground – a day that felt far off when I first heard about this vision five years ago, as a Gresham city councilor.

But that’s the way these things go. An idea sounds far-fetched, practically impossible. Then a few more people latch onto the vision, and a few more. Each partner brings some resources to the effort, whether that’s time, money, expertise or a willingness to get muddy. Our region invests in moving the dream forward. And the next thing you know, a nature park is planting its roots.

Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick represents the east side of the region and serves as the Metro Council’s liaison to The Intertwine. She loves to explore the region’s parks, trails and natural areas.

The nature of hospitals

For Legacy Health, it’s go time for green time research

May 7 2014

In 1984, Roger Ulrich’s “surgery recovery and view out the hospital window study” set a worldwide standard for research on the health benefits of nature.

Since then, Dr. Ulrich has been a key driver of the still limited body of scientific research on how exposure to gardens and nature in health care settings — like here at Legacy Health, where Dr. Ulrich has consulted for the past fifteen years — can reduce patient pain and stress while improving other outcomes.

This early research is part of why interdisciplinary teams at Legacy’s six hospitals have created eleven therapeutic gardens to serve our patients, families and employees year-round, 24-7.

Now, in his recent Lancet Neurology study “Gardens that take care of us,” Ulrich and fellow researchers state the need for more rigorous study on how gardens provide measurable benefits in patients with specific medical conditions.

We’re ready to break that new ground.

Thanks to a $560,000 grant from the TKF Foundation's Nature Sacred Initiative, we’re launching three new research studies centered on our Terrace Garden, located outside Legacy Emanuel's family birth center and cardiovascular intensive care units. All studies (read more below!) are managed by Legacy Research Institute and scheduled for completion by October 2014.

“We know in our hearts that these gardens are really important,” said Lori Morgan, M.D., Legacy Emanuel’s Chief Administrative Officer, at our recent garden dedication. “Now we have the funding to prove how they help.”

Birthing study (already underway)

This study focuses on 100 low-risk pregnant women recruited from obstetricians and nurse midwives practices based at Legacy Emanuel. Patients randomized to the garden will use a birthing study log for data purposes. Physiological data will be collected on all subjects, as well as subjective data collected via questionnaires.

Families and stress study (scheduled to begin shortly)

Dr. Ulrich's studies have shown that stress, in addition to afflicting patients, is also a burden for both patient families (especially those of acutely ill patients such as those in intensive care units (ICU)) and nurses and other healthcare professionals.

At Emanuel, families of cardiovascular ICU patients will be recruited to take part in a study that observes and measures the effects of time spent in the garden on their emotional state during their family member’s stay in the ICU.

Nurses and green time study (scheduled to begin shortly)

Evidence suggests that access to gardens can reduce stress in health care workers, increase job satisfaction, and may help foster personnel recruitment and retention.

In 1995, post-occupancy studies of hospital gardens concluded that many health care employees used gardens to achieve a restorative break from negative work conditions. In 2008, researchers found that nurses with daily exposure to a nature window view in their work areas had lower stress and reported higher alertness than nurses with no window overlooking nature.

Nurses working in the ICU and Family Birth Center will be invited to participate in the nurse study. RNs will spend time each work shift in the garden and complete a nursing study log each day.

So, why again do our studies break new ground?

Despite the growing research on health care gardens, knowledge gaps and methodological shortcomings remain. Rather than rely on real nature exposure, most investigations to date have used simulations such as video or pictures. And the few studies that used real gardens lacked well-controlled randomized study methodologies.

Additionally, no prior research has examined the effects of gardens or nature on any of Legacy Health's study groups: women in maternity units and their infants; families of long-stay patients in intensive care units; or nurses from Labor & Delivery and Critical Care during 12-hour work shifts.

Because our studies will bring an unparalleled level of scientific rigor to this work, we anticipate that the results will, in the words of Dr. Ulrich, “send a signal to readers of medical reports to take this seriously” and “bring with it a more credible case for nature and sacred spaces.”

Watch for the announcement of the research results in October 2015.

Teresia Hazen, MEd, HTR, QMHP, a registered horticultural therapist, is Legacy Health's coordinator of therapeutic gardens and project manager for Legacy's garden research project. Her passion is to raise awareness among public health, medical and other health professionals to educate patients and the public-at-large about the health benefits of spending time in nature. Teresia can be contacted by email.



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