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Find your wild in Cascade Locks

September 3 2014

Some wild areas refuse to be tamed. Cascade Locks, a small, quiet city nestled in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, is one: a place where even the mighty Columbia River bowed to the forces of nature.

What many in The Intertwine don’t realize is just how close they are to Cascade Locks, home of the massive landslides that, ​one thousand years ago, stopped the river temporarily to create a “Bridge of the Gods.”

Native American legend has it that with this land bridge, the gods could cross the river without getting their feet wet (because no one likes wet feet, apparently).

Native Americans have gathered at Cascade Locks for thousands of years, and the Warm Springs, Yakama, Nez Perce, and Umatilla treaty tribes are still very active and influential in the region. But now a new group is showing up: outdoor recreation fans drawn -- by design -- to the wild nature of Cascade Locks.

In 2011, the City of Cascade Locks adopted a vision statement ​and economic development strategy ​aimed at balancing recreation with commercial and industrial business development. In 2012, a recreational trails plan called “Connect Cascade Locks” was put into action, with recommendations ranging from wayfinding signage and bike racks to fostering a locally-based trail stewardship group that could help build and maintain new trails in partnership with the US Forest Service.

It’s no wonder that Cascade Locks sees new value in its proximity to the wild. Multiple hiking trails converge right here, including the legendary Pacific Crest Trail, which drops four thousand vertical feet over nine miles to cross the Columbia River at the iconic steel Bridge of the Gods, built in 1920. ​There’s also a growing system of nearby mountain bike trails, which now host events like the Short Track Mountain Bike Championships, Dimwits With Bright Lights Night Rides, and Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day.

For those seeking smoother terrain, the newly restored nearby Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail conducts bikers and walkers from Troutdale to Cascade Locks without using Interstate 84.

And now, in close partnership with The Columbia Gorge Racing Association, Cascade Locks has transformed itself into one of the top sailing locations in North America, promoting world-class regattas and clinics for small boat sailing.  

With the addition of a series of new water trails ranging from beginner to expert, kayakers and paddlers can now weave their way through protected coves, secluded lakes, or through the challenging whirlpools and eddies of the original locks.

Outdoor recreation is already paying off here, with new businesses including a waterfront brewery as well as a fresh fish market run by a local family from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Other businesses are expanding, from an ice cream stand to a restored ale house and the famous Charburger Restaurant.

And some of the plan's more ambitious features are just about to set sail.

“One of our most ambitious projects is the proposed riverfront beach expansion,” said Holly Howell of the Port of Cascade Locks.

“For the past five years we have worked with the Army Corps of Engineers,  Oregon Department of State Lands, the four Columbia River Treaty Tribes, and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission to design and develop a beach that will increase recreation and tribal fishing access while improving natural habitat,” Howell added.

After a day kayaking and standup paddling on the river, one recent visitor to Cascade Locks -- Moses Winston of New Mexico -- sat down at Thunder Island Brewing, the new microbrewery, and offered this apt toast to the setting sun:

“Find your wild, refuse to be tamed, come to Cascade Locks.”



Bob Weinman is a coordinator with the office of Economic and Workforce Development at Mt Hood Community College. A resident of Hood River, Oregon, Bob is also an avid outdoor enthusiast in paddling, hiking and sailing and finds Cascade Locks one of the new hidden treasures of the Pacific Northwest for outdoor recreation.

Trails for everyone

Mapping an Intertwine for hikers with disabilities

August 6 2014

Living in Portland, I feel fortunate to be surrounded by natural beauty and to have great hiking and outdoor resources all around me.  But as a wheelchair user, I also feel frustration.  Where’s the information I need to access these hiking opportunities? 

My belief is that there are actually many trails here in The Intertwine that could be used by people with disabilities.  What is lacking is the data needed to enable informed decisions. 

With the right information (a simple and empowering concept) people could make their own determinations – and avoid the frustration of visiting an outdoor site only to discover that it is unusable, perhaps for the most inconsequential reason.

Several years ago, I decided to improve that situation and convened a team that included representatives from federal, state and local parks agencies to develop common standards for providing information that would better inform people with disabilities and thereby people of all abilities.  Access Recreation (AR) was born.

Starting in 2009, the new committee drew from our collective experience to develop AR’s Guidelines for Providing Trail Information to People with Disabilities.  

Driving our effort was the expectation that public agencies in the region would strive for a common standard of trail description and information sharing. A grant in 2011 from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department made it possible to further develop these Guidelines and publish them as a web-based document.

Now, AR is working to apply the Guidelines’ principles to create a Regional Online Trail Map.  This map will place photos, videos and descriptions of significant features along trails that are mapped using simple smart-phone technology.

Our hope is that people of all abilities will be able to find this map through our partner websites as well as on AR's own website.  With the information provided by these individual trail maps, hikers of all ability levels will be able to choose a trail ahead of time that matches their desired recreation experience.

The Trail Map is being supported by a generous Nature in Neighborhoods grant from Metro, and initially will cover only the Metro region.  Map data will become available to the public incrementally, as 24 or more selected trails are mapped over the next two years.  Half of these trails will feature videos as well as photos.

Eventually, we intend this Online Trail Map to encompass the entire Pacific Northwest, and perhaps even places of interest across the globe. 

Follow Access Recreation for more information on this ambitious project, our progress, and links to the individual trail maps as they are developed.  We’ll see you on the trail!


Georgena Moran is the Founder and Project Coordinator of Access Recreation, an ad hoc committee working to develop informational guidelines for hiking trails and outdoor recreation facilities to benefit hikers with disabilities. Georgena, an ICC Certified Accessibility Inspector/Plans Examiner and Certified Universal Trail Assessment Process (UTAP) Specialist, has conducted ADA Site Assessments since 1999 as a Principal of Mind on Accessibility.

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.

Oregon's Watershed Moment

Secure state funding means OWEB is ready for big-picture thinking

May 21 2014

In 2010, Oregon voters in every county passed Ballot Measure 76, which made permanent in the state Constitution a 7.5 percent dedication of lottery funds for watershed conservation across the state.

This overwhelming  support — coming from 69 percent of voters — means that the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) can continue to fund local volunteer efforts to keep Oregon’s water clean and habitats healthy.

Since 1999, OWEB has awarded nearly 7,000 grants and over $500 million dollars to support local efforts to restore and conserve land and water for future generations. 

The range of OWEB grants can vary from small projects that support students to remove invasive weeds and plant native species to larger projects that remove dams or relocate river channels to more natural conditions.

So why talk about OWEB now? Because, with our future more secure, we’re positioned for some big-picture thinking. How does a long-term conservation funder define success?  Which agency priorities and policies need updating? And how can we best partner with others to achieve ecological outcomes here in Oregon that would otherwise be unattainable?

With these questions in mind, OWEB engaged stakeholders and sought input from the public in a series of listening sessions held around the state.  This feedback helped inform OWEB’s Long Term Investment Strategy Framework, which was adopted last year.  The Framework guides OWEB’s investments by building on past accomplishments and pointing in new directions.

We take particular inspiration from initiatives like the Deschutes Special Investment Partnership, a collaboration of four local nonprofit organizations to improve habitat for salmon reintroduction on the Crooked, Metolius, and Whychus rivers. 

OWEB has supported the Deschutes partnership since 2008, and its accomplishments are impressive.  The success of this partnership, and others like it, has led OWEB to create a new program, which we call “focused investment partnerships,” that promote landscape-scale collaboration to achieve prioritized outcomes.

To develop our Focused Investment Program, OWEB will first adopt priorities to inform where future focused investments occur.  The process for identifying priorities will begin in late summer by requesting written input from organizations throughout the state.  Following an extensive public input and feedback process, I anticipate OWEB will adopt focused investment priorities by April 2015.  Following that, OWEB will consider specific partnership proposals within the selected priorities for the 2015-2017 biennium.

This past January, OWEB held its quarterly meeting in Portland, where partners from the Intertwine Alliance briefed us on an impressive array of activities underway in the area. The Intertwine Alliance, with its Regional Conservation Strategy and Collective Impact approach, is already demonstrating the type of large-landscape collaboration that we've seen succeed.  

With the excellent groundwork that you have already accomplished as a coalition, your region should be well positioned to inform the development of our Focused Investment Program.


Tom Byler is the Executive Director of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB). A fifth-generation Oregonian born and raised in Northeast Oregon, Tom is serving his third four-year term at OWEB. He lives in Salem with his wife, three kids and dog.

Equity in nature: This is what it looks like

November 4 2015

“I got to hang with people I would have otherwise never hung out with. I became more in touch with nature and conservation.”
 - Alondra Cortez, Momentum Alliance youth participant in the Northwest Youth Corps summer internship program

Momentum Alliance youth are undocumented, immigrant, indigenous, LGBTQ, gang-affected, HIV positive and low-income. They are youth of color; youth with disabilities; youth transitioning from foster care, homelessness and incarceration; youth who have experienced war, domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse; teen parents and allies.

More than 45 percent of us report a history of trauma. Not coincidentally, just over 45 percent of us also report struggling with depression and anxiety. We need time and opportunities in nature, and yet there are tremendous obstacles for many of us, from not feeling welcome in public spaces to not having the transportation or gear necessary to access this amazing region.

So when, after making a presentation at The Intertwine Alliance Summit last fall, Momentum Alliance received requests for partnerships from conservation organizations seeking to diversify their participants, we were eager for the opportunity. We chose to pilot a partnership with Northwest Youth Corps (NYC), a group that brings extensive expertise in outdoor youth education and conservation through its intensive five-week paid summer internship program. That NYC offered paid internships made the partnership mutually beneficial. Just as important was NYC’s desire to learn from Momentum Alliance about what would work best for our youth, and NYC’s willingness to make adaptations to its programming to increase inclusivity and the likelihood of success.

Bringing our track record of engaging and coaching diverse youth, Momentum Alliance connected 10 underrepresented young people to create a summer crew. Using our Momentum Alliance model of coaching and relationship building, we helped create an inclusive and strong team environment.

As one of the summer projects, the crew worked for Oregon State Parks along the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, doing what the industry calls "brushing," which means widening the corridor along a trail so that pedestrians (or, in this case, cyclists and equestrians) don't collide with overgrown or low-hanging vegetation and tree branches. Youth learned to use tools like the mid-reach or “dragonslayer” saw and to spot their peers for safety, all the while spending more time in nature than any of them had before.

Our program completion rate was 100 percent, with an attendance rate of 90 percent! This was also one of Northwest Youth Corps most diverse crews to date, with all 10 participants being youth of color and 6 of 10 young women. 

The Momentum Alliance Crew was “one of my best crews ever,” says Crew Leader Henry Hays-Wehle. “I learned a lot about how best to support youth from underrepresented communities to succeed in outdoor education and career exploration.” 

Metro Nature in Neighborhoods provided critical funds for food, gear, bus passes and Momentum Alliance Coaches who continue to work with these 10 youth year-round on their health, education, career and leadership goals through Summer, Winter and Spring Break Camps, monthly activities and individualized coaching.

NYC and Momentum Alliance are working together again to fundraise for a second youth crew in 2016. Momentum Alliance is also exploring how best to expand our capacity to work with other eager organizations on such partnerships in the future.

About Momentum Alliance:

Momentum Alliance is a youth-led nonprofit, with experienced coaches, whose mission is to inspire youth to realize their power individually and collectively and to mentor future social justice leaders. We exist in response to demand by youth (more than we can yet meet) to reduce isolation and prejudice among diverse youth; set and achieve health, educational, career and leadership goals; and find collective opportunities to affect public policy and systemic changes that get at the root causes of the obstacles we, our peers and our communities face. 

Momentum Alliance has won the Bank of the West’s Innovation in Philanthropy Award and the Portland City Club Civic Leaders Award for inclusiveness of diverse youth in the public policy process. Momentum Alliance produced a video for Metro on equity in nature and transportation this year to help role out its equity plan. This and other videos can be seen at: momentumalliance.org.

​Channbunmorl "Chom" Sou (middle) is the son of genocide survivors from Cambodia. Chom witnessed multiple suicide attempts by his mother, became a victim of gang violence and grew up in poverty. These experiences led him to become the first person in his family to graduate from college and go on to earn a masters degree, specializing in program evaluation. He is a former board member of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO). Chom coaches youth fulltime at Momentum Alliance to ensure that underrepresented youth have access to opportunities, achieve their goals and build a collective voice advocating for social justice.

Discover hidden gems north of the Columbia

Celebrating 30 years of the Clark County Legacy Lands Program

April 29 2015

Many are familiar with the Vancouver Lake lowlands and Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Clark County, Washington, together a mirror image of the Sauvie Island complex on the Oregon side of the border. Clark County, along with federal, state and non-profit organizations, has assembled key pieces of the lowlands over a 30-year period as a conservation legacy for future generations. Vancouver Lake and Ridgefield are two of the best known natural areas in the county, but there are many others to discover. 

Clark County’s Legacy Lands Program, managed by the Environmental Services Department, was instituted in October 1985, when the Board of County Commissioners adopted a small property tax levy of 6.25 cents per $1,000 of valuation to protect open space from threats such as urban development and habitat degradation. Protected greenspaces provide a vital green infrastructure that connects our community, protects our water and air, preserves corridors for wildlife, and provides recreational opportunities.  

To celebrate 30 years of success, we hope to introduce you to three less familiar gems in our system. Directions to and information about sites highlighted below, and other engaging natural sites, can be found at www.clark.wa.gov/legacylands. We are also programming a series of special events throughout 2015 to pique your interest in our unique contributions to The Intertwine.

La Center Bottoms and the Lower East Fork Lewis Greenway

The free-flowing East Fork of the Lewis River is home to native runs of Chinook, Coho and Chum salmon, and winter and summer steelhead. The lower floodplain offers hundreds of acres of bottomland habitat for waterfowl and other species. Clark County and its partners have assembled more than 2,000 acres of land from the confluence of the East Fork and North Fork Lewis Rivers to Lewisville Park near Battle Ground. While much of this land is protected for its habitat value and has limited public access, La Center Bottoms offers a window into this bottomland system. 

From the trailhead on 3rd St. in La Center, follow the handicap-accessible path to a small bridge across a burbling brook in an oak stand. Past the bridge, the path turns to gravel. Soon you will arrive at a waterfowl viewing blind where you may see migrating tundra swans feeding on camas bulbs in the wetland ponds. Migrating salmon smolts also use the ponds for refuge and forage. From the large bridge across Brezee Creek, there is an expansive view of the bottomland landscape. As you look upstream, know that most of the bottomlands on the south side of the river are protected. Continuing over the bridge, the trail narrows and follows the levee, providing more intimate views of the river. 

For an on-water experience, the City of La Center has constructed a small canoe/kayak launch just under the La Center Road Bridge downstream of the trailhead. This reach of the river is tidally influenced. Time it right, and ease your upstream paddle on the incoming tide. Then drift downstream with the current back to the put-in, or, for the adventurous, all the way to the Columbia River, ducking into Lake River to a take-out at the Port of Ridgefield. 

Salmon-Morgan Creeks Natural Area

For an upland experience, explore the 81-acre Salmon-Morgan Creeks Natural Area in the southwest corner of Battle Ground. Ancient cedar stumps, harvested in the early 1900s, nurse a new generation of life. A mature mixed-conifer forest has grown up around them, offering a variety of experiences. You might hear the drumming of a pileated woodpecker echo through the forest. You might stumble across a rough-skinned newt crossing one of the soft surface trails. Trilliums brighten the forest floor in spring. From an overlook, you can view the confluence of Salmon Creek and its tributary, Morgan Creek. Western pearlshell mussels can be found in Morgan Creek, and Coho salmon smolts rear under the cooling forest canopy well into summer.

Lower Washougal Greenway

The Lewis and Washougal River systems are the two primary systems we expect to contribute to the recovery of salmon and steelhead populations in Clark County. The City of Camas, Clark County and other partners have managed to assemble an 100-acre greenway along the Lower Washougal River. The City recently completed a 1.5 mile-long handicap-accessible trail from which you can get a first-hand view of the river. 

From downtown Camas, travel east and turn right onto NE 3rd Loop, just past Lacamas Creek, to the trailhead. A short downhill switchback will take you to a boardwalk that lightens the impact of foot traffic through the floodplain. During the spring freshet you might get wet feet. Ascending out of the floodplain, a bridge leads you from the north bank to the south bank of the river. Spectacular views up and down the river await from the top of the bridge. February through May you might see salmon and steelhead spawning in the gravels below. The trail continues through a reclaimed gravel mine that is now a series of ponds connected with the river and enhanced with large wood to improve fish habitat. Shortly past the gravel mine, the eastern trailhead awaits off of NE Yale St.

For a longer outing, check out the trailhead for Lacamas Lake Regional Park and its 9.5 mile trail system, one block west of 3rd Loop on 3rd St.  

Patrick Lee is a greenspaces geezer, proud of his accomplishments to date and excited about the work to come. He coordinates Clark County’s Legacy Lands Program.



Does The Intertwine create jobs?

Let's hear what the job creators have to say.

April 8 2015

Most of us have heard stories of area firms that locate to the Portland metro region because of our natural amenities. Tales are told of CEOs who brought their companies here because they find our commitment to nature a good fit for their business ethos, or because they love running trails or want their employees to be able to bike to work safely. 

We’ve heard the stories -- but up until now they’ve been just that: stories. They are anecdotes we pass along as evidence of something we sense is true but can’t quite prove.  

We gave Hatfield Fellow Joe Otts eight months to substantiate the link between The Intertwine and jobs. If he failed to find such a connection, we promised to quit repeating these stories! Here are 10 things we learned from Joe’s work:

1. Our nature-pioneering has helped launch new companies. The intellectual capital that The Intertwine has developed through our pioneering efforts, both public and private, has spun-out companies specializing in green roofs, active transportation and other green technologies. Further, we’ve strengthened the offerings of architecture and engineering firms in the increasingly lucrative markets for sustainable design and construction. Elaine Kearney, technical director for Columbia Green, talks about how the pioneering work of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services and others helped launch this Portland green roof company. 



2. The Intertwine is a living laboratory for testing gear. Whether it is testing the latest KEEN hikers on the Wildwood Trail, or challenging Columbia’s high tech fabrics in a downpour on Cooper Mountain, The Intertwine is part of the product-testing infrastructure for our booming outdoor and athletic industry. Outdoor and athletic, an “alpha cluster” in economist-speak, generates 14,000 jobs and $1.2 billion in annual payroll. Scott Welch, global corporate relations manager for Columbia Sportswear, speaks about the importance of The Intertwine to his company's product testing. 



3. The Intertwine bolsters brands. Area companies report that Portland’s national and international reputation rubs off on them. The Portland region is known for being smart about how it incorporates nature into its urban environment. Being from the Portland area associates you with that ethic, which translates into brand value and sales. Dylan VanWeelden, marketing manager at bike part company Chris King Precision Components, talks about the value of the Portland brand. 



4. The Intertwine is a “second paycheck.” What employer wouldn’t love a little help meeting payroll? Well, this isn’t quite that, but employees do report that living in The Intertwine is like getting two checks instead of one. Joe completed an informal survey of area firms, with particular emphasis on technology companies (thank you, Technology Association of Oregon!) and outdoor and athletic (thank you, Portland Development Commission!). The value that employees put on that second check is higher than you might guess. See the results for the technology sector here. (Other sectors showed comparable results.) 



5. The Intertwine demonstrates corporate ethos. Area firms report that locating to the Portland region, and being part of the region’s culture of stewardship, can be an authentic demonstration of corporate ethic. By “walking the talk,” companies strengthen their culture and build credibility with customers and employees alike. Here’s more from Scott Welch.



6. The Intertwine provides inputs to production. Clean water, especially, is a key input for everything from making chips to brewing beer, and nature is the most effective means anyone has ever discovered to deliver clean water. Brewmaster Christian Ettinger of Hopworks Urban Brewery sings the praises, and explains the importance, of Bull Run water. 



7. The Intertwine helps companies attract talent. Our investments in parks, trails and natural areas gives our companies an edge in attracting talent. In fact, these amenities are one of the top reasons prospective employees are attracted to Portland companies. Kristin Dagg, talent acquisition team leader for Columbia Sportswear, often leads with information on The Intertwine when recruiting out-of-area talent She also reports  that many of her recruits are “pre-sold” on the Portland regio, making her job that much easier. (Hear more from Kristin Dagg.)

Here’s more on this topic, from Intel Talent Advisor and Executive Search Recruiter Don Cooper.



8. The Intertwine helps companies retain talent. Perhaps even more significant than The Intertwine’s power to attract talent is its power to retain it. In Joe’s informal survey, we discovered evidence that the value employees place on The Intertwine grows over time. Here are the survey results for the outdoor athletic industry and the technology industry.


9. Even ranked against other great reasons to live here, The Intertwine rates as a primary factor in technology-sector talent coming to town. With the support of the Technology Association of Oregon, Joe was able to gather information from 130 area technology employees on what was most important to them in their decision to live in Portland. Even we were surprised by the results. 



10. We have competition! Other metropolitan regions are developing their own “Intertwines.” We can’t expect to remain a market leader without continuing to invest. Intel's Don Cooper has this to say. 


We recognize that much is left to do in deepening and validating these results, but we thank Joe for unearthing such great information and giving us such an excellent start. This project was funded by Metro and managed by The Intertwine Alliance. Joe’s full report is now available for download, or read his summary.

Intertwine Alliance Executive Director Mike Wetter has directed the coalition since its early days as a Metro initiative, before it became a formal nonprofit in 2011.  Mike was chief of staff to former Metro Council President David Bragdon, and a business consultant for 13 years serving public, private and nonprofit clients. A visionary leader full of creative ideas, he's an avid whitewater rafter, kayaker, cyclist and hiker.

How we get there matters

The case for regional investment in active transportation

March 4 2015

Many of us remember walking or bicycling to and from school as children. In fact, a generation ago, in 1969, nearly 50 percent of the U.S. population did so. Today that figure stands at 13 percent.

There are a number of reasons for this drop, and one of them is a lack of sidewalks, crosswalks, safe bike lanes, and other student-friendly infrastructure around our schools. As it turns out, it’s not just students who are having a hard time getting around. 

It’s no secret to anyone who’s thought about or tried it: There are far too many places in our region that you cannot walk to, or from, and where most people would never, ever consider riding a bike. It’s probably not a coincidence that although 18 percent of us in the Portland metropolitan region choose to walk, bicycle and use transit to get to our destinations, little more than half of all roadways in the region have sidewalks on both sides of the road. And we spend only 3 percent of our total transportation budget on walking, bicycling and trails projects. 

The reality is that too often transit-access projects, projects that improve safe routes around schools and neighborhood centers, and projects that provide healthy options for traveling distances shorter than 3 miles (which account for 44 percent of all trips, and could easily be replaced by walking or bicycling) have not traditionally been successful in a constrained funding environment. The reality is that most people do not recognize or understand the benefit of solidly investing in active transportation projects, or of the benefit they bring to the transportation system we all rely upon.

We have some work to do if we are to reach our regional and state goals of more people walking and bicycling, improved freight mobility through reduced traffic congestion, and lower tailpipe emissions. 

The Intertwine’s Active Transportation Forum held in January was but one piece of an ongoing conversation under the banner idea that how we get there matters. After a panel of eight presenters each “made the case” from their unique perspectives — including health, travel-demand management, economic benefit and more — participants dove into table discussions to help frame the answer to the question, “How should we define walking, bicycling, trails and transit-access transportation projects in order to succeed in a constrained funding environment?”

We know there is a great need to continue these conversations, and to add to them, which was confirmed by the energy in the room and the difficulty keeping the conversation to one topic at a time. We are already at work planning the next forum, and welcome your input. 

Over the next few months, comments and ideas gathered during the “How We Get There Matters” forum will be analyzed and refined into a report to be made public here. It will focus on the outcomes from active transportation projects and how they can be better laid against our region and state's goals for transportation, health, climate, community, equity, environment and more. The report aims to provide outcomes and criteria demonstrating the regional significance of active transportation and transit access projects. 

The Metro regional goal is to triple the percentage of people choosing to walk or bicycle to 36 percent by 2040. How we get there does matter!

With a background in cultural anthropology, an interest in the effects of transportation choices on our health and the environment, and two boys under the age of 6, Kari Schlosshauer has brought a diversity of experience working around the globe to her role as the Pacific Northwest Regional Policy Manager for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. She works in the Portland and Salem metropolitan regions and Southwest Washington to increase funding opportunities and improve transportation policies that support safe, healthy walking and bicycling opportunities for children and families. http://saferoutespacificnorthwest.org

Tracking down teens

Unconventional job fair boosts youth diversity in environmental careers

February 25 2015

Job opportunities, networking, food, music, games. What could be better than that? On Dec. 30, 2014, the Youth Mentoring Collaborative hosted its first Youth Environmental Job Fair & Teen Night at Montavilla Community Center in Southeast Portland. The event attracted a crowd of diverse teens -- 208 total! -- with many bringing along parents, family and friends.

The collaborative's youth ambassadors from various environmental programs, from the Audubon Society of Portland to Metro's Youth Ecology Corps, led ice-breaker games and group discussions, shared their personal experiences, and helped set up and greet guests.

Teens said the event felt very different from most job fairs they had attended. Instead of going from table to table and just picking up information, they were encouraged to step out of their comfort zones to make new friends and professional contacts. The games and group discussions about past experiences and expectations really brought some teens close together.

Attendees represented a wide range of races and ethnicities, and came from a variety of local neighborhoods. To that end, we met our goal of reaching out to a new audience.

The Youth Mentoring Collaborative was formed in 2013 to unite organizations that connect diverse youth to nature and environmental careers. We are a collaborative of more than 50 nonprofits, businesses and government agencies. Together, we leverage our collective resources to elevate the next generation of diverse leaders in natural resources by combining our networking power, sharing best practices, and extending advanced opportunities to interested youth. 

Other collaborative members include Mt. Hood Community College's Project YESS, Outdoor School, Trackers Earth, Saturday Academy, Oregon Zoo's ZAP teen program, the OSU Extension Service, Portland Parks & Recreation, ROSE Community Development and many more.  

We planned the Youth Environmental Job Fair & Teen night to accomplish three major goals: 1.) Make spring recruitment for our employment programs more efficient, 2.) Get feedback from youth to guide the collaborative’ s future work and 3.) Bring together youth leaders ("ambassadors") from our programs and celebrate their accomplishments.

Youth members made presentations at the fair geared toward discovering emerging environmental leaders from diverse backgrounds. Each offered opportunities to help youth develop the professionalism, communication and leadership skills that will prove useful in every area of their lives.

My own affiliation is with Portland Park & Recreation's GRUNT program, which I graduated from in 2011. I have been working in the City Nature department ever since. PP&R is committed to helping youth find the skills and work experience they need to be successful. Over the years, these programs have provided numerous jobs and internships to youth -- like me! -- who are now pursuing college degrees with an environmental emphasis, and are moving into leadership positions with PP&R City Nature. PP&R does not just stop at providing jobs; it also include long-term mentoring, internships and skills training.

We feel that the job fair was a huge success. Along with the networking experience, job opportunities and job applications, there was plenty of fun stuff like pizza, pastries, fruit, basketball games, even raffle tickets. Cool give-aways included jackets, pants, water bottles, t-shirts and swimming lessons.

But far beyond this, we subtly impacted many youths’ lives and futures.

​Thao Nguyen is a biology major at the University of Portland. After her GRUNT graduation in 2011, she worked for Portland Parks & Recreation’s Nature Day Camp as a teacher assistant, and has continued to be involved with PP&R through various jobs and internships ever since.

From zero to 14,000

The 'crazy, audacious' vision of Jim Desmond

February 4 2015

When you walk through Cooper Mountain Nature Park or ride your bike along the Springwater Corridor, you’re following in the footsteps of Jim Desmond.

Desmond arrived at Metro nearly two decades ago to launch the greater Portland region’s first natural areas program. Over the course of two bond measures and a levy, he helped transform voters’ investments into 14,000 acres of protected land, four new nature parks, hundreds of community projects, and 2.5 million new native trees and shrubs.

In January, Desmond left his post as director of Metro’s Sustainability Center to lead the Oregon chapter of The Nature Conservancy. First, he took time to reflect on the region’s movement to protect its iconic landscapes.

Below are highlights of the Q&A, originally published in Metro News. Read the full interview here.

Q: Before you came to Metro, you worked on the campaign to pass the first successful natural areas bond measure for the region. Tell me a little bit about it.

A: I was working as a project manager for the Trust for Public Land at the time, and they assigned me as their liaison to the campaign. The sense of possibility was great. There was definitely confidence that the measure could pass, but it being so new, no one was quite sure. Looking back on it, interestingly, one of the questions that came up a lot was Metro’s capacity to do this work. Metro had never acquired a single acre of land at that point. So it was really having to instill a sense of confidence in the public that this money would be well spent.

Q: So after the campaign you came to Metro to launch the natural areas program. What was it like that first day? How did you build a team?

A: It really couldn’t have been more “startup.” I tell people that it was like running this new real estate company in the basement of a government building, with the exception that we had $135 million in the bank, and a very clear mandate from the voters of what we were supposed to accomplish.

Q: When you talk about it “feeling startup,” did you have a sense what it would grow into?

A: To be honest, what’s achieved has been beyond my best-case scenario. When we got here, the 6,000-acre goal seemed really daunting. There was no national precedent for that. I tried to find a program somewhere else in the country that had done something similar, that I could go visit and learn from. What I found out was it just hadn’t been done at this scale in a metropolitan area. There were places that owned 6,000 acres, but they had acquired it all at once. It was daunting.

Q: Now, over the course of two bond measures and two decades, Metro has protected more than 14,000 acres. What comes to mind when you look across that portfolio?

A: To a certain extent, for me, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I can look at areas like the Tualatin River, where we’ve bought dozens of properties on the main stem of the river, some headwater sites on various creeks and numerous headwater sites on the 1100-acre Chehalem Ridge. Being the director, I have the privilege of having somewhat of a bird’s-eye view on the whole thing. I can see the huge impact that these two bond measures have had on these resources.

At the same time, when I really sit and think about it, there are individual places and people that I really gravitate to. There are certain places I’m just particularly fond of – Clear Creek, for example. We bought a 500-acre complex that was mostly a former ranch. It’s really a spectacular property; it’s state-park quality, one of the early things we bought. I hold a deep personal affection for that site and a number of others.

Q: Tell me about one place in the portfolio that seemed impossible when you started.

A: The highest degree of difficulty is a project that’s still in process: the Willamette Falls Legacy Project in Oregon City. The first time I visited the property I was completely overwhelmed by the cement, the 57 buildings there that encompass 900,000 square feet of industrial space, most of which was in an extremely dilapidated condition. It was like an incoherent labyrinth of buildings that were put together over a hundred years. You can’t walk through it with any sense of organization or structure.

Here’s this waterfall that’s by volume the second largest in North America. The first time you stand at the edge of the dam there and look at it, it’s such a staggering natural resource, your jaw drops. The idea that we could turn that into a public asset where people could walk out and have the same experience that I was having there, seemed worth doing. But when I got back to the office and thought about what I’d seen out there, it also seemed like the craziest, most audacious goal we could ever have.

Here we are, three years later. We have a public easement across the riverfront; we have a strong partnership with a private developer; we have partners at the state, county and city level; we’ve secured over $10 million in funds to begin the development of a public walkway. We’ve had thousands of citizens weigh in on their aspirations there and drafted a concept master plan for the future.

Q: As you know, Metro is developing a plan that will shape our system of regional parks and natural areas for decades to come. If we are bold, what can the region achieve?

A: We have the raw materials now in the way of 14,000 acres. Some of those might not be appropriate for public access – they’re too wet, too sensitive, too steep. But many of them could be spectacular nature parks. They don’t need a lot of bells and whistles. There are plenty of places where a simple, self-guided set of trails and maybe one bathroom and a small parking lot would allow thousands of citizens to experience and explore these places, and really convert what we’ve done from places on a map to real place-making on the ground in ways that will become really special.

There are also terrific opportunities for conservation education, community building, work parties and community-based restoration projects. Just what we’ve seen from our experience with the three parks we opened a few years ago – Cooper Mountain in Beaverton, Graham Oaks in Wilsonville, and Mount Talbert in the Sunnyside area of Clackamas County – imagine if we had seven, eight, 10 more of those. The impact it would have in the community is significant.

On top of that, we’ve got 900 miles of trail segments that are shown on the regional plan adopted as future trails but haven’t been built yet. When you begin to link these places or link them to some regional centers like downtown Beaverton or downtown Hillsboro, schools or other natural areas, then you build a world-class system.

Laura Oppenheimer Odom leads Metro’s parks and nature communications team. She worked closely with Jim Desmond, who departed Metro last month to take on a new role as director of The Nature Conservancy’s Oregon chapter.


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