Community leaders and small non-profit organizations are improving their neighborhoods by finding innovative ways to bring nature into their own backyards.
The Intertwine is our network of parks, trails and natural areas in the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan region. The Intertwine Alliance is connected with creative small community organizations, many of which work with disadvantaged populations, to provide everyone with parks and trails. Passionate community volunteers have been instrumental in the creation of a number of small parks and the implementation of projects to improve the quality of the environment of their neighborhoods.
Our region is blessed with the integration of nature into the fabric of our communities. We are surrounded by natural areas where we live, work and play. Connecting to nature is as easy as stepping out our front door, and doesn't require driving to the Columbia Gorge or to the coast.
Many Intertwine Alliance partners are small nonprofit and community-based groups working to improve, protect and sometimes even create the greenspaces in their neighborhoods -- from central Vancouver south to Tigard and from Forest Grove east to Gresham. These groups are creatively replacing community eyesores, such as parking lots, contaminated industrial areas and landfills. They also are uniquely positioned to address issues of inequity within the region: their narrow focus on reinvigorating neighborhoods in need of greenspace is proving instrumental in helping everyone in our region enjoy equal and plentiful access to open spaces and nature.
Our metropolitan conservation community includes large municipal departments and national organizations in addition to these small community groups. These grassroots organizations often receive help from government agencies such as the East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District, the West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District, and Metro which, through initiatives such as the “Nature in Neighborhoods” Capital Grant program, are able to provide resources to citizen activists.
“As a kid, I never liked concrete,” laughs Vishal Narayan, 15, “Especially when I fell on it!” An avid gardener and volunteer, Vishal was one of a cohort of community members to work with Depave, a local nonprofit that transforms unused paved areas into community spaces. In just a few years, the largely volunteer-run nonprofit has torn up over twenty parking lots and paved school yards across Portland - engaging people to create community gardens, new neighborhood greenspaces and effective natural stormwater facilities out of uninviting, dead pavement.
Some groups turn brownfields into community spaces, and others look at parking lots as opportunities. Community organization Verde, which describes itself as “by and for low-income communities” decided to tackle the future of the muddy field covering a buried landfill in their Cully neighborhood in northeast Portland. Residents of this park-deficient neighborhood were empowered to make decisions about the landfill and the construction of the new Thomas Cully Park, slated for the summer of 2012, created opportunities for employment.
Friends of Trees
In partnership with community organizations, Friends of Trees has planted more than 400,000 trees over the past twenty years, both in natural areas and across neighborhoods. The Friends of Trees work towards the greening of the region by organizing volunteer plantings from Vancouver to Eugene. These trees provide ecological, environmental, and economic value by adding shade for humans and habitat for birds, sequestering carbon, filtering stormwater and enlivening our neighborhoods.