If you’ve been to a natural area anywhere in this region, chances are good you’ve seen firsthand the uses to which Metro puts your tax dollars.
Quick refresher: Metro is our regional government, tasked with a bewildering array of jobs that include managing the zoo and convention center, running solid waste transfer stations, coordinating regional land use and transportation planning, and (my favorite!) supporting the region’s parks, trails and natural areas.
Metro connects us to nature in several ways. It operates incredible regional parks like Blue Lake, Cooper Mountain and Oxbow. It acquires and restores natural lands across the region. And it distributes money and resources to community groups and other local governments so they can create parks, trails and natural areas, as well. Metro is absolutely essential to nature in The Intertwine.
And you, in turn, are essential to Metro. The citizens of this region have consistently voted to support Metro’s investments, passing bond measures in 1995, 2006 and 2019 to acquire and development land for parks, trails and natural areas. You – we! – have also repeatedly passed levies so Metro can take care of all that land.
How do you want to see The Intertwine Alliance show up in this discussion? What are your priorities? What resources do you need to engage? Please join us for a partner coffee on July 15.
Beyond your tax dollars, you give Metro something equally important, the political will to think big and tackle the enormous, interlocking challenges we face as region: systemic racism, climate change, a homelessness crisis, a pandemic, and the enduring inequities carved into the landscape by past development patterns.
Metro needs our collective engagement to move this work forward. Commendably, the agency goes to great lengths seeking it out. One venue is the Natural Areas and Capital Program Performance Oversight Committee, on which I serve. The name is a bit complicated, but the mission is simple: provide community perspectives on, and oversight of, Metro’s bond and levy investments. Other Intertwine Alliance partners on the oversight committee are Nicole Johnson, Community Engagement Manager at 1000 Friends of Oregon, and Georgena Moran, Project Coordinator at Access Recreation.
This is a big job, because Metro has a lot of resources right now. The 2019 bond measure generated $475 million that Metro will spend over the next decade on the following programs:
- Protecting and restoring natural areas across the region ($155 million)
- Supporting local park and natural area projects by other local governments ($92 million)
- Making “Nature in Neighborhood” grants to nonprofits and local governments that support community-led initiatives ($40 million)
- Developing and repairing Metro parks – think new trails, picnic areas, restrooms and more ($98 million)
- Creating more – and more accessible – walking and biking trails ($40 million)
- Advancing “large-scale community visions,” such as the Riverwalk at Willamette Falls ($50 million)
The sweep and scale of Metro’s ambition – our ambition – is impressive. Though it will take a lot more than $475 million to create the equitable and climate resilient region we need, that’s a pretty good down payment. But we need to spend it strategically.
This is where you come in. As an oversight committee member, I want to represent all Intertwine Alliance partners to the best of my ability. I need to hear from you. How do you want to see The Intertwine Alliance show up in this discussion? What are your priorities? What resources do you need to engage?
Here's one chance to tell us: Intertwine Alliance board and staff are excited to announce a new virtual partner coffee series, with the first one to be about this very topic. The idea is for Intertwine Alliance partners to gather informally together each month to build connections and consensus for the work we do together as a coalition. We'll change up the day/time each time, to accommodate a maximum number of schedules. Sometimes the coffees will have a topic; sometimes they’ll be more free form, whatever is on partners’ minds.
We hope you’ll join us on Thursday, July 15, from 4 to 5 p.m. Fellow oversight committee members Georgena and Nicole will be with us for the conservation. Please RSVP at your earliest convenience.
To me, the big picture is clear. We need a lot more nature. And we need to deepen our understanding of how our history in this place informs what we must do if we want a democratic and sustainable relationship to the land and to each other.
Beyond that ... there are a lot of details. Luckily, Metro is good at details. They’ll be even better, though, if they hear fully and clearly from all of us.