Over the past 17 years, more than 40,000 volunteers have worked on projects funded by the city that improve the health of Portland’s rivers and streams—as well as the vitality of local neighborhoods and communities.
The Community Watershed Stewardship Program (CWSP)—a partnership between Portland State University and the city of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services—provides grants of up to $10,000 for community projects that manage stormwater, restore natural habitat, remove invasive species, and create more open spaces in neighborhoods across the city.
Now the program is looking for ways to connect these environmental benefits more directly to city residents.
“We’re looking to find more projects that meet environmental goals and also provide tangible community benefits—like growing food, neighborhood safety, and job skills,” said Cameron Herrington, a graduate urban studies student at Portland State. Herrington and two other graduate students work with Environmental Services staff to administer the program.
This year, with funding from the PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions and the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Foundation, Herrington and the CWSP team are working to reach more underrepresented communities and encourage groups to consider ways they could use the program to help revitalize their neighborhoods.
Herrington says groups like Groundwork Portland, a nonprofit that supports community-led projects that improve the environment as well as quality of life in low-income communities, are ideal candidates for CWSP.
From building stormwater structures at a local elementary school to covering up graffiti at a community garden, Groundwork Portland’s Green Team program puts teens to work helping their neighbors and neighborhoods. With funding from CWSP, teens in the Green Team program develop real-world job skills while learning about environmental justice issues and earning a paycheck for their summer environmental work.
And that’s just the kind of program CWSP is hoping to support. “We want to ask ‘what are the challenges you’re facing in your neighborhood, and how can we help?’” said Herrington.
CWSP will begin accepting project proposals in January 2013. For more information, visit www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/stewardship.