Almost four years ago, Kevin Odell of OPAL, Clark Henry of the City of Portland Brownfield Program, Connie Ashbrook of Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc, Will Newman of Oregon Sustainable Agriculture Landtrust, Jeff Berbetsky of Restorical Research, and Joice Taylor of North/Northeast Business Association bonded over a dream of bringing much-needed resources to Portland neighborhoods overwhelmingly- and unjustly-burdened by urban pollutants, a lack of investment in community-centered development, and the pressures of gentrification.
One year ago, in September of 2008, Groundwork Portland opened its doors to organize low-income communities, communities of color, and youth around vacant land in their neighborhoods, plan for its redevelopment, and access the resources necessary to transform eyesores into community assets like community centers, community gardens, locally-owned businesses, and parks.
Over the past year, Groundwork Portland has been proud to collaborate with many different organizations and communities.
In the spring, Groundwork Portland launched Our Portland, a community-centered engagement program with seniors at Mt. Scott Learning Center to evaluate environmental justice issues in the Foster-Powell Neighborhood. The seniors joined community leaders on tours in their neighborhood to learn about environmental justice issues like brownfields, urban renewal, and gentrification. The program ended with Intersections, the art show they put on in their high school to showcase their photographic explorations of these issues.
While engaging the students in a conversation about environmental justice issues in their neighborhood, Groundwork Portland helped the school take on a project in their own backyard. Volunteers of Groundwork Portland coordinated the transformation of Mt. Scott Learning Center’s parking lot into a lush garden, basketball court, and outdoor lunch area. Over the course of three work days, more than 200 volunteers from the community pitched in to take out parking spaces, plant, paint, and otherwise spiff up this small charter school.
Last winter, Groundwork Portland joined forces with OSALT to begin the cleanup and creation of Emerson Street Garden. This summer, more than 65 kids from the Blazers Boys and Girls Club were the first to get their hands dirty, with a small container garden lush with all the fixings for salsa.
Over the coming year, Groundwork Portland and OSALT will hold garden planning sessions so everyone can chime in about what they want to grow. GeoEngineers, the local engineering firm that’s donating all necessary remediation services, will continue testing and remediation plans to ensure that the garden is safe enough for everyone to enjoy.
In addition, Groundwork Portland helped more than 50 community organizations like churches, schools, and community-centered nonprofits answer questions and access resources they needed for their own work to transform eyesores into assets. We offer a wide range of support to our partners, from research to joint grant applications. Contact Groundwork Portland for a copy of our “What’s in Your Garden?” brochure to help you evaluate the safety of your garden project, or to get more information about partnering with Groundwork Portland.
This has been a wonderful year for Groundwork Portland, and for me, so it is with no little sadness that I say goodbye to all of you. Today is my last day with Groundwork Portland. It has been wonderful working with you. The energy you bring to community-based projects is inspiring; I can’t wait to see what you accomplish next. Feel free to email me and tell me all about it.
Groundwork Portland: because everyone has a right to a livable community
2407 SE 49th Ave
Portland, OR 97206