SMILE’s Stewardship of Natural Amenities Committee
Seeing a need and an opportunity, Tina Osterink, a professional planner and former board member of her neighborhood association, Sellwood-Moreland Improvement League or SMILE, began a campaign in 2011 to organize an inventory of street trees in Sellwood-Moreland. Dozens of trained volunteers worked with Portland Parks & Recreation Urban Forestry to complete an inventory of all 6,502 trees in the neighborhood. Growing out of that effort was the Sellwood-Moreland Tree Plan and similar projects in neighborhoods across the southeast coalition and the city.
Also taking life from that initial project is the Sellwood-Moreland Stewardship of Natural Amenities Committee (SNAC). SNAC was formed as an ad hoc committee of SMILE, to advocate for parks and natural areas. They would consider key questions: What do we have? What do we need? Where are we going? How can we get there? In a few short years, while focusing on building partnerships and seizing opportunities, SNAC has succeeded in becoming a powerful engine for the community. Under the umbrella of SNAC, expertise and big ideas have resulted in listening, collaborating, planning, taking action and making progress. And best of all the vision for these efforts has come from the community itself.
Projects have included the Sellwood-Moreland Tree Inventory and Tree Plan, collaboration with the Friends of Oaks Bottom, creating an outdoor classroom, work on Westmoreland Park and Sellwood Park and the Crystal Springs Restoration Project. Currently, with Metro’s acquisition of four parcels of land in Sellwood, there is tremendous energy around what is being called the “Sellwood Gap” project. Forming a continuous path, these four parcels will close a sizable portion of the “gap” on the Springwater Cooridor. The Sellwood Gap project has been a galvanizing opportunity for SNAC.
Tina was “inspired by the unique set of historical, ecological and regional circumstances and opportunities the Sellwood Gap site presents along with the rare synergy and momentum that transpired after the first neighborhood-led visioning event.” The effort, comprised of ideas great and small, has ignited imaginations, has involved more than a hundred people so far and included numerous hands-on work parties. As SNAC has discovered, the community is eager to connect and to participate in numerous ways. With their combined expertise and passion, SNAC has built the capacity, energy and trust of the community to facilitate neighborhood-driven conversations and progress toward achieving the goals that the community identifies. Together they are laying out what their future looks like.
When asked for advice for other neighborhoods wanting to take on similar projects, Tina offered the following tips: “Identify the neighborhood experts, nurture your relationship with your Neighborhood Association Board as well as City staff, then align your neighborhood initiative with larger planning initiatives currently taking shape like the Portland Plan, Healthy Eating and Active Living, Aging in Place, community resiliency and the 20-minute neighborhood concept – all of which apply to the Sellwood Gap effort.”
In honor of Volunteer Appreciation Week, Tina shared her thoughts on the importance of volunteering: “I have always had a strong sense of place and want to be deeply involved where I can make a difference and maintain productive and long-lasting relationships.”
Thanks for all your time and dedication, Tina and the rest of the SMILE Natural Amenities Committee.
Photo credit for top right photo to David F. Ashton and THE BEE.
All other photos courtesy of SNAC.
Story by Lindsey McBride, Communications Manager