Community-led PCC Nature Project Receives Grant from Metro Council

serina fast horse and her sister planting
pcc planting

Portland Community College (PCC) is one of 15 parks and nature projects that were recently awarded grants totaling $2.3 million by the Metro Council. Made possible by the 2019 parks and nature bond measure, PCC received $166,667 for capital improvements provided by Metro funds while the college is awarding $83,333 matching funds. The three-year project at the Rock Creek Campus will primarily focus on enhancing accessibility and cultural relevance within the Rock Creek Environmental Studies Center (RCESC) and the campus’ learning garden. Val Brenneis, faculty coordinator of the RCESC, and Miriam Latzer, coordinator of the Rock Creek Learning Garden, are guiding the implementation.

pcc miriam latzer planting
Miriam Latzer at Rock Creek Environmental Center

Major components include trail accessibility improvements, trailhead enhancements, installation of Indigenous artwork, and the cultivation of culturally significant plants. “Our goals are to build healthy and reciprocal relationships, support land stewardship and healing, increase educational opportunities, and provide space and access for cultural connections with the land,” RCESC faculty coordinator Val Brenneis said. “The community choice grant process has provided an exciting opportunity to engage with more of our neighbors. Together, we imagined how this public resource could become more accessible and welcoming to all through trail improvements, new signage, artwork, and culturally significant plantings. “Underlying all of this is a commitment to highlight and strengthen the deep connection between the land and local Indigenous communities,” she added.

Led by this coalition, the project supports accessibility improvements, community learning and visitor experiences at several locations across the campus. Organizers will plant culturally significant plants and First Foods at the learning garden. On the north side of campus, the grant funds will be used to improve the accessibility of existing trails through conifer forests to Oregon oak woodland. New informational signage will be created and installed at the trailheads and along the trails to welcome the community and reflect Indigenous cultural and ecological knowledge. In the learning garden, access to a covered gathering area and raised beds will be improved in collaboration with PCC’s Accessible Education and Disability Resources team. Finally, artwork by Indigenous artists will be commissioned for the site.

serina fast horse and her sister planting
Serina Fast Horse and her sister

The grant will allow staff to build upon the work of the PCC Oaks Partners, which includes Clean Water Services, the Five Oaks Museum, Wisdom of the Elders, Friends of Tryon Creek, Tualatin Soil and Water District, Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District, and more. Facilitated by PCC alum Serina Fast Horse of Kimimela Consulting, the group aims to foster healthy relationships, support land stewardship, expand educational opportunities, and facilitate cultural connections with the land.