A Coalition of Partners Unite to Restore “Back 5 Community Habitat Enhancement Project” Project Face Challenges in vandalism

Community, Featured, News, Partners, Restoration

[Portland, OR 4/30/2024] – Leach Botanical Garden, Wisdom of the Elders, Inc, African Youth Community Organization, The Blueprint Foundation, David Douglas High School, Johnson Creek Watershed Council, along with experts from Portland Parks and Recreation, and dedicated volunteers, have collaborated tirelessly on the multi-year restoration project of “Back 5 Community Habitat Enhancement Project.”

This approximately 5-acre project area, nestled between the curated Leach Botanical Garden and the surrounding neighborhood of Powellhurst-Gilbert, aims to restore native habitat while providing unique educational and community science opportunities. It prioritizes opportunity youth and adults, with the goal of creating a multicultural, multigenerational, and inclusive space for nature-based learning and stewardship.

However, recent challenges have emerged as the project area faces unauthorized tree removals, with over 30 trees, including a roughly 70-year-old cedar, already lost to acts of vandalism. Evidence of illegal fires, littering, cutting and defacement of trees further compound the issue, prompting a swift response from coalition partners, Leach Botanical Garden, and Portland Parks and Recreation to install signage to deter such activities. Eventually, fencing will clearly delineate the perimeter of the project area and make clear the delicate restoration efforts underway therein. Meanwhile, coalition members are calling on the community to help raise awareness and encourage neighbors to offer the same reverence for this sacred land as they do.

The loss of these trees, particularly the 100-foot-tall cedar, deeply impacts the coalition members, with one team leader Adrienne Moat, Workforce Development Coordinator from the Wisdom of The Elders stating, “Many Indigenous people see trees as our elders, and to experience the loss of an elder in this way is devastating.”

While reports from volunteers suggest the involvement of local teens, confirmation is pending. If such is the case, the coalition would prefer to utilize this unfortunate incident as an opportunity for youth education on tree stewardship and care. Jason Stroman, Program Director from the Blueprint Foundation says that “instead of punitive action, we’d encourage these young people to come be an active part of all the wonderful work and learning taking place in the Back 5, providing them a structured place and opportunity to channel that same energy in a more constructive and restorative way.”

While partners understand that signage and fencing may not deter individuals from engaging in these harmful actions, the coalition is determined to raise awareness about the Back 5 project through sharing out with the broader community. The collective responsibility to support and protect this essential community initiative.

For media inquiries or further information, please contact Leach Botanical Garden’s Program Director Jami LeBaron