Like all good journeys, it all started with good conversation and good food. Fifteen neighbors who didn’t know one another, learning together about the place we inhabit. Sharing what we care about. Fifteen very different people, with very different backgrounds and perspectives. But now with common ground, literally.
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That common ground proved to be very fertile. It grew a steadily increasing number of community-centered projects focused on preserving our place, which we all love, and helping our community and its ecosystems thrive. It’s been an uphill struggle against those who value only money, but a struggle worth the effort.
It became clear right away that one of our most important common concerns was the loss of our community’s grand, mature trees – the inexorable decimation of our tree canopy at the hands of developers. We live in an extraordinary oak forest – an upland oak savannah ecosystem that long pre-dates everyone who lives here. A marvelous ecosystem, consisting of trees that are ecosystems themselves, sheltering and feeding countless other species who share the community with us. Trees that constitute our storm water management system. Trees that shade us in the summer, and provide beauty all year long. But we were losing multiple trees with almost every infill development project that occurred. We still are.

One particular incident in the loss of our forest led to an interest on the part of some in the group to act on our concerns. A real estate agent and part-time developer bought a key piece of property in the Willamette River Greenway part of our neighborhood. For the purpose of making a lot of money, he cut down an entire forest, including a State-designated heron rookery, to make room for a handful of McMansions. The outrage over the loss of the heron rookery, largely because of the failure of Clackamas County to follow up on the State work to designate this area a nature preserve, caused a groundswell of energy to take action.
The conversation moved to the fire pit under the oaks. In countless hours of conversation, it became clear that if any change were to occur to the status quo, we would have to instigate it.

At the time, our Community Planning Organization (CPO, a community institution created by the County but with only advisory power) was not of a mind to engage with the issue. So Clackamas County Urban Green was formed to address this specific problem by pursuing the implementation of a tree conservation ordinance. Read about this first Urban Green project here.

While we did not envision other projects at the founding, the groundswell response to our work brought us into collaborative engagement in a number of other important community-building efforts over the last several years.
The web site has information on a number of these projects, but the list continues to grow. There is much yet to do.

In the end, Urban Green is not so much an organization or an entity as it is a set of shared community- and Earth-centered values put into practice. Our mode is partnership. Our joy is found in a vibrant, thriving community where there’s a place for everyone. We welcome partners in good work toward that end.

Project Partners
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Large and successful change efforts start with conversations among friends, not with those in power. ‘Some friends and I started talking…’ Change doesn’t happen from a leader announcing the plan. Change begins from deep inside a system, when a few people notice something they will no longer tolerate, or respond to a dream of what’s possible. We just have to find a few others who care about the same thing. Together we will figure out what our first step is, then the next, then the next. Gradually, we become large and powerful. We don’t have to start with power, only with passion.