In the middle of 2009, things were looking grim for trees in urban Clackamas County. The County staff and its carefully selected advisory committee was at the helm of the tree conservation ordinance process initiated by Urban Green at the beginning of 2008 and it was headed for its preordained place in the ditch. The County’s transportation juggernaut was planning to build a half-mile piece of road that would destroy 86 large mature trees in the Three Creeks Natural Area without any obvious benefit for anyone. Aided by increasing tides of money from a handful of very wealthy special interests, the political climate in the County was taking on a decidedly narcissistic tone.
At the same time, TriMet, the regional transit system operator, was trying to gear up to build the new Orange Line from PSU to Oak Grove. For reasons more grounded in myth and fear than facts on the ground, a vocal group of County citizens was fighting the project tooth and nail. Their strategies included the usual political pressure on decision- makers, but also resulted in a ballot measure designed to prevent the County from following through on its signed funding commitment for the project.
Things seemed pretty bleak at the time, but stars were aligning. As it happened, Metro had sponsored a design competition to showcase redevelopment projects that would successfully integrate habitat into the overall built environment. The evening presentation of the Integrating Habitat winners at the Portland Art Museum happened to occur the day before an Urban Green meeting with Metro to discuss suburban density issues and community concerns about the impacts on our ecosystems and trees.
In the course of that meeting, as a result of Urban Green’s work in the community to conserve our tree canopy and change development practices to preserve our ecosystems, urban green was asked to introduce the integrating habitats exhibition to the leadership and active citizenry of Clackamas County.The resulting legacy can be seen today at the Park Ave., Station Forest and ecosystem complex which is the first project designed as an integrating habitat.