Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District: Connecting People, Parks and Nature: Nature & Trails’ big idea earns a big payday from the Metro Council

by Amy Milshtein

$70K award will help district link Latino students to nature

The Metro Council has awarded nearly $70,000 to THPRD’s Nature & Trails Department to expand afterschool nature programming and develop a workforce development program for Latino students over the next two years.

Starting this winter, the Nature Experiences and Workforce Training (NEWT) program will include afterschool and weekend programming at four Beaverton School District schools and a summer youth development program to recruit, train and employ high school-age Latino students.

NEWT is a multiyear, relationship-based approach to reach and engage underserved communities. Community partners are Adelante Mujeres, a Forest Grove-based nonprofit; the Beaverton School District’s Multilingual Department; the Friends of the Tualatin Hills Nature Park; Columbia Sportswear; and the Vose Neighborhood Association Committee.

“Each year, we reach more than 40,000 people with environmental education experiences,” said Kristin Smith, interpretive programs supervisor for THPRD’s Tualatin Hills Nature Center (15655 SW Millikan Way, Beaverton). “Unfortunately, Latino audiences do not participate in nature programs, nor are they represented on staff, in equal proportions to census data.

“With the help of our partners, we’re hoping to engage and connect more Latino audiences to nature and support Latino teens who are interested in pursuing a career in natural resources.”

Smith said access to appropriate outdoor wear was identified as a barrier to participation for many, but once again, partners stepped up to help.

“The Friends group offered $375 to buy boots for field trips, and Columbia Sportswear gave $3,500 to purchase rain jackets,” she said. “We will pick out a variety of sizes and keep the gear in a boot and jacket lending library for students to use during nature programs with us.”

The grant, one of 14 awarded to community organizations, is part of Metro’s strategy to support racial equity throughout the region.

“We want to make sure communities of color have access to safe parks, protected natural areas and the benefits of healthy land, air and water,” said Juan Carlos Ocaña-Chíu, Metro’s parks and nature business services manager, who oversees the community investments program.

The NEWT program plans to address all three of the program grant goals – promoting cultural, environmental and economic equity.

For more information about THPRD’s nature-based training programs, or to get involved in one of them, visit http://www. thprd.org/activities/nature/ volunteer/training-programs.