Vibrant Spaces, Healthier Places - Columbia Land Trust
The Backyard Habitat Certification Program joins APANO in blending art, nature, and health in Southeast Portland’s Jade and Midway Districts.

By Jay Kosa

On a sunny Saturday in November, Backyard Habitat Certification Program (BHCP)* staff were excited and honored to join the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) in transforming two pedestrian bridges over SE Division Street in Portland’s Jade and Midway Districts. APANO, a grassroots organization uniting Asians and Pacific Islanders to achieve social justice, hosted an event at which members of the local community placed indigenous plants around the bridges’ pillars and staircases.

The plants complement new murals that have transformed the bridges’ columns into vibrant public art celebrating the diverse cultures of the neighborhood. The murals also highlight safer pedestrian routes on outer SE Division Street, one of the city’s most dangerous thoroughfares.

“These bridges highlight the Jade and Midway communities and start conversations about the pedestrian dynamics of SE Division Street,” said Candace Kita. “Our aim is that the combination of native plants and vivid art by local artists creates a more inviting atmosphere and increases the utilization of the bridges.”

BHCP technician Karen Schwartz of Calendula Garden Design planned out the planting sites, while Green Seed LLC prepared the sites for 100 indigenous plant species, including common camas, oceanspray, Oregon grape, kinnikinnick, and sword ferns. “We’re thrilled to join efforts with APANO and other partners on this project,” said Susie Peterson, BHCP manager with Columbia Land Trust. “It’s just one example of how we can work together to lift up communities.”

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BHCP’s partnership with APANO on this project dates back to early 2016, when APANO brought together Oregon Solutions, Columbia Land Trust, Multnomah County, city agencies, and other local stakeholders to launch the Jade Greening Project. With support from the Knight Cancer Foundation, this community-led visioning process aimed at addressing environmental health disparities stemming from air toxins, and a lack of walkability and accessibility in the Jade District community.

APANO invited the Land Trust to join them in exploring how installing indigenous plants could provide ecosystem services and help make neighborhoods healthier. The recent plantings along SE Division Street build on pilot plant installations in the neighborhood in 2016 and are the result of ongoing dialogue.

Through projects like these, the Land Trust and our partners at the Audubon Society of Portland are grateful to play a small role in the critical, place-based process of greening the Jade and Midway Districts.

We are grateful to our partners at Metro and the Portland Bureau of Transportation for their funding support in transforming the bridges.

*The Backyard Habitat Certification Program is a collaboration between the Audubon Society of Portland and Columbia Land Trust.