Why we love Portland Parks & Recreation

It’s magical, but it’s not magic

By: Volunteer Program Manager Courtney Beckel

Many of you may know me as the person behind the emails, brightly asking for your hand as we walk towards a healthier creek and more connected community together. Others know me from the events I plan here at the council, like Watershed Wide, and the Johnson Creek Clean-Up, and you’ll often find me in overalls and a flannel, getting excited about the cutest leaf, feather, or bug. If you’re reading this article, you already appreciate the Council’s work in your own way. Different pieces of our programming probably speak to you, whether it be our in-stream restoration work improving fish passage, riparian revegetation, community science projects like dragonfly surveys, providing service-learning opportunities for schools, science talks or nature walks. But did you know that we don’t own any land, and work with partners constantly to reach our habitat enhancement goals? Much of the time, we are working on Portland Parks & Recreation’s land. Our partnership with PP&R allows us to make a tangible, on the ground impact on public property that spans the length of the creek in Portland (and technically beyond because they also manage the Springwater Corridor Trail, which goes all the way east to Boring!)

During the partner events between PP&R and the Johnson Creek Watershed Council, volunteers gather, and relationships are built between people who care for this place, skills develop into career pathways, and we come to a deeper understanding of our surroundings and of this fascinating place we call home.

But what does this ‘partnership’ look like? I’ll tell you a little secret—you don’t build partnerships with organizations, you build them with individual people. It’s not magic! And the person that we work most closely with to maintain this partnership is the illustrious and wonderful Susan Hawes. Susan is the Stewardship Coordinator for the Johnson Creek Watershed and has been working with PP&R for more than 9 years. She knows the ins and outs of the policies, the procedures, and the best practices that make community partnerships and restoration techniques thrive.

For any of you who have interacted with Susan, you’ll know right away what makes her a great community partner. No matter how busy she is (spoiler alert: she’s always VERY busy), she takes the time to listen, and connect with you. She’s a navigator, a connector, very detail oriented, giving of her limited time, highly professional, and brings her love of natural areas alive in her work.  I watch her respond to the needs of individuals and communities tirelessly, meeting people where they’re at, accommodating, collaborating, and again, listening. This is what makes a great community partner.  When two groups need to schedule habitat enhancement projects on the same day, she will go the extra mile to make sure that, even though there’s only one of her, the two projects can go forward. Whether she’s supporting our grant requests, organizing her incredible PP&R staff to help on projects, connecting us with training opportunities, or refining programs with us, Susan uses all of the resources at her disposal to help the Council succeed.

We can all learn from great community leaders like Susan, putting people before projects, and embracing a philosophy of stewardship to each other and the land that means so much to us all.


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