March 2021 - Parks & Recreation - 42

N AT U R E P AT C H E S

Large park projects can spawn
large outcomes. But the cumulative effects of smaller interventions also can produce surprisingly beneficial results.

The Need for
Nature Patches
All park systems have what we
might call " underperforming landscapes " - places where the plants
are failing, invasive weeds have taken over or turfgrass has died, and
muddy areas where shrubs have
never thrived or shady sites where
the turf is threadbare. Often driven
by complaints by constituents, park
agencies respond by upping the
ante: applying additional maintenance resources, such as mowing,
weeding and applying chemicals
for fertilizing, and controlling pests
and removing unwanted plants.
Yet, things often do not improve.
This is because the existing plants
do not align with the site's environmental characteristics of soil, solar
exposure and moisture. Often the
failing plants are not native species
and are not adapted to the climate
and soils of the region. And when
plants do not thrive, neither do the
birds, insects and other creatures
that create the park's ecology.
In Portland, Oregon, these sit-

uations led Portland Parks and
Recreation to try a new idea on
a smaller scale: to transform often ugly, underperforming landscapes into ecologically healthy,
publicly accessible and aesthetically beautiful contributors to the
city's park system.
The result was a new policy
initiative: The Ecologically Sustainable Landscapes Initiative
(tinyurl.com/yynucjc3), or ESLI.
Developed in 2015, the ESLI was
developed to help the bureau identify these underperforming landscapes and develop prescriptions
to make each landscape more
ecologically functional. This policy initiative not only helps Portland Parks and Recreation build
on its past sustainability practices, but also continues to innovate,
experiment and engage the public
in new ways to accomplish three
primary objectives:
*	 Refine best management practices to increase soil and plant
health while minimizing inputs,
such as water, fertilizers, herbicides, machinery and labor.
*	 Create diverse park landscapes
by converting poorly performing
areas to " nature patches. "
*	 Plan, design and manage park
landscapes through collabora-

An image of Alberta Park before the nature patch work began.

42	 Parks & Recreation

| M A R C H 2 02 1 | PA R K S A N D R E C R E AT I O N .O R G

tion among staff and community
members.
The new ESLI policy reinforced
broader public policy imperatives,
such as Portland's Climate Action
Plan, Portland Watershed Management Plan and Oregon Climate and
Health Resilience Plan. According
to Portland Parks and Recreation
Director Adena Long, " We created
the Ecologically Sustainable Landscapes Initiative program as an efficient way to quickly bring more
nature to more neighborhoods. "
Though easily dismissed as bureaucratic policy, what no one
knew at the time was exactly how
popular ESLI efforts would be with
the public once they went from policy to project.

An Interactive
Design Process
Educated in landscape architecture, Program Coordinator Eric
Rosewall has built a career on
transforming sterile urban landscapes into verdant habitats.
The former executive director of
the nonprofit organization Depave
(tinyurl.com/y6dkf22a),
Rosewall oversaw more than 60
urban greening projects that replaced unnecessary pavement
with beautiful landscapes. Today,

A look at Alberta Park after a crew completed the work.


http://www.tinyurl.com/yynucjc3 http://www.tinyurl.com/y6dkf22a

March 2021 - Parks & Recreation

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of March 2021 - Parks & Recreation

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https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/february-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/january-2022
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/december-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/november-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/october-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/september-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/august-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/july-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/june-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/may-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/april-2021
https://ezine.nrpa.org/nrpa/ParksRecreationMagazine/march-2021
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