By: NobleHour Special Contributor Meagan Pierluissi
Nestled at the footsteps of the bustling city of Portland sits one of the largest urban parks in the United States. Its 80-miles of hiking trails are set within an incredible 5,200 acres of land—owned and managed by the City of Portland. The Forest Park Conservancy (FPC) is the only non-profit organization dedicated solely to restoring and protecting this unparalleled urban forest. Recently, the nonprofit organization received much welcomed help from a national grant by NobleCause to foster volunteerism. FPC plans to use the $6500 grant to make big changes at the community level, engaging the staff, volunteers, and visitors to help protect the critical ecosystem of the Park.
“We are the leading nonprofit organization to protect and restore Forest Park, and we trace our roots to the original committee of 50 who successfully advocated in the 1940s for the preservation of this land as a park,” says Guy Maguire, volunteer and outreach coordinator for Portland’s FPC. “There is a great love in this region for Forest Park, and our volunteers are the backbone of our efforts to be good stewards of this special place.”
FPC’s winning application to NobleCause keeps volunteerism at its heart with an added benefit to the park and the Portland community. Volunteers augment the constant work of Forest Park Conservancy’s staff who work to restore the ecosystem around them. This encompasses restoring habitat in Forest Park by removing invasive plant species, planting trees, maintaining trails, and monitoring restoration efforts.
“Our goal is to ensure Forest Park is accessible for everyone in the Portland area to get to know nature, enjoy the trails, have a place of solitude, and be able to access the park as an outdoor classroom for schools and other groups,” Maguire explains.
With NobleCause, FPC can do its part to connect its neighbors with all nature can provide by recruiting more volunteers to help with vital projects throughout the span of the park like repairing bridges and fixing trails after mudslides. During the organization’s two largest volunteer days of the year—Spring and Fall Days of Stewardship, 80-100 volunteers come out ready to get to work in sites located throughout the 5,200 acres.
“Our Days of Stewardship are the biggest volunteer events we organize each year that includes a fun after-party to celebrate the day’s accomplishments,” says Maguire. “This year, NobleCause is providing additional funding to help us make a bigger impact on the Park. This will provide more opportunities for volunteers to find that perfect project in Forest Park!”
During their Fall Days of Stewardship, FPC had over 80 people give their time to protect and restore Forest Park. Volunteers helped remove 3,200 square feet of invasive English ivy, as well as three cubic yards of invasive Herb Robert. Volunteers also helped build 40 feet of rock retaining walls on their Wildwood Trail and repaired an additional one mile of trail. "This is a significant amount of work to get done in one day and we couldn't have done it without them," says Maguire. "The volunteers loved getting t-shirts, and the after party was really fun."
"Forest Park Conservancy's mission and dependency on local volunteers is at the heart of what drove us to create NobleCause, connecting local resources with local causes,” says Allison Morgan, NobleHour senior director of marketing and FPC volunteer. “We are thrilled to partner with FPC and help them maintain this incredible park."
Keeping a Healthy Ecosystem
Maguire says Forest Park provides habitat for a large number of native wildlife in this region like deer, owls, bobcats, coyotes, and the occasional elk. He believes Forest Park is ecologically crucial for the Portland area. “Sensitive species that call Forest Park home are increasingly threatened by the impacts of urban growth and climate change. Species such as the Northern pygmy owl, Pacific giant salamander, the Pacific wren, and other species need a healthy habitat to thrive.”
And, the benefits aren’t only for the species found within Forest Park. Trees spanning the 5,200 acres are hard at work cleaning our air, which is great for everyone. “The forest also helps to ensure our water is cleaner since over 30 miles of creeks and streams flow through Forest Park and into the Willamette River,” Maguire adds.
Forest Park is simply an awesome place for recreation. It’s accessible by public transportation with space for residents and visitors to enjoy. “To me, it feels like a national park—you get in there and you feel far away, but you’re actually really close to downtown Portland,” Maguire says. “To be able to experience a place like this, a place that feels wild, is beneficial for those who can’t easily go to larger parks throughout the county.”
Volunteerism and a Love of Nature
The web-based software by NobleHour, the host for the NobleCause grant competition, helps Maguire expand outreach and volunteer recruitment efforts in the community. "We are thrilled with the incredible work Forest Park Conservancy is doing, not only in maintaining this beautiful park, but also in recruiting, training, and using local volunteers," says Morgan.
“My hope is to inspire people to enjoy all the amazing things Forest Park has to offer,” says Maguire. “And, to grow our community-based efforts to be responsible stewards of this amazing place for generations to come.”
To find ways you can volunteer with FPC, visit their website. Want to find similar service opportunities near you? Sign up today for your free NobleHour account today!
The NobleCause grants, organized by NobleHour.com, were made possible by an anonymous donor within the GiveWell Community Foundation, which serves Polk County, FL. The NobleCause grant competition, launched in 2015, invited high schools, school districts, colleges and universities, and nonprofits to identify and address a local challenge and to recruit and enrich the social responsibility of volunteers. 100 organizations were awarded $6,500 grants, while seven exemplary organizations were recognized at the $50,000 level. Get.NobleHour.com is dedicated to using NobleCause to increase volunteerism that raises awareness at the local level and develops community members who can take action.
Since 2007, NobleHour has proven to be the volunteer management solution for organizations across the nation. With its robust online platform, NobleHour enhances community engagement with a variety of innovative and transformative tools for finding, tracking, and measuring volunteer, service‐learning, and community service initiatives. With offices in Lakeland, FL, and Portland, OR, the NobleHour team is dedicated to empowering good in communities across the country.
Meagan Pierluissi is a freelance writer, blogger, and public relations strategist from Atlanta, GA, with an overwhelming wish to connect people through storytelling. True to her southern roots, Meagan enjoys good food, slow conversations, and getting out into nature with her husband and daughter.