Stories from the Field: A RARE AmeriCorps Perspective

Sauvie Island, Maia Hardy RARE Resource Assistance for Rural Environments AmeriCorps
By Jennifer Reynolds, Portland, Oregon


It wasn’t until I sat though yet another community meeting that it clicked. Standing in front of me were three, amazing, passionate teachers from The Sauvie Island Academy. Grinning, talking about something I had never heard before “place-based education”? Was this real? Are their ELEMENTARY students taking part in a wetland restoration project on the Island? The community engagement side of me was busting at the seams. I wanted to scream right then and there—in this community association meeting- “THIS IS PERFECT!” Patiently waiting, I approached the teachers after the meeting (one of which was actually the school administrator) to introduce myself and the project—while slyly injecting that I would be thrilled to work with their students on a project involving our planning process.

Two months later (and a very long Christmas break), we’ve made progress. I met with Darla, the school administrator to discuss the obvious importance of engaging youth in planning. I made a “Maia PowerPoint” (a long standing joke that I am a PowerPoint PRO with old classmates), and impressed her with my Jane Jacobs quote, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” I left her office with a date in my calendar for presenting my idea (and bomb PowerPoint) to all of the teachers! The next week, I presented my idea/our planning project to the teachers and shared really great ideas. Ultimately, I left with a project team of 24 6-8 graders that are going to help me collect data and conduct outreach for our Sauvie Island/Multnomah Channel Rural Area Plan update.

Using the amazing resources that were provided me through RARE, I connected with Jessie Stewart from Y-PLAN. Y-PLAN is a program through University of California Berkley’s Center for Cities & Schools. Essentially, it’s a model for youth civic engagement in city planning and policy-making. Working with Jessie gave me really great insight to how I can utilize my super “project team” – A.K.A. 6-8 graders–to create a robust youth engagement project. She sent me sample templates, work products and ideas that I can adapt to my project. Using all of her advice, we kicked off our project on Wednesday (1/21/2014) with a tour of Sauvie Island.

The morning began with a presentation to the team—sort of a planning 101. I posed the question: “How many of you know what urban planning is?”— Not one single hand went up. I continued my presentation with a little history about why Sauvie Island looks the way it does -shockingly rural, especially since it’s technically in Portland. We did a 10 minute mapping exercise and by that time the team was eager to be getting out of the classroom. Let the adventure begin!

We started at Colombia Farms and had the farmers (they own 1,000 acres) talk about their farm and the issues that surround farming on the island. They gave us a very comprehensive tour of their farm and even made a fire for the kids to keep warm! Following the farm, we went to the Fire Station and had a volunteer fireman talk about the area they serve and some of the problems that they face on the island (poor response times because of traffic, can’t see addresses on houseboats, there are no fire hydrants, etc). The team got a kick out of all of the fire trucks and “Rescue Randy”- the dummy they use for trainings. After the fire station, we went to the Sauvie Island Park and Ride to talk about transportation on the island, transit and biking, and the bridge. By the end, the team was frozen and ready for lunch. We ended field study with a worksheet that helped the project team reflect on what they learned on the tour.

Driving home from Academy, grinning ear to ear, I couldn’t help but feel excited for what’s coming next….


Maia Hardy RARE Resourse Assistance for Rural Environments AmeriCorpsAbout the Author:  Maia received her Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Planning and Non-Profit Management from Eastern Michigan University. In her last few months as a student, Maia was as the Ypsilanti Representative for the Millennial Mayors Congress where she met with elected officials and civil leaders to discuss pertinent and pressing issues facing the Detroit-metro region. Realizing her passion for planning and community development, Maia decided to dedicate herself to serving communities in need, making her a perfect fit for the RARE AmeriCorps Program.  Maia is placed with the Multnomah County Land Use & Transportation Planning Division.

Team Ashland Learns to Count!

Coming to you live, from the streets of Ashland, Oregon is CPW (Community Planning Workshop) analyst Taylor Eidt.

cars-numbersThe “Ashland Sustainable Transportation Team” continues to move forward in its attempts to bring progressive planning strategies to the world, and more specifically the City of Ashland, Oregon. As it does so, these future planners constantly learn skills that will assist them in their future careers. One of these skills was honed on an April 9th trip to Ashland, which intended to develop concrete data with which the team can back up the policies they suggest to the Project Advisory Committee. What is this skill you may ask?


On this particular trip, our objective was to count the number of cars parked in the Downtown Ashland area at multiple points throughout the day. This task was intended to obtain a definitive rate of occupancy for the Downtown area, allowing us to move forward with our policy options. While it may sound mundane and simple, counting parked cars under the beating sun of a beautiful 75-degree Ashland day is no easy task, and requires intense concentration and focus. This task required both personal and professional growth.

Team member Amanda D’Souza is confident that this “monitoring session gave an unparalleled opportunity,” for her to build upon her fieldwork and counting skills. While having previous knowledge of counting as a big Sesame Street fan, she viewed this as a chance to enhance these skills through new strategies such as “tally marks, finger-counting, and group addition.”

Team member Eli Tome walked nearly a mile during each counting rotation, resulting in a total of approximately three miles walked over the course of the day. By getting a ground level view of Ashland, Eli was able to combine healthy habits with fieldwork, while collecting data that is of extreme value to both the City and our study. Some members of the team found this work to be an opportunity to look into the soul of Ashland, such as Andrew Dutterer.

“While pounding the pavement conducting parking monitoring surveys in Ashland, one characteristic of the city that quickly became apparent was the pulse of ‘performance’ surging through the community. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is ubiquitous throughout downtown, from colorful banners adorning street lamps to crossing paths with an OSF actor that I had seen in a promotional brochure earlier that day. During monitoring loops through the Downtown Plaza I heard Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and a host of other musicians recreated in song by an assortment of guitar-clad street musicians. I even encountered two women dressed head-to-toe in Elizabethan costumes exit a building as though they had just stepped out of a time machine. The performance community in Ashland is strong, and it creates a lively and inspiring atmosphere throughout downtown. “

Now that you’re familiar with the strenuous activities of a day of fieldwork in the planning profession, it should be noted this post is not intended to scare any potential planners away from the profession. As team member Nestor Guevara states, this work provides many benefits when combined with other elements of this study, such as surveys, meetings, and the formulation of principals to guide our work.

“The City of Ashland has identified that there is a parking problem during peak tourism season (i.e. the Oregon Shakespeare Festival). Analyzing the parking patterns on an off-season, as we did in the April monitoring session, and comparing this data to previous data gathered during peak season, will help provide a clearer picture of the problem at hand.

The information gathered here today will be used to formulate new policies vetted by the Project Advisory Committee in the coming weeks.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of the “Ashland Sustainable Transportation Team’s” work in Ashland, as we continue to monitor the results of our second survey, examine parking policies of similar cities, analyze the amount of traffic generated by Ashland’s downtown businesses, and refine the policy options that will be recommended to the PAC!

Now it’s back to Bob Parker in the office for more on CPW’s top stories.


Taylor Eidt Ashland Sustainable Transportation CPW Community Planning WorkshopAbout the Author: Taylor Eidt is pursuing a master’s degree in Community & Regional Planning. Taylor is a native of Denver, Colorado by way of his undergraduate degree in Geography at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.