Ken Popper, Senior Conservation Planner for the Conservancy in Oregon.
By Savannah Naffziger
Inspiration comes from all sorts of places. For Ken Popper, it’s the memory of Oren Pollak. Nearly 30 years ago, Pollak inspired him with a love of the environment. They ended up working for The Nature Conservancy in different states, and eventually Pollak moved to Portland to work for the Oregon program.
Tragically, Pollak passed away in a motor vehicle accident soon after. Ever since, Popper, now the Conservancy’s senior conservation planner in Oregon, has been quietly working to honor issues Pollak championed—like green infrastructure.
This spring Popper and his team completed a year-long project—building a stormwater planter at the Conservancy’s Portland office. What’s a stormwater planter?
The planter’s benefits are obvious, and they’re a teaching moment for everyone, including passers-by. “I get questions about the planter almost every time I’m out there. It walks our talk,” said Popper.
While The Nature Conservancy normally works in areas measured in acres and miles, this project fits into a space the size of two parking spots, end to end. The 43 foot long by 8 foot wide concrete box abuts the building’s south parking lot, replacing a chain linked fence.
Construction of the planter began after more than a year of planning, testing, locating funding, and applying for permits. Large machinery arrived. Contractors dug in, poured concrete into a very large mold, and filled it in with layers of gravel, dirt and native plants.
At least twenty volunteers and staff worked on the project—from digging test holes, to helping select the appropriate plants, to attending a work party to plant everything.
For Deanna Brown, the Conservancy’s Oregon finance administrator, planting was an opportunity to get outside the office and get her hands dirty. “The planting was more hands-on than my normal job. One of my earliest experiences with the Conservancy was volunteering as a naturalist, but nowadays I’m pretty much sitting at my computer most of the day,” Brown said. “Helping with this project was a great way to connect directly to nature again.”
The planter is not a lone project. A network of stormwater systems is developing in cities in the Pacific Northwest.
And this planter isn’t the Conservancy’s first green undertaking, either. Take our solar panel awnings, for instance. Recycling and composting. Or the low flow faucets. Or encouraging alternative transportation. The Oregon Conservancy even has a Green Team—employees who lead these efforts. Yes, Popper’s a member.
The Nature Conservancy thanks the following partners for supporting the stormwater project: East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, Mahonia Vineyards and Nursery, Metro’s Native Plant Center, the City of Portland, Sustainable Adaptations, Ted’s Excavation, Conservancy staff, and contributions from members of the Conservancy.October 18, 2013
A member of Oregon’s 2012 AmeriCorps Conservation Team, Savannah Naffziger is serving as a marketing specialist for The Nature Conservancy.