STEP Project Reflection

A Study of Green Infrastructure in Portland, Oregon

Jaime Schmotzer

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

My STEP project involved traveling to Portland, Oregon with a classmate, Taylor Brill. We studied green infrastructure and stormwater management techniques throughout the city and met with local professionals to learn more about the projects and systems in place.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

I am a City and Regional Planning student at OSU and am really interested in the ways cities function, including the incorporation of green infrastructure and stormwater management. Portland, Oregon is known for being advanced in stormwater management techniques and green infrastructure systems. I wanted to see these projects in person and also consider how the concepts might apply to Columbus, Ohio. During our trip, we met with a Portland city planner who explained some of the history of the city and how green infrastructure came to be so prevalent. The most interesting part of the interview was that Portland was in a similar position as Columbus around 30 years ago. This helped me to realize that while Columbus and other parts of the world currently may be lacking in green infrastructure, there is hope that in the future, cities can be as successful as Portland, Oregon.

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

This trip was really beneficial in that I could see how green infrastructure implementations functioned. It is one thing to read about the ways these systems work and another to actually see them. We were given a tour of some green infrastructure projects around Portland State University by a landscape architect from the Bureau of Environmental Services in Portland. This tour was monumental in helping me to further understand why Portland is so successful in stormwater management. The experience also taught me that there are numerous ways to incorporate green infrastructure, as long as a city is innovative and inspired. Portland is more focused on environmental preservation than other cities and it shows.

The city planner we met with explained that green infrastructure is not always something that is man-made, for instance trees are a common example. One major difference between Columbus and Portland is that Portland has significantly more plants. The city is covered in greenery, even in the downtown areas. A tour guide explained that the city did not plant all of the trees, but instead let existing trees be. The planner told us that one of the easiest forms of green infrastructure to implement is trees and plants. She also explained that many people do not consider trees to be infrastructure and do not treat them as such, but that trees really are a valuable resource. One way of significantly improving the Columbus green infrastructure system would be to plant more trees and to let existing trees grow.

Meeting with the city planner and landscape architect certainly helped to give a different perspective on Portland. I think the planner was able to provide context towards the implementation of their stormwater systems as well as successes and challenges that the city has faced. The landscape architect allowed us to see many of the projects firsthand, such as a private green roof and multiple projects around the Portland State University Campus. He was able to explain the specific designs of each system, along with the pros and cons. Interaction with both of these local professionals allowed me to gain a better understanding of the difficulties and benefits that lie with implementing green infrastructure and stormwater systems.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

This trip was directly applicable to my future career as a city planner in that I want to improve the ways cities function, with a focus on environmental sustainability. Traveling to Portland helped me to learn firsthand about my interests in green infrastructure and stormwater management.  Now I have a better concept of what the implementation process of these systems entails. This experience in Portland has been extremely valuable and has increased my knowledge, which will allow me to more successful in my future career.

Green infrastructure at Portland State University

A stormwater collection plaza at Portland State University

One thought on “STEP Project Reflection

  1. Hi Jaime,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. What a great functionality and beautification of the city! Columbus definitely needs a better stormwater drainage system. I’m glad there are folks like you working on a solution. Best of luck with your semester and I hope you continue to pursue opportunities to learn more about improving our city!

    -Shannon

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