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At our August 8th MTCY&NPG meeting, Greg D. from the Water Bureau was present (his first time at a meeting?… I believe he and Chad T. share a seat on the committee and Chad has often been present) to offer the Water Bureau’s perspective on land ownership of the site and how a re-design would affect them.
Land ownership of Mt. Tabor is complicated and not something I completely understand (does anybody?…) but, in a nut shell, the Water Bureau owns part of the land that the maintenance yard sits upon. If/when the re-design of the yard occurs, the Water Bureau is requesting that they “trade” the piece of land they own for an equivalent piece of land near Mt. Tabor to be used as a staging area for future construction projects on or near Mt. Tabor (e.g. work on the water reservoirs).
A couple of things bother me about their request.
I experienced a lot of anxiety when I first considered researching the Mt. Tabor planning group in order to gain insight into effective public participation. My introduction into ethnographic research through the Leadership in Ecology, Culture and Learning program (LECL) at Portland State University had me intimately question the role of the researcher. Conversations with my peers, both in seminar and outside of the classroom, revolved around how we, as researchers, could take ourselves out of the research being conducted? Or, would we take ourselves out of the research?
Learning about participatory-action research as a tool both muddled and cleared my confusion. It muddled it because it throws the researcher straight into the research, creating as many, or more, observable moments than would otherwise materialize organically. It clears it, though, because it acknowledges, and almost celebrates, that the researcher is inherently biased and that their action should be part of the research.
The idea that the researcher can be part of the research set my mind at ease, and I began to see the benefits of being intimately involved with the process while I was studying it. I would have insight into personalities, conversations, and background that an outsider wouldn’t have. Relationships with participants had been established and members would be approachable if I needed further information. Furthermore, I would have the ability to relay my research back to the group, adding to the collective wisdom and completing the circle of reciprocity.
Since the fall of 2006, I have been working in partnership with the City of Portland and the community to update the Mt. Tabor Master Plan – a visioning document that establishes the long-term use of public land on Mt. Tabor. At the same time, I have been earning my Master of Science degree from Portland State University, where I have been enrolled in the Leadership for Ecology, Culture and Learning program.
Interested, and active, in equitable partnerships, I chose to focus on the Mt. Tabor Central Yard & Nursery Planning Group for my culminating project to analyze the relevance and effectiveness of community partnership. I even go so far as to make a recommendation or two ; )
In the coming weeks, I will be posting chapters from my research. Please check back for updates.