HAPPY PEOPLE - Casimira Tadewaldt

February 17, 2024
By Christina Malango
Casimira Tadewaldt is no pessimist.  She's lived in Portland long enough to have seen things she cannot "unsee".  Where many people would sink into despair, she was energized and began a journey of involvement in individual, family, small group and larger community projects to help clean up various areas.  She came to realize that "once you see what is possible you can never go back to thinking nothing will change."
The massive Cathedral Park concrete and riprap cleanup September 2023 would not have happened without Casimira's leadership. She is an arborist by training* and a community organizer in her heart. In 2021 she participated in the first Human Access Project (HAP) Cathedral Park cleanup, a place she, her family and her dog live near and spend a lot of time. She left craving a chance to do more at Cathedral Park. When she later heard of a Metro Community Enhancement Grant  targeted for North Portland and Cathedral Park, she approached HAP with the offer to apply for funds to further river clean up there. "You can't go to Cathedral Park with a child or a dog without them going into the water-- suit, towel or not!"  She'd noticed plenty of scrapes and bruises from all the rubble.  That rubble and the wood pylons are left over from Portland Lumbar Company.  She wanted to see more of it removed.
It was the first grant she'd ever applied for, and she was successful.  With the grant secured, Willie Levenson says, "it's an example of how a tenacious community volunteer can add capacity to HAP's work. We love supporting committed volunteers."  
Since that time Casimira joined the  Portland Harbor Community Advisory Group  as an advisor to get more involved in the Superfund cleanup is. She suggests anyone with interest look at PHCAC's meetings on youtube for more resources and information.  Every meeting is available to watch.
Her vision for the Willamette River is the creation of a River that is alive!


How did you learn of the work of the Human Access Project?

I knew about The Big Float. River floating is a long held past time of mine so The Big Float made a lot of sense to me as a way to just have a ridiculously good time. And that the message that we can swim in the Willamette River was one to be celebrated. It hit me the most to see what HAP accomplished when I had an old friend visit from New York this year that used to live in Portland many years ago. She was just like, “swimming in the Willamette was just completely not a thing back then. Not on anyone’s radar..” We would drive in heavy traffic to the Sandy River at the time just for a summer evening dip.


What drew you to helping out this organization?

I spend a lot of time outside with my family and my dog. I live in Portland and experienced and saw many terrible things that I can’t un-see in the past few years. I utilized the usual channels to log issues and contact almost every city bureau. When things didn’t improve, I think I was pretty depressed. I found adopt one block and dug in deep. I started taking my grabber and bucket out all the time. I even take it on vacation with me now. I enlisted my family to do large clean ups and was totally hooked. Thanks to the Got Junk – Adopt One Block partnership I have been able to remove vast amounts of trash for Portland’s natural areas on my own schedule. It was the release I needed to deal with the reality we all face walking out the front door in Portland now. It’s the only thing that relieved my anxiety. I started volunteering whenever I could for community clean ups through Solve. My other go-tos are events through Friends of Trees or City of Portland Urban Forestry. These were the types of things that produced tangible results that let you walk away with an elevated feeling.  


I understand you helped at the first concrete removal event at Cathedral Park and were impacted by that?  Tell us more about that. 

When I saw the HAP Cathedral Park Beach cleanup event in 2021 I naturally was all in. I spent a lot of time on that beach with my family and dog. I saw the way my daughter and all the kids would have an amazing time there but also leave with a lot of scrapes and bruises from the rubble. It was a great event; the volunteers were very nice and came from all over the place. The beach was completely transformed by it. That rubble had sat there for decades and then was gone in a few hours.


How did that lead to writing a grant under HAP's name?   

I was searching for events and just hungry for the chance to do more for that beach because I am there all the time. And once you see what is possible you also can never go back to thinking nothing will change. But ultimately it was something Willie said, He said that we would continue until all the rubble was gone. When I learned about the grant that could fund projects in the small sliver of Cathedral Park near the bridge it seemed like a great fit. I told HAP about it and the conversation evolved from there. I had never written a grant before but because I spent a lot of time listening to public meetings on YouTube. In many meetings local non-profits talked about their work or grants they’d receive. I thought I might be able to write something about my own community. Willie provided the framework and the rest flowed.


What is your hope for how the Metro grant money will help the area?

My hope is that the people who already swim, fish, and walk here can have a better experience. And that more people will see it as an inviting space and come and spread the word. My hope is that we can all live in a city that doesn’t feel like a city. People can get some release from stress of being alive by fishing, swimming, or walking on the river without driving for hours. Parents have a place to take their kids to have an amazing time without much expense. And of course if we get a few more volunteer enthusiasts that would not be a bad thing. 


What is your vision for Cathedral Park and for the Willamette River?

My vision for cathedral Park and Willamette is simply to clean it up and create a hospitable place for people and wildlife.


Did you grow up here or come to this area later in life?

I am from Great Falls, MT. I came to Portland in around 2005. Growing up we spent a lot of time on the rivers, lakes, and streams of Montana. We did a lot of camping, fishing, and boating. A picnic lunch, a floaty, a lifejacket, and a river on a hot summer day type were the ingredients that made my childhood magical.


Do you live in North Portland, St Johns?

I live in Cathedral Park neighborhood with my family. So, yes St Johns is our home.


What do you do IRL?

I manage a team of Board Certified Master Arborists for a small local tree service company called Urban Forest Pro.

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