‘Gateway Green’ accord signed

Two unlikely partners created the idea for this, nearly five years ago. You’ll be amazed by the number of government officials who gathered to show their support for this unique outer East Portland park project near the Gateway district …

Here’s a look at Gateway Green – this unimproved path will become one of many trails in the proposed new park that borders I-205. East Portland News archive photo

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It appears as if “Gateway Green” – a 30-acre tract of open land south of Rocky Butte, between the I-84 and I-205 freeways, owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) – may indeed become Portland’s most unique multi-use park.

> We’ve covered the development Gateway Green since it first received an official name, back in 2008. See our first story: CLICK HERE. Then, see how the planning progressed: CLICK HERE. We also covered the first major open house in 2009: CLICK HERE to see it. And, take a great “photographic tour” of Gateway Green, when we documented volunteers sprucing up the area in 2010: CLICK HERE.

On December 10, project sponsors and supporters celebrated the commitments made by the Gateway Green Project Team, signified by the official signing of the 25-page “Declaration of Cooperation” by more than two dozen organizations.

At this event, held in the Aloft Hotel at Cascade Station’s lobby, we spoke with the two unlikely partners who created the Gateway Green concept – Portland parks advocate Linda Robinson, and commercial developer Ted Gilbert.

One of the two co-creators of the Gateway Green project, Linda Robinson, pauses for a photo with Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish.

“Ted and I started working on this almost exactly five years ago, in December,” recalled Robinson. “We originally called it ‘Gateway Gardens’, but planner David Evans, of David Evans and Associates, suggested ‘Gateway Green’ had a better ring to it.”

About the evening, Robinson said that for her, one word summed it up: “Excitement. It’s also a relief in some ways. We’ve been shepherding this through, originally as a couple of individuals, for three or four years. And then, it was somewhat of relief to have the ‘Oregon Solutions’ program join us, where we had a committee of folks. Now we have a whole group of people, from all levels of government, committed to moving forward.”

In August of 2009, we learned, Governor Ted Kulongoski selected the project to be part of the “Oregon Solutions” program, making the creation of Gateway Green a high priority for the State of Oregon.

Gateway Green co-creator Ted Gilbert talks about the project at one of many meetings he attended while promoting the concept.

Ted Gilbert, of Baron Equities and Resources Inc., was all smiles as he worked the room. “It was great to watch representatives of two dozen community associations – public, private, and nonprofit – put their name on a document to agree to get the Gateway Green done. We have a lot more work to do, but today was a big step,” he told us.

Gilbert, a 2010 Spirit of Portland Award recipient, explained why he’s put so much effort into this civic project. “I’ve been working toward the realization of creating the Gateway Regional Center for 12 years. After being on committees with a whole handful of community-minded citizens, as corny as it sounds, I have become a believer.

“I have become a believer that Gateway and outer East Portland are not only a well-kept secret – but also an asset and an opportunity, that – if well executed – will be the likes of which does not exist in Portland, the region, or the State,” Gilbert said. “And, Gateway Green is one of the projects key to the rebranding process that will move this area forward.”

Steve Bryant, project manager for Oregon Solutions; Rex Burkholder, Metro Counselor and co-convener of the process; and Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish – all say they’re pleased that Gateway Green may soon become a reality.

Portland’s Commissioner of Parks, Nick Fish, was also on hand for the celebration and signing.

“The best part of all this, for me,” Fish said, “is seeing the collaboration: All of these people coming together, to get to a solution.”

This would not have happened, Fish opined, if Ted Gilbert and Linda Robinson hadn’t had the persistence and drive to keep the project forward. “This is a marvelous story of collaboration. Ted, a businessman, and Linda, a volunteer advocate, came together over a shared passion. They were determined, and persevered, and would not let people say no, or walk away from this project. In their own way, and they both have this quality of making you believe in their vision, and then gently pushing you forward.”

Celebrating the signing of the Gateway Green Declaration are co-creator Ted Gilbert; Jay Graves – owner of the Bike Gallery, and Oregon Solutions co-convener; and Gill Williams – a landscape architect with David Evans and Associates, who created Gateway Green’s original design.

Jay Graves, a co-convener of the Oregon Solutions Gateway Green Project, and owner of the Bike Gallery Stores, agreed that having a world-class bicycle park in Portland is important to him, from a business perspective.

“But more than that,” Graves said, “I feel connected to this land from an historic perspective. I remember riding my BMX and my mountain bikes on the trails on this property 35 years ago. I rode past the old jail, back when it was just dirt, and before the freeway was built. There was a lake the middle of it! This is important, because we need green space.”

City of Maywood Park Mayor Mark Hardie says he’s happy, because Gateway Green will give Maywood Park a park.

It was clear why Mayor Mark Hardie, representing the City of Maywood Park, was there. “A small portion of Gateway Green is located in our city. And a key access point is through our city. It’s an underdeveloped area, and we recognize the need for a park.”

Hardie spoke with enthusiasm about the proposed project. “It will be multifaceted park.  It will provide recreation areas for young and old, as well as for aggressive bike riders and pleasure riders, as well as people who want to hike and walk in the area. This is a phenomenal concept.”

At the signing, Linda Robinson is with Arlene Kimura, Chair of the Hazelwood Neighborhood Association, Rev. Brian L. Heron, Pastor of Eastminster Presbyterian Church – many meetings were held at Heron’s Gateway-area church – and Christina Scarzello, East District liaison from the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

Christina Scarzello, the East District liaison with the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, offered a City planner’s point of view: “Gateway Green will really put outer East Portland ‘on the map’. I think it’s going to be a boon to commerce in the Gateway area. As a result, it can bring in people who will decide this is a good place to live and work.”

City to take the lead
Commissioner Fish explained that the “Declaration” is a commitment to take specific actions. “The City will take the lead role in managing the project. The Friends of Gateway Green will be raising $5 million on the capital side; Metro may be prime to put $1 million into the pot.”

In November, the Portland City Council approved a forecast budget package for year 2013, Fish said, which includes ongoing funding of nearly $200,000 per year for Portland Parks & Recreation to operate and maintain the Gateway Green site.

Fish added, “I’m proud of the role that Portland Arts & Recreation played, along with Mayor Sam Adams. We are committed to seeing this through to completion.”

Fundraising kicks into high gear
“What’s next is fundraising,” Gilbert sad. “We’ve already identified some funding sources that give us wonderful momentum, but we still have more to go. To make this happen, need these stakeholders – their talent, passion, and leadership – to help move the project forward. We’re looking forward to have another celebration, and not too far off, on the grounds of Gateway Green!”

If all goes well, ground could be broken in 2011, Gilbert added.

Robinson agreed, “Tonight’s event is really exciting, and this cooperation takes a little bit of the burden off of our shoulders. Although – we’ll still be there, patiently nudging it along.”

Commissioner Fish had the last word: “This reminds me what a difference an individual – or two – can really make in a community.”

For more information, see the official Gateway Green website: CLICK HERE.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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