Community Center gets long-awaited outdoor playground

Although it’s taken more than a decade to build this outdoor play center, here’s why project backers never gave up …

East Portland Community Center Director Abbe MacFarlane looks over the area where the new playground will be built. With her are Portland Parks & Recreation’s Planning/Development/Asset Manager Kia Selley, and long-time East Portland parks advocate Linda Robinson.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
From having one of the finest Aquatic Centers, to its great gymnasiums and meeting rooms, the East Portland Community Center (EPCC) is well equipped to serve the outer East Portland community.

But one thing has been missing since it was built – an outdoor playground.

“The original plan for the East Portland Community Center called for a playground to be built next to the Learning Center,” remarked EPCC Director Abbe MacFarlane at the July 30 ground breaking ceremony. “But, at that time, we didn’t have the funds to build it, due to increasing construction costs.

“Building the playground was postponed,” MacFarlane continued, “But it’s never been far from people’s minds.”

Portland Parks Bureau Director Mike Abbaté meets with long-time playground supporters – Nancy Walsh and Jan Lund, of East Portland Early Risers Kiwanis Club.

Two of those “minds” belong to Nancy Walsh and Jan Lund from the East Portland Early Risers Kiwanis Club.

Walsh, who was assigned to direct this outer East Portland center before it was built, and who stayed on after it opened, told East Portland News “This playground has been a long time coming. There aren’t many safe places for kids to play around here.”

Lund added, “Our Kiwanis club had already been raising money for the project starting in 1998. But when our club disbanded, we took steps to make sure the money would go to help build the playground, and not the ‘general fund’. Ours was the first $1,000 in the building fund.

Over the years, MacFarlane noted, other mid-County groups and clubs donated funds to the project – and kids even put their spare nickels and dimes into a special collection can on the Community Center’s counter.

“Altogether, it totaled about $10,000 that has been held in trust, and now is being applied with the other funds from the E-205 Initiative,” MacFarlane said.

> See our 2011 article about the E-205 Initiative’s start: “City Commissioner lays out East Portland parks improvement scheme”: CLICK HERE.

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish’s Chief of Staff Jim Blackwood tells of his outer East Portland parks experiences being introduced by PP&R Public Information Officer Mark Ross.

Up on the podium, Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish’s Chief of Staff Jim Blackwood said, “I’m standing in for Commissioner Fish. Two years ago, I went for a ride around Portland looking at parks and park land. I met a couple, standing in East Holladay Park with their kids. There was nice grass there, but really no place for kids to play. They just walked away. The ‘E-205 Initiative’ is changing this.”

Portland Parks Bureau Director Mike Abbaté addresses his comments to the kids at the event.

“Did you know that the City of Portland has the best park system in the United States of America?” asked Portland Parks Bureau Director Mike Abbaté to the audience, including kids.

“Did you know that? And, this is a really exciting day. We want to give our kids every opportunity to get outside, be physically active, and be engaged in the community. The new playground that is going to be here is going to give all of you kids the chance to run around, play, swing, chase each other, and have a great time,” the director continued.

Kids gathered for the ground breaking ceremony cheer the coming of a new playground.

“Are you excited about seeing a new playground here?” Abbaté asked.

“Yes!” shouted the youths present, in response.

Before calling on the contractor to scoop out a shovel full of dirt, Abbaté concluded by saying, “It is our hope – my hope – that we can continue to make these kinds of improvements that help the kids, and the adults, to live in East Portland.”

Greg Schroeder of GSE Inc. fires up his track hoe excavator …

… And delicately scoops out a shallow slice of sod – not disturbing utilities that might be buried underground – as the playground’s well-wishers cheer.

With construction work well underway, the playground – complete with playground equipment being manufactured by BigToys. Work is expected to be complete no later than October 2.

> Front page illustration provided by BigToys.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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