Garden volunteers cheer 2016’s success, funding

See why those folks who volunteer at Leach Botanical Garden are happy about their progress, and also with the promise of development funding …

Gathered in outer East Portland for their annual meeting, members of Leach Garden Friends, located in the Lents neighborhood, nosh on refreshments before their meeting.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Since it opened to the public in 1983, Leach Botanical Garden has been a partnership between a volunteer group called “Leach Garden Friends” and Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R).

One of the challenges of 2016 for the Garden was learning that the 122nd Avenue Bridge, closed to vehicle traffic during December 2015, would actually remain closed for years – requiring visitors to the Manor House to travel a circuitous route to reach their parking lot.

During the annual meeting of Leach Garden Friends, held on November 20, attendees got an update of progress made at the garden, and enjoyed a special educational presentation about the Oregon Flora Project.

The editor of the Oregon Flora Project, Thea Jaster, shows her book, while speaking to the group about the project.

Guest speaker Thea Jaster told how the Oregon Flora Project created both a printed book and an interactive website, as a result of research done involving the project. “The website can be easily accessed, so people can look at photos and maps of all of the species of Oregon,” she told East Portland News.

“I want people to know that my project is not only about providing the best information about all of the more than 4,600 plants of Oregon to the public, but also about bringing more people in to become enthusiastic about plants through our online tools!” Jaster said about her project.

The annual meeting of Leach Garden Friends proceeds.

During the meeting, Leach Garden Friends President Sue O’Halloran told the group how, with the help of volunteers, they had hosted more than 650 children in the Honeybee Hikes program, and – with the adults accompanying them – for a total of 1,300 people served; and the group also provided tours to 234 people visiting the garden on Saturday tours.

She commended the volunteers who run the gift shop, those who do some of the weeding and landscaping work, and those who volunteer to help out at events such as the annual Kids Nature Fair.

But the top topic, O’Halloran said, was the progress of their Upper Garden Project plan, and the opportunity to add a Tree Top Walk to the redevelopment project.

“We are very close to getting our funding; and we’ll be hearing soon about major funding that will be coming in from Portland Parks & Recreation, along with a match from the private side,” O’Halloran announced.

With funding in hand, she said, they will continue refining the construction drawings, go through the City of Portland Land Use Process, and perhaps begin construction in late summer, 2017.

Leach Garden Friends President Sue O’Halloran hints at funding that is announced, soon after their meeting.

On December 15, Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz and PP&R Director Mike Abbaté made the anticipated funding announcements.

First, Fritz announced that Metro had awarded PP&R and Leach Botanical Garden a $188,000 Nature in Neighborhoods grant to develop its new Pollinator Garden. “This grant includes a 2:1 match designated by Commissioner Fritz and Director Abbaté of $376,000 in System Development Charges,” explained the Bureau’s spokesman, Mark Ross.

Additionally, Commissioner Fritz and Director Abbaté offered a challenge to Leach Garden Friends: If they are able to raise a total of $1.26 million overall, then the Parks Bureau will supplement the remaining funds, to see the entire $4.9 million project through to completion, Ross added.

The Portland Development Commission has already contributed nearly $2 million from Lents Urban Renewal Area funds, said Ross.

Keep up to date about Leach Botanical Garden by visiting their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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