National contest’s winnings fund improvements for outer East Portland parks

See how being voted ‘America’s Most Natural City’ in a Safeway-sponsored contest is helping to fund Portland E205 Initiative projects …

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish – along with these fourth-graders from Gilbert Park Elementary School – thank Safeway executives for helping fix up their playground.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Portland was named “America’s Most Natural City” in a Safeway Facebook contest over the summer. A nice accolade, to be sure.

But more importantly, the award brought the Rose City a $20,000 donation for Portland Parks & Recreation – and, “The World’s Longest Picnic Table”.

The Bureau’s commissioner-in-charge, Nick Fish, told us why he was out at Gilbert Park Elementary School on October 3.

“Portland beat out, among other places, Seattle and Denver,” beamed Fish. “Safeway is here today, giving us $20,000 to enhance our parks – funds that we’re dedicating to the ‘E205 Initiative’. They’re also giving of us 25 picnic tables for our parks.”

  • To review our story of Commissioner Nick Fish explaining the E205 Initiative when he first introduced it: CLICK HERE.

“We’re also celebrating the completion of our second E205 project,” Fish continued.  “This features enhancements to Gilbert Park, and to Gilbert Park Elementary School recreation fields. We put in park benches, put bark chips down, painted the children’s play area, and we will be upgrading it with other amenities.”

Jim Seiple, Safeway Inc. Group Vice President of Research and Development, Consumer Brand”, says the company’s contest was created to promote the “Open Nature” line of products.

“We’re doing this to give back to the community,” Safeway VP Jim Seiple told East Portland News, as folks gathered in the park.

“We’re helping the Parks Bureau here in Portland with a check, for being voted the ‘Most Natural City’  by its citizens. Our new marketing phrase is ‘Ingredients for Life’, and we believe good city parks are also an ‘ingredient’ for a good life.”

Safeway’s Jim Seiple reveals a trio of reasons for his visit.

Seiple, who traveled to the presentation from their Pleasanton, California, corporate offices, was first to address the gathering. “We had many votes for the ‘Most Natural City’ in America. Low and behold, you guys beat a lot of very large cities. So first of all, congratulations. You rule!”

“The second reason I’m here is that we have a check for $20,000,” Seiple continued. “We understand that your Parks Bureau has [over the years] had reduced funding. That’s kind of tough when you have America’s future – these young people here – needing great places that are safe to play in.”

Portland Safeway Inc. Division Manager Steve Frisbee holds a photo showing a Guinness World Records judge measuring ‘The World’s Longest Picnic Table’.

Thirdly, In addition to the $20,000 award, Seiple announced Portland’s parks would be receiving another gift: The world’s certified longest picnic table.

“June, on ‘National Picnic Day’, we at Safeway built the longest picnic table in the world – it was 305 feet long – longer than a football field. Of course, that’s much too long to move, and you’d have to have a very large park to accommodate it. So, after it was certified by the Guinness World Records, we cut it up into 25 picnic tables to be used across Portland Parks’ area.”

We thank everyone for their efforts. There’s not a more deserving city,” Says  Safeway Inc. Portland Division Manager Steve Frisbee.

Safeway, Inc., executives; Mark Ross, Public Information Officer of Portland Parks & Recreation; and Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish all gather for a photo with the big check.

Gilbert Park P.E. teacher Paul Crane expresses his thanks for improvements to his school.

Gilbert Park Elementary’s physical education instructor, Paul Crane, also was on hand to express his thanks. “What this means is that the kids can run on a soft surface and not just on wet grass. Now we actually have a pathway! This is increasing the incentive for our kids to participate in our fitness program, here at the school.”

That, and the refurbished playground, Crane added, “are great opportunities for increased fitness. With so many schools and districts losing their physical education programs, I’m glad the David Douglass School District is keeping P.E. in all nine elementary schools. I just can’t say how much this means to us.”

Gilbert Park Elementary School fourth-graders take a “test run” on their new track.

After the presentation, Commissioner Fish commented that the E205 Initiative projects are moving forward, including:

  • Four new park benches at West Powellhurst Park, with a new all-weather soft surface path;
  • A new drinking fountain at Argay Park, near the dog off-leash area, and three new benches;
  • New benches and a path at Cherry Park; and,
  • A new drinking fountain at Ed Benedict Park Skate Plaza.

To open an Adobe PDF file of a brochure about E205 Initiative projects on the City’s website: CLICK HERE.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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