Neighbors share dreams about new Parkrose park

See what planners learned when they checked in with residents – including kids – while drawing up plans for the 15-acre Beech Park site …

Park consultant Aaron Abrams writes down neighbors’ suggestions, as Sally McIntyre facilitates the meeting at Shaver Elementary School. Both are from MIG, Inc.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Until neighbor volunteers talked the City of Portland into allowing them to build the small Senn’s Dairy Park on NE Prescott St., the Parkrose neighborhood was entirely devoid of developed parks.

Although the actual creation of an expansive, nearly 16-acre park is still way off in the future, Portland Parks & Recreation has hired a firm to gather input about how the uniquely-situated Beech Park will look when it is improved.

Park on two parcels
The Beech Park site is unusual; it consists of two separate parcels adjacent to Shaver Elementary School.

The 10.07-acre southern parcel is bordered by the school on the east side, and by homes on the south and west sides. Directly north of the school is a second 5.64-acre parcel; bordered on the north and west by houses, on the south by the school and more houses, and on the west by a working urban farm.

This diagram, including an aerial view of the parcels, shows the two sections of land that will make up Beech Park. NE Shaver Street is at the top if the diagram, and Shaver Elementary School is at the bottom right.

Diverse, but harmonious, views expressed
In May, a series of workshops were conducted to solicit ideas and concerns from neighbors, business people – and children.

“There were diverse cultures present at the workshop,” Sally McIntyre, of the parks consulting company, MIG, Inc., told us. “It looked like everyone felt free to participate; and they all seemed to get along very well. We’re hoping that kind of participation continues.”

The consensus gathered from workshops, and questionnaires distributed throughout the surrounding area, showed that folks are “Looking to create a place for neighbors to enjoy, plus have a place that can be used by the school for educational programs,” commented McIntyre. “Our mission is to make sure the designs reflect what people want; that it fits in with the nature of the neighborhood.”

We stopped in at one workshop (on May 19). The back wall of the Shaver Elementary School gym was covered with design ideas which the school’s kids had submitted earlier in the day. About 35 adults were there, sharing their dreams for the park’s development.

“The kids were really interested in having ‘water features’ on the site,” noted McIntyre.

Comments and concerns raised
Al Garre – he farms land to the west of the park parcels – posed questions about access within and around the park. “I hope there’s some way of discouraging vehicles from entering and damaging the park – then hopping a barrier and damaging the farmland.”

A neighbor voiced the opinion that there should be a building for arts and crafts and for both child and adult education. Other folks chimed in, saying they hope for collaboration between the school and the Parks Bureau to develop joint-use areas.

Wondering out loud of there could be a way for kids to “take some ownership” of the park, Argay Neighborhood Chair Valerie Curry wanted youths to feel sufficiently possessive of the park that if they were to see vandalism or illegal activities taking place there, they would report it.

“Who is going to be there to clean up the mess?” questioned Curry. “In Argay Park there is a constant cleanup of messes visitors leave in the park.”

Children were given the opportunity to have a say in the design of Beech Park. These are a few of the diagrams annotated by kids during the public input process.

Consultant addresses issues
“Our recommendations will consider the concerns of the farmers, as well as the neighbors directly surrounding the park,” McIntyre informed us after the meetings. “The best way to create a safe park is to design one that attracts many people throughout the day. It discourages people from misusing the park. We’ll look at sight-line issues as well.”

For the past few weeks, McIntyre and the staff of Portland-based MIG, Inc. – a consulting firm that specializes in park planning and design and in public involvement in design projects – have been conducting this sort of ascertainment process in the area.

“Both adults and kids have been interested in contributing to the ‘art element’ of the space,” McIntyre told us this week. “It’s not so much having separate art objects, as simply having areas artistically designed. There could be ways to incorporate children’s art and other kinds of art in that way. There may be some ways to reflect different cultures in the neighborhood.”

The next steps
Working with Portland Parks & Recreation, the consultants will develop three alternative plans.

“We’ll be working on this through the month of July,” McIntyre said. “We’ll have a booth at the Parkrose Farmer’s Market on July 26. We hope everybody comes out and takes a look at the alternatives.”

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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