City’s first ‘Hydro-Park’ opens in Hazelwood

See the tree-planting ceremony that signaled the opening of once-fenced land, as the former Hazelwood Water District wellfield is transformed into a lush, public park …

The Portland city commissioner in charge of the city’s Water Bureau, Randy Leonard, welcomes folks to a tree planting ceremony, at the opening of the Hazelwood Hydro Park.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Not long ago, the city block-sized parcel in the Hazelwood neighborhood was secured by a dingy, foreboding chain-link fence. Warning signs commanded that neighbors stay out.

But when we visited this site on September 28, at the former Hazelwood Water District well field and offices, the fences were down. Instead, the neighbors were invited in to enjoy a quarter mile walking path, doggy stations, picnic tables and benches.

The district’s former headquarters has become the new home of the East Portland Neighborhood Office.

“This is the most fun day I’ve had in politics,” the Portland city commissioner in charge of the Water Bureau, Randy Leonard, told us. “We took an asset that was already here, owned and maintained by the city, and opened it up to the community. The tree we’re planting today is a symbol of a new life for this park in the community. It is a cool thing.”

As members of the Villa Garden Club, community members and neighbors gathered around, Leonard told the group, “Last year, I came out here by myself, and looked at the property. I realized it was a waste of a city resource to leave it fenced off. We began talking with Richard Bixby about the possibility of EPNO occupying the building. It makes the building and property more secure.

“Today, the fences are down, the neighbors are encouraged to come in and use this. Over time, you’ll see curbs installed, there will be sidewalks, and the street will be paved.” A cheer went up. Leonard repeated himself for comedic effect, “Did I mention, the street (NE 117th Ave) will be paved?” Again the crowd cheered.

Leonard said he and his staffed were a bit concerned that some people might sneak through the trees at night and do “bad things” to the park. “The coolest thing about this is that the bureau’s Tom Klutz got huge rocks to block vehicle access from the Bull Run area!”

North wellhead to be removed
The head of the development project, the bureau’s Tom Klutz, said the wellhead and building on the north end of the property was never actually used. “The building and equipment will be removed by the first of November.”

A drinking water fountain will be installed. Sidewalks and handicapped ramps at the northwest corner of the park will make access more convenient, Klutz added.

Commissioner Leonard said the city will be keeping the southern well on the property in operation as a backup reserve for Portland’s water supply system.

Villa Garden Club plants ‘Patriotic Tree’
Dorothy Drews, president of the Villa Garden Club told us, “Our club is the largest and most active in the district. It was important for us to have a project that would be nationally recognized. Locally, to plant a tree for shade and beautify this park is a good thing. We’ll probably plant more, as space comes available.”

The observance conducted by the garden club included reading the poem “Trees”, and reciting the names of military service people from East Portland who are currently serving the county. The club, active since 1947, is sponsoring their Patriotic Tree as part of the Oregon State Federation of Garden Clubs national tree planting program, we were told.

Dorothy Drews introduces Hazelwood resident and parks advocate Linda Robinson.

“I support the efforts of this garden club,” said Linda Robinson, neighbor and parks advocate, after her introduction. “When they said they wanted to plant a tree here, I got excited. We wanted a tree that is native; a species too large to put in someone’s yard. We decided on the Big Leaf Maple. We’re planting it in the northeast corner of the park. With all these Deadora Cedars here, the maple would go well. Now, let’s go plant a tree!”

Linda Robinson and members of the Villa Garden Club plant the Big Leaf Maple tree at the park’s dedication.

One concern that day had been that there wasn’t enough dirt and water onsite to properly plant the tree. But as soon as the tree was dropped in the ground, workers from the water bureau arrived with additional soil and buckets of water to save the day.

Commissioner Leonard helps by watering the newly planted tree in Hazelwood.

Finally, a celebration wouldn’t be complete without refreshments, which were provided, this day, by the garden club.

Go see this fine new park for yourself. It’s located at 1017 NE 117th Avenue.

¬©  2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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