Eastmoreland Neighbors’ open house attracts crowd, builds interest

Board members thought holding a special event might attract a few more residents to their organization. See how many people their shindig attracted …

Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association board member Bert Sperling (center) listens to concerns of homeowners at their open house social hour.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The expansive, clubhouse room looked rather empty a few minutes before 7:00 p.m., the appointed hour marking the start of Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association’s first open house event, on Thursday evening, February 15th.

The association’s president, Gretchen Sperling, told us they’d mailed invitations to every home in their area, for their event at Eastmoreland Golf Course Bar and Grill, hoping to attract new faces to their organization.

They didn’t all arrive at once, but over the next ten minutes, the room was well populated. By the time Sperling began her formal introduction, more than 45 people had arrived and taken a seat.

The Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association’s president, Gretchen Sperling, gets their first open house event underway.

Speaks to a growing audience
“Our vision is to encourage more participation in our neighborhood,” Sperling began. “We’re inviting more people into the conversation.”

Around the country, she said, when people talk about livability, Portland usually comes to the top of the list. “One of the reasons this happens is because of our incredible neighborhoods. We have so many different ways to live together.”

She explained that the reason for holding this open house was that the neighborhood association’s board members wanted more input from the neighbors they serve. “Issues are getting so complicated, we aren’t comfortable making critical decisions ‚Äì without inviting more people into the conversation.”

Sharing Eastmoreland issues
Asked to inventory issues with which the association was currently dealing, Sperling discussed:

  • Maintenance of the garden ‚Äì the group is working to establish an endowment for the continuing care of the Eastmoreland Garden which welcomes people to the neighborhood right across from where the meeting was being held, at the Eastmoreland Golf Course Grill.
  • Concern and care for the tree canopy ‚Äì how a committee cares for the health of the lush canopy of trees, including tree inoculation and Dutch elm disease.
  • Railroad noise issues ‚Äì other neighborhoods are starting to participate in this issue. The 1955 injunction was upheld by a federal judge several years ago and now the Union Pacific is to comply with the terms of that agreement;
  • Reed College’s use of Parker House ‚Äì how the capacity of use was greater than the neighborhood would like to see. A hearing officer found in favor of the neighborhood; but the college is reapplying for conditional use permit.
  • Off-leash dog use at Duniway School ‚Äì dealing with the concerns of dogs running free, and the owners who don’t pick their pets’ waste.
  • Crime issues ‚Äì how it has increased in the neighborhood; police say it is coming from “fearless” meth addicts who come down Springwater Trail. “They have no fear, and break into homes even with people home. They’ll climb up trees and over flat roofs to gain entry in second stories.” Several second-story break-ins had recently been reported near S.E. Knapp Street and 35th.

Mike Fisher, VP; Bert Sperling, board member; former president John Reiersgaard, and Gretchen Sperling, association president, were four of many board members on hand to meet and greet their neighbors.

Although Sperling told us the event was to be an informal meeting, neighbors new to the association asked questions on a wide variety of topics, including why the promised Inner Southeast MAX line has not yet been built.

Ending the meeting, Sperling invited the crowd, now numbering more than sixty, to address their specific concerns individually with the committee chairs and board members present at the meeting.

“Come to our regular meetings each month, on the third Thursday, at the Duniway School library. But, you don’t even have to come to the meetings to be involved! There are many subcommittees that would like to have your participation.”

Diane Rynerson buys a tree walk map from Dan Dettmer, a volunteer on the Eastmoreland Tree Committee.

After the meeting, Sperling said, “I’m thrilled to see so many people show up, and show interest in our community. I’m tickled. I’m hopeful this will translate into better attendance at our monthly meetings. I’m cautiously optimistic.”

When March 22nd comes around, perhaps David Perkinson, whom we met as he looked over an exhibit showing the diversity of Eastmoreland trees, will be back. He told us, “My first meeting, although I’ve lived here for 16 years. Maybe I’ll come to another one.”

The large turnout surprised — and pleased — the neighborhood association’s board.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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