Shoppers looking for great Christmas gifts found great buys at this annual event. See the story of a family, at the bazaar, who sell gifts they make entirely within their own East Portland home …

Peggy Zeller sells her holiday decorations at the annual David Douglas Holiday Bazaar.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
More than 100 tables of gifts filled David Douglas High School on December 2, as the 10th Annual PTSA Holiday Bazaar got underway.

One of the largest bazaars in outer East Portland, it featured local crafts, decoration, baked goods ‚Äì and a new section they called “100% DDHS”, showcasing the artistic talents of David Douglas Students.

Terri Jones sells professional, yet completely home-made, ceramic decorations at the DDHS Bazaar.

Crafty family business
One of the many 87 vendors we met was Terri Jones and her family.

“This is my first year here,” Jones said. “This craftwork lets me stay home with my son ‚Äì and still make some extra money.”

The business is a family affair. The entire production process is done right in their home. Instead of painting cheap, imported greenware, her husband, Wayne, casts every piece from liquid clay. “We have nearly 2,000 molds,” she says.

Artistic family Terri Jones with Nathan, and husband Wayne.

When it is ready, she paints and fires the ceramics. “My living room is our ‘paint station’ this time of year,” she added.

Look for Jones’ ceramics also at the Gresham Farmer’s Market, or contact them at

Fund raising while community building
We met up with Karin Britton, president of the DDHS PTSA and chair of the decade-old event.

“As important as the funds it brings in,” Britton told us, “it also helps draw the community together. It gives us an opportunity to share crafts, companionship.”

But, the fundraising component is important, she adds. “Our event helps raise money for scholarships for our graduating seniors. We also widen it to include the entire school. Our goal is to make this a broader project.”

If you missed it, why not mark your 2007 calendar right now? Just jot down DDHS Bazaar on the first Saturday in December!

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

See alumnus Michael Allen Harrison’s personality and talent warm the Parkrose High auditorium as he comes “Back Home” ‚Ķ

Not often do school kids get to sing with an international recording star; Michael Allen Harrison seemed genuinely pleased to lead the Parkrose students in song.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Many families and students began their holiday season enjoying the genius and flair of award-winning Michael Allen Harrison in December.

The Parkrose High Theater was bedecked with simple-yet-elegant trim, adding a picture-postcard look to the event.

This, the fourth such annual event, featured performances by Parkrose High School A Cappella Choir, and the elementary school choirs from Prescott School and Russell Academy.

First, the choirs presented both traditional and modern Christmas songs.

Playing one of the Christmas arrangements that has made him an internationally renowned recording artist, Michael Allen Harrison entertains in the Parkrose High Theater.

Then, as Michael Allen Harrison walked out to sit at the grand piano, the audience broke into a thunderous applause. He played medleys of his original songs, show tunes, and holiday favorites.

We have a winner! This audience member correctly “named those tunes”.

After his “Show Tunes” medley, Harrison held an impromptu “quiz”, awarding an audience member with a CD for correctly naming both the tunes and shows.

As the combined choirs came back to the stage, Harrison talked with the audience, gave away more of his CD recordings. His relaxed, upbeat interaction with the audience was warm and engaging.

The combined choirs sing Silent Night.

Under Harrison’s direction, the choirs sang the Christmas song “Silent Night”. He asked the students to hum during the fourth verse, in honor of his friend, “musical saw” virtuoso, Allan deLay. Harrison reminded everyone how deLay, who passed away this year, had given much to Parkrose students over the year.

Proceeds from the program will be used help further develop the award-winning PHS choral program.

Talking with the audience, Harrison demonstrates his abilities as a skilled raconteur, in addition to being a consummate musician.

A moment with Michael
We spoke with Harrison backstage, and asked him why he comes back to Parkrose High to perform with kids.

“This is where I grew up. I love Parkrose. Anytime they ask me to come, I raise my hand and say, ‘Yes, of course.’

“There are all sorts of special feelings you get from different venues. But nothing compares to the feeling of being in the place where you grew up.

“The connection I feel here is so strong–both to those I’ve known in the past, and the young students here now. They embrace me and make me feel welcome. They make me feel like I’m still their neighbor and friend. When I come here, I’m truly home again.”

For more information about Harrison, his projects, catalog, and his performance schedule, see

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

See how many different agencies provided information about their services, at this unique event held by the David Douglas School District …

Families of students from the David Douglas School District learned about many different resources available to them at the Family Resource Fair.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Hundreds of students, and their parents, took advantage of the annual event provided by the David Douglas School District: The East Portland Family Resource Fair.

After touring the fair ourselves, we talked with the woman in charge of this year’s event, Catherine Nyhan, school counselor, of the Fir Ridge Campus, David Douglas Schools.

“We have 54 agencies, representing all kinds of services, here,” Nyhan told us. “They are here to meet, and help, members of our community.”

Nyhan said this annual event is important, because students, and their parents, can learn what community resources are available. “As winter sets in, this is a good time for them to be able to access information about energy conservation, housing, and food services.”

At the Fir Ridge Campus, Nyhan continued, about 82% of the students are on programs for free or reduced-cost lunches. “In other words, we are in a high-poverty area. They need a lot of help right now. We help families find the resources they need. When a student comes from a stable family, they tend to do better in school.”

Shanley McLaughlin, counselor at Ron Russell Middle School, is greeted by Fir Ridge Campus principal Ron Knight, on her way into the Resource Fair.

Resources help school counselors
Staffmembers from other schools in the area–like Shanley McLaughlin, a counselor at Ron Russell Middle School in Powellhurst-Gilbert–told us that this fair helps them discover ways to help their student’s families. “Each year that I come to the fair, I learn about services that will help our students do better.”

As we continued our tour on Nov. 30, we saw folks learning where they could get energy assistance, find free and low-cost food and clothing resources, avail themselves of counseling resources, find out how to access local community colleges, and more.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

See why this dance school is attracting both students and audiences to their programs …

CBA dancers Katrina Cunningham and Brooke Thornberry touch up their makeup, moments before they go onstage in “The Nutcracker”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For those hoping to read a review of Classical Ballet Academy’s production of “The Nutcracker”, here it is: It was wonderful!

The performance we saw, performed at St. Mary’s Academy, and delivered on its promise of presenting this holiday classic with professional costumes, extravagant sets, and original choreography.

“I thought it would be quaint,” Helen Hildebrandt told us following the afternoon performance early in December, “so, I took family, visiting from out-of-town, to see it. But we agree — the performance and staging was what you’d expect from a professional ballet company in any major city.”

Director says she loves Sellwood
Although she only opened the academy in 2004, Rigles said there are now 250 students ranging in age from 3 to 70 years. Several of her students have received scholarships for college dance programs. Last summer, ten students went to a professional dance program in Boston.

“The first classes I taught here in Portland were at the Sellwood Community Center,” Rigles said. “I wanted to start a school for people serious about ballet. The continuing support I’ve had from students and parents in inner Southeast Portland is why I chose to open the academy here.”

Behind the scenes
Rigles gave us unprecedented back-stage access, as her student dancers readied themselves for their performances.

“From September through December every year since I was three years old, ‘The Nutcracker’ has been part of my life,” Rigles told us as she adjusted a student’s costume. “I’ve danced all the different parts. It is something that is part of my life ‚Äì and now, it is part of my students’ lives, too.”

The costumes at CBA’s production of this holiday classic were charming and very professional. Here, young dancers make their final preparations to go on stage.

In every room backstage at St. Mary’s Academy, dancers were putting on their makeup and adjusting their hairstyles. Others were limbering up and stretching, getting ready to perform athletic ballet moves.

CBA’s Director, Sarah Rigles, gives her students a heartfelt pep talk moments before the curtain goes up on their performance of “The Nutcracker”.

A group of young dancers looked nervous as they stood in the hallway. Rigles gathered them around her and gave each of young ballerinas a small memento. “You have danced these parts so well, so many times,” she said sincerely. “You are prepared. I’m so proud of you. You’ll do really well. Now, have fun and do well.”

Parent volunteers lend a hand
As we reported on the students’ backstage preparation, we noticed many adults, calmly helping out. “We couldn’t stage a show of this magnitude without the help of our 150 parent volunteers,” Rigles told us, as she rushed past more than a dozen backstage assistants — prop and set managers and costumers.

As the show’s opening overture was about to start, we made our way into the audience. We were greeted by usher John Southgate, formerly an East Portland Development Commission manager, now Economic Development Manager of Hillsboro. “Even though we’ve moved to the west side,” Southgate said, “Our kids love this school. It is an honor to help out.”

Teaches more than dance
Taking their seats were the family of eastside attorney and Sellwood resident Pete Diamond. His daughter, Caroline, 7, was about to dance as a mouse in this show. And 4-year-old Phoebe had her turn onstage earlier in the day, when she performed in the academy’s scaled-down version of the show, “The Nutcracker Suite”.

“What they learn goes beyond dancing,” Diamond said. “It gives them confidence and poise. You can see how the kids ‘grow up’ through the program. Even if they stop dancing at some point, they’ve still gained a lot, in terms learning dance, and becoming more confident ladies and men.”

He added that all students get personal attention. “They connect with all their students, regardless of age, and help make even the youngest students feel comfortable performing on stage.”

Curtain time! Nearly every seat at the St. Mary’s Academy theater was filled as this holiday classic came to life.

The large, 650-seat theater St. Mary’s Academy was filled to capacity as the house lights dimmed and the production began. It was, indeed, a very good show.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Why do folks flock to outer East Portland’s only botanical park on the first Saturday in December, every year? Look at this and find out ‚Ķ

Diana Schmett and Kimberly Schmett, here shopping at the Leach Garden Christmas sale for table decorations.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When people think of Leach Garden, at the “end” of SE 122nd Ave., just south of Foster Rd, it’s images of spring, and summer walks through nature, that come to mind.

But savvy holiday do-it-yourself craftspeople also know the Garden as the place to pick up the things they need to make great decorations!

Volunteers pointed out to us Barbara Hamilton as being the one in charge. “I’ve had every volunteer position with Friends of Leach Gardens over 23 years,” she explained.

She went on to tell us that this event–their annual Christmas Holiday Bazaar–has been held on the first weekend of December for more than two decades. “It is a major source of funding for us. The Gardens has a small paid staff, and a lot of volunteers.”

Hamilton said it all started by simply providing pre-cut, fresh greenery. “People come and pick out anything they want to decorate. We sell it by the bag. It’s very reasonably priced.”

For the past few seasons, she added, they’ve added ready-made swags, wreaths, and table designs to their offerings.

Lee and Gregg Everhart, filling their bags with holiday greenery to make decorations, at Leach Garden.

Plus, the Leach Garden Gift Shop was doing brisk business, too. Shoppers checked out gift items ranging from gardening accessories to lavender soap products.

In addition to the raising of funds, Hamilton told us, “The event helps people see the variety of greenery we grow in the garden. It attracts folks to see Leach Gardens who have never been here before.

“Even in the winter, there is always something colorful and blooming here. We like people to come into the garden to see what we’re doing.”

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

It wasn’t Sturgis, but inner Southeast Portland, where more than 3,000 leather-clad bikers gathered. They weren’t there to rumble. Read this article and you’ll find that even the toughest-looking biker-brothers have a soft spot for sick kids ‚Ķ

Even organizers say they were surprised, and pleased, by the turnout for the 2006 Toy Run for Shriner’s Hospital.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The sun glints off acres of chrome as motorcyclists ‚Äì yes, leather-clad bikers ‚Äì gather by the thousands in a parking lot at SE 17th Avenue and Holgate Boulevard. A band, “Much More Country”, belts out a patriotic-themed tune a city block away from we stand, at the far end of the TriMet bus facility in S.E. Portland.

“Is a riot or rumble about to break out?” we wonder. We ask who is in charge. “Santa Claus, of course!” is the reply. A feeling of relief floods over us.

Through a sea of over 3,000 parked Harleys and other bikes, we’re led to a jolly, white-whiskered St. Nick. Santa is sitting on his ride, a purple Harley-Davidson Road King he calls “Barney”. He’s attended by three stylish lady elves.

Santa and his elves are the official ambassadors for the ABATE Toy Run for the Shriner’s Hospital.

“Ho, ho ho! Welcome to the annual Toy Run for the Shriners’ Hospital, my boy,” greets Santa. “This event has gone on for years, on the first Saturday in December. We love going to the hospital and giving the kids gifts. I love everybody that participates in this.”

Shriners’ Hospital spokesman Fred P. Swansoan stands among the bikers gathered to help kids at their facility.

Event aids Shriners’ mission
Fred P. Swansoan, a volunteer van driver for Shriners’ Hospital, is wearing his organization’s trademark red fez. “This event is truly the big deal of the year for us. Both the toys and cash generated by this event plays a significant role in our mission to help children with severe medical needs. Underneath those leather jackets and chaps, you’ll find folks with big hearts; people who care about kids.”

The chaplain intones the event’s blessing, saying, “We wish everyone who came here has safe rides, health, good spirits, and a long life.”

Participant John Kachur says this is a way bikers give back to their community.

A tall, burly biker, John Kachur, is getting ready for the ride that will take them up “Pill Hill” to the hospital. “This is a lot of fun,” he tells us. “What a great day to get out! Look at the bikes and the people.”

We ask why so many motorcyclists, like him, are participating. “The connection is, we care. Pretty much everybody has had a kid, or has known a sick kid at one time or another. This is a fun way to give back to the community,” Kachur says as he roars his Harley thunderously to life.

Because only a few of the thousands of bikes will actually fit in the parking area in front of the hospital, Girl Scout Troop 1561 in Gateway helps stuff toys the bikers brought to the rally point in a TriMet bus for delivery to the kids.

As the bikes rev up by the thousands, the percussive energy they radiate can be felt through one’s body as much as it can be heard.

The gate opens, and the bikers form a rolling parade out of the lot, heading north on S.E. 17th Avenue to Powell Boulevard, across the Ross Island Bridge, and up the hill to the Shriners’ hospital.

Four abreast, the thousands of bikers start their journey toward Dornbecher Hospital from their rallying point in inner Southeast Portland.

Changing the image of bikers
This event, we learn, is sanctioned by A.B.A.T.E. of Oregon, Inc. (“A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments”). Mike Friend, this year’s event coordinator suggested we talk with 16 year veteran of the event, Ed Dahl.

“26 years ago, ABATE was started by motorcycle clubs to lobby for cyclist rights,” Dahl explains. And, 26 years ago, twelve people decided to do something charitable. It has grown into this.”

More than just bringing toys, the Toy Run also raises funds that help the Portland Shriners’ Hospital buy specialized equipment, such as communication computers and power wheel chairs, and to provide van conversions. “We’re trying to give these kids things to help them become more self-sufficient.”

Part of the event is an annual raffle. This year’s grand prize was a new Harley. “In addition to the toys, we gave $45,000 worth of equipment to eight patients. And, we collected another $6,000, on the day of the run.”

What most people don’t see, Dahl tells us, is that the patents give them a gift list. “We do our best to fill the orders. The night before the Run, we go up to the hospital, wrap gifts, and have them ready for Santa.”

Just a cool photo of the bikers ready to make their ride up Pill Hill.

Yes, there is a Santa
Dhal recalls a boy at the hospital who said he didn’t believe in Santa. “When he opened his gifts, and found his wishes fulfilled, he looked up with big eyes and told us, ‘I’ve changed my mind. I do believe in Santa.’ Times like this will put a tear in your eye.”

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

The good news: Neither deaths nor serious injuries were reported. But how wild was it out there? Take a look at these stories, for photos you won’t see anywhere else ‚Ķ

Our “storm tour” starts with the report of a live, power line down over a car in inner SE Portland at SE 32nd Ave. at Johnson Creek Boulevard

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
While normal people stay in their homes, flashlights and canned food at the ready – the prediction of a major magnitude storm is an invitation to a reporter to gas up his car, charge up camera batteries, put on rain gear, and head into the night.

We start out in the peak of the storm on November 14, during the early evening hours. The journal of our tour of East Portland begins in inner Southeast Portland.

The occupant safely got out of this car, with the help of Portland Fire & Rescue, after live power lines fell on the car in inner SE Portland.

SE 32nd Ave. at Johnson Creek Boulevard
As a vehicle comes east, over the gully bridge on SE 32nd Ave., a power line falls on a car. We learn from rescue crews the motorist was safely removed from the vehicle.

However, the avenue remains closed for hours while PGE crews repair the downed lines and restored power.

11000 block of East Burnside

No, it’s not a giant Slinky toy ‚Äì that’s a high-voltage feeder cable that closed East Burnside St. between SE 102nd and 122nd Avenue for hours.

A 7.3 Kilovolt feeder line breaks free and shorts out on the pavement amid a shower of sparks. No one is reported injured in incident.

We’re told that the line broke free a couple of hours before we arrived, in the height of the afternoon peak traffic hour; quite a traffic jam occurred, as motorists were blocked from going eastbound on Burnside as they returned home from work.

After taking photos of the downed line, we meet Al Davis, a pizza delivery driver who made the mistake of trying to bring his stack of three pies east on Burnside from SE 108th Ave. “I knew I should have walked in from SE 113th Ave.,” he said. Asked why he was out delivering pizza on a stormy night, Davis shrugged, “Their power is out and they want a hot meal. The pizza will get through!”

SE 157th Ave and Halsey St.
We drive east on Halsey slowly to avoid branches, some of them hood-high, in the roadway. The night is suddenly split with blue-white light. Streetlights blink out and homes go dark. Electric power is arcing atop a utility pole as a tree sways into the lines.

The brilliant light doesn’t last long enough for us to get a photograph ‚Äì but ends with a spectacular shower of sparks that rain down over the EXN News Cruiser as we drive by.

As our eyes adjust to the deep darkness of a rainy night, we see the stormy sky illuminated with brilliant blue all around us, as power lines come loose and trees tumble.

15800 block of Glisan

Although the blinding arc from the energized power line taken down by the tree lights the area, it’s over before our camera cycles up for a photo‚Ķthe line, now lying sizzling on the ground.

We’re on our way to the 15800 block of NE Glisan St., on a call of a splintered tree and power line down. We arrive on scene and prepare to photograph this storm-caused problem. “Stay back,” an officer warns, “it’s still live I think.” As he speaks those words, the thick power lines come to life, sizzling with electricity, arcing and sparking both in the trees and on the ground. Within an instant, darkness again envelops us as we look at one another. The officer shakes his head and says, “Be safe, David.”

Driving during a storm that has knocked out so much power, one gets used to the acrid smell of burning fuse flares. Their brilliant glow illuminate otherwise darkened intersections with an eerie red-orange light, warning motorists that the traffic control signals are out.

SE 162 Ave. and Mill St.

“Thank God it was a south wind,” said the residents, looking at the uprooted tree that blocked most of SE 162nd Ave. at Mill St.

A tree, tall enough to block both southbound lanes and the center turn lane on SE 162nd Ave. at Mill St. lies in the roadway. “We’re sure glad it fell toward the street,” say the occupants of the small house where the tree once stood. “I’m kind of concerned about the others.”

This tree fall takes out power to three homes, but the remainder of this neighborhood still has power.

SE 32 and Lambert St.

A mighty Elm in Eastmoreland lost its grip and toppled over during the windstorm. Fortunately, it wasn’t tall enough to damage the home across the street.

Although there are occasional strong gusts, the wind starts to die down. The temperature drops by nearly 10 degrees within a half hour, signaling the front is moving through.

We take a swing back through inner Southeast Portland to see how the stately American Elms have weathered the storm in Eastmoreland.

It didn’t take long for us to find the call we’d heard earlier on the emergency radio ‚Äì a giant Elm has fallen across SE Lambert St. at 32nd Ave. It’s uprooted, lifting the concrete sidewalk and the neatly-trimmed turf like a carpet.

The branches of the tree are entangled with power, telephone, and cable lines. The wires are holding it like a marionette on strings. Surprisingly, even to the PGE crew evaluating the situation, the power remains on to homes in the neighborhood.

The crews arrive and carefully start to untangle the tree from the lines as they work into the night.

The next day … again at SE 32nd and Johnson Creek

The storm strikes again: Traffic is again snarled in inner SE Portland as a truck snags a drooping bundle of telephone lines and rips it from the utility pole.

On Friday, December 15, traffic is, once again, snarled at this intersection. A large bundle of telephone and cable-TV lines is drooping across SE 32nd Avenue – a situation caused when power lines went down the night before.

A delivery truck snags the bundle and ‚Äì “Can you hear me now?” ‚Äì snaps the line, causing it to whiplash into the parking lot of the Mini-Mart, and drape itself over a pickup truck.

The fire crew from Portland Fire & Rescue Station 20 is on hand to keep people away from the downed line. By the look at the cable ends, it’s going to be a long night for repair crews as they, wire-by-wire, reconnect the area’s telephone service.

Power restoration efforts
More than 200 Portland General Electric crews are on the job, according to PGE spokesperson, Ariana White.

“At the peak of the storm, about 250,000 customers were without service,” White told us. “As of 2 p.m. today (Dec. 15), nearly 144,000 are still out of service across our Portland.”

The areas of greatest damage were in Gresham and Southwest Portland, White says.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

See what happens when a cat lover dedicates her studio’s open house to the care of feral cats ‚Ķ

Karen Kraus, executive director of Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon helps Dorothy Steele show off a “cat platter” which the artist is raffling off to help fund the spaying and neutering of feral cats.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
This time of year, many in Inner Southeast Portland’s creative community hold open houses and sales.

What is special about the event at the Dorothy Steele Studio on December 8?

“This year,” Steele told us without pause, “in addition to raffling off a ‘cat platter’, a percentage of our sales go to the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon.”

Steele said she’s been making colorful cat- and nature-themed pottery for 25 years, 16 of them at her location in the Brooklyn neighborhood.

“I’m a real cat lover, and I’ve always done cat-themed pottery. And, I know that the Feral Cat Coalition volunteers do a great job of helping keep the population of feral cats down.”

The artist said her work has evolved into creating pottery decorated with impressions of plants native to Oregon. “I press them into the clay to make the design, and lots of vibrant color. My work is functional, food-safe, and you can use it in the microwave. Above all, it speaks of Oregon.” To learn more, see Steele’s Internet website:

Works of five artists are on display, and on sale, at the Dorothy Steele Studio in Brooklyn.

Reducing feral cat population
Steele introduced us to Karen Kraus, executive director of Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon. “Spaying and neutering is important, because there is a cat overpopulation problem. It isn’t just in Portland; all across the country there are too many feral cats. Our program is for feral and stray cats who have a caregiver kind enough to feed them, but who understands that these cats shouldn’t reproduce.”

Kraus said they’ve spayed or neutered 3,000 cats a year, and have assisted with more than 27,000 cats since they started the program.

The organization holds two neuter clinics a month near the Rose Garden. If you care about a feral, stray, or barn cat, find out more by calling (503) 797-2606, or by visiting

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Read what Powellhurst Gilbert neighbors learned about their new park – and plans being put in place to mitigate fires on Powell Butte …

Portland Parks Bureau naturalist Mark Hughes and Portland Fire and Rescue planner Chris Brian talk about the Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan for Powell Butte.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
Not long ago, neighbors in Powellhurst-Gilbert learned a lot about plans to improve Powell Butte, add amenities to their large neighborhood, and reduce crime.

Powell Butte Plans
Portland Parks Bureau naturalist Mark Hughes and Portland Fire and Rescue planner Chris Brian talked about the Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan.

“The city started developing this plan in 2004,” Brian began. “This is a city-level plan to consider contingencies for dealing with problems caused by fires, floods and weather. We’re looking at the smaller piece, namely wildfires.”

Chris said the plan was being developed with a grant from FEMA to develop emergency wildfire plans for large, urban natural areas such as Powell Butte. “We’re working with the Parks Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services to address the issues in city.

“We’re trying to clean out woody growth that can fuel fires,” explained the Parks Bureau ecologist, Mark Hughes. “This is a three year project.” So far, he added, the project has involved primarily discussion and planning. Much of the clean-out work will be done during the summer of 2007.

Hughes said, as the parks ecologist for Powell Butte, he’s responsible for this large outer East Portland park. “I try to figure out what will make a healthy, sustainable park. Our goal is to develop grasslands and watersheds.”

Under a master plan developed in 1996, and a conditional use update three years ago, the 600-acre park is to have about 300 acres of grassland and 300 acres of forest surrounding the top of the butte.

The park ecologist said the butte is also a wildlife refuge. “It has 30 black tailed deer and a number of coyotes. About 160 species of birds live there, due to the diversity of grass and trees.”

Under the plan, Hughes assured that the forest will look the same. “The butte is infected with English Hawthorne and Himalaya blackberry,” continued Hughes. “Both of these non-native plants are tenaciously invasive. We’ll remove them as best we can. We need to change the grassland from non-native European orchard grasses to native. And, the master plan calls for planting Oregon Oak and Willamette Valley wildflowers.

“We’ve had three larger fires in six years,” Hughes commented. The first was 10 acres and looked like arson. The next year, a five-acre fire was touched off with a cigarette lighter. Later that summer there was a 45-acre fire on a hot, windy day. By better managing grass land, we can reduce fire danger.”

Powellhurst Gilbert HydroPark
Portland’s Water Commissioner Randy Leonard started the idea of turning fenced-off bureau lands into neighborhood parks. It was announced at this neighborhood association meeting that the newest park being planned for outer East Portland will be at SE 138th Ave. and Center St.

“We’re considering what amenities to put into the HydroPark,” said Portland Parks Bureau’s area manager Tom Klutz. “We’ll survey people who live around the park; they’ll have to contend with positive or negatives that come from the development of the park.

Crime issues in southern outer East Portland
“We’re seeing more graffiti,” said Portland Police Bureau’s Sgt. Preston. “Here members of the ‘EK’ gangs have been a problem. We’ve identified houses here associated with the gang. They are actively involved in the drug trade, cars thefts, burglaries, dope rip-offs.”

The sergeant suggested reporting any criminal activities and immediately cleaning graffiti as ways to help reduce gang activities.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

The East Portland Chamber of Commerce continues to be “the voice for business in East Portland” ‚Äì read this and you’ll see why you should attend ‚Ķ

Meet the 2007 officers for the chamber: Norm Rice, First Class Properties, treasurer; Greg Zuffrea, BC Graphics, president; Ken Turner, Eastport Plaza, VP; Jill Critchfield, Pacific HR, Secretary; Dan La Grande, La Grande Public Relations, board member; Rich Sorem, Stewart and Tunno Insurance, board member; Pam Olson, Farmer’s Insurance Agent, Ambassador chair; Jeff Bennett, Warren Allen, LLP, board member and advisory council; Monty Knittel, Adventist Health, board member. Not available for this photo was board member Tim Brunner, Axis Design.

At their November meetings, the East Portland Chamber of Commerce announced its new board members, heard about transportation issues from PDOT’s executive, and gave a donation to Kiwanis.

Making Portland move

Portland Office of Transportation’s Sue Keil runs down the budget numbers for roads and forecasts street building and repair activities at a “Good Morning East Portland” networking meeting in November.

What’s happening to our roads ‚Äì and why ‚Äì was the information brought to the chamber by Sue Keil from the Portland Office of Transportation (PDOT) on November 15.

Talking first about revenues, she said that funds supporting road maintenance, signals and streetlights come from gas tax and vehicle licenses, and are distributed by the state. Portland, Keil said, gets $197.7 Million in the 06/07 budget year. “The only growth has been from increased parking meter revenue.”

“Our budget isn’t growing,” Keil told the business people. “Revenue has slightly declined as a result of more fuel efficient cars. The tax is still fixed at $0.34 a gallon. However, the cost of cost of construction has increased substantially. And, health care costs have increased among our 750 employees.”

Of their budget, the PDOT executive said, about $50 Million that goes for general operations and activities.

“Transportation is the largest asset in the city ‚Äì it’s about $5 Billion worth of streets, sidewalls, curbs, signals and lights. The largest portion is pavement. And, the condition of a lot of our pavement is deteriorating.

The problem, Keil said, is a shortfall of $3,400,000 needed to keep pavement at its current condition. “To bring it up to the proper level would cost nearly $9.5 Million.”

Keil credited Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams ‚Äì the “traffic commissioner” ‚Äì for helping to structure requests for the city’s needs over the amount budgeted for maintenance.

This request for one-time general fund resources – a program to run through the end of 2008 – was detailed on a printout given to attendees.

Under the maintenance section, the request indicated $500,000 going for the Pothole Hotline repair pilot program.

Looking over the “Safety” budget items, we noticed that bicycle and pedestrian safety programs were budgeted at $900,000; yet vehicle safety improvements at “high crash intersections” was only $1,200,000.

We asked why, when vehicles pay for road improvements through fuel taxes, biker and walker safety issues were funded at nearly the same level.

Keil said that at budget meetings, the bicycle lobby attends in large numbers. If vehicle drivers and business people came to such meetings, she suggested, perhaps the budget allocation outcome might be different.

Chamber members help Kiwanis Camp

Kiwanis Mt. Hood Camp for Disabled Children and Adults director Todd Thayer is about to accept a check from Russellville Kiwanis president Jason Goodwill and East Portland Chamber Cabaret producer, Kevin Minkoff.

As you may recall, last year, members of the chamber performed two shows to raise funds for the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp.

At another meeting, Past Russellville Kiwanis Club President, Jason Goodwill, thanked all the participants in the $1000 fund raising effort.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Learn why families with young children who discover Brooklyn Bay’s “Play after Play” sessions return again and again ‚Ķ

Kri Schlafer, Marc Otto, and Melanya Helene perform the short play, “The Most Wonderful Gift” at the Brooklyn Bay Performance Space.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The theater’s name, “Brooklyn Bay Performance Space”, conjures up images of a playhouse on the waterfront. It isn’t. The “bay” refers to an industrial work space, not a body of water.

And, some say the location – due south of the SE 17th Avenue flyover Powell Boulevard, at the end of a dead-end street in the Inner Southeast Brooklyn neighborhood – is nearly impossible to find.

But, week after week, parents of young children make their way through the industrial area to participate in a delightful, one-of-a-kind form of family entertainment.

Founder and artistic director Melanya Helene and her crew have transformed an industrial storage unit into a warm, intimate theater space.

When we visited Brooklyn Bay Performance Space on December 2, families were coming in to experience a session of “Play after Play”, featuring the story, “The Most Wonderful Gift”.

First, the play
“We start with a 20-minute performance,” Helene told us, “usually based on a folk tale. Our story, throughout December, came to us from the Middle East. Our method is kelmanworks, a performance style based on mindfulness and engagement with the audience.”

The lights dimmed, and the costumed players took the stage. The actors immediately engaged their audience members, particularly the children. The story of “The Most Wonderful Gift” was expressively told, enhanced with music and movement.

“We keep the play simple so the children can use their imagination to enter into the story with us,” Helene later said.

Engaging in “Original Play” the Brooklyn Bay actors interact directly with their young audience members.

Then, playtime
After the performance, the actors changed out of their costumes and set up large, clean gym mats. The kids and parents were instructed to sit around the perimeter of the mats.

“We play with the kids in a form called ‘Original Play’. It is based on non-violence and non-competition.” Helene developed this form of play, based on what she said she learned from Fred Donaldson.

Original Play looks like lively, energetic fun. But it isn’t a free-for-all. Children are invited onto the mats by the actors. The “playing” is free-form, physical (to the abilities of the child), and active ‚Äì yet, at the same time, done with an unspoken sense of discipline. “Actually, it is partially based on some forms of martial arts. But it is play, not competition,” Helene explained. “In a global sense, everything we do is about–in a word–peace.”

“The ‘play’ after our performance is a practice for us,” related Helene. “It allows us to be directly involved with them. We’re not behind a TV screen. We’re right there, and they interact with us.”

Worth the effort to find
“Play after Play” at Brooklyn Bay starts at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday mornings. We won’t attempt to give you directions! Call to make a reservation, and they’ll show you the way. Contact them at (503) 772-4005 or see

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

See the massive pipe organ that got a real workout when this musical artist visited Hazelwood a few weeks ago …

Dame Gillian Weir played classical music on the concert pipe organ at the Sunnyside Seventh-day Adventist church with such skill, it sounded like an orchestra.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Dame Gillian Weir, visiting Portland from England, is hailed as one of the world’s foremost musical artists. Her career as an internationally-acclaimed concert organist, performing worldwide at the great festivals and with leading orchestras and conductors, has established her as a distinguished musician.

A few weeks ago, Weir demonstrated her virtuosity and outstanding musicianship – as well as her personal charisma – as she performed at the Sunnyside Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hazelwood.

Dame Weir, at the console.

“This organ,” she told us before presenting her program of ten selections, “is an absolute delight on which to perform.” Audience members showed their appreciation with their applause as Weir played works of Bonnet, Scarlatti, Bach and others.

The event, offered free to the public, was well attended. “Hosting concerts, like this one, is our way of connecting with the community,” a representative of the church said.

Watch our Community Calendar for other great concerts – often presented without charge – at various venues throughout East Portland!

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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