‘Campers’ invade Gateway Green Park

As their crowdfunding project concludes on October 15, supporters are poised to begin building this unique park. But first, they’ve some resettlement to do …

Now that the land is owned by Portland Parks & Recreation, at Gateway Green bicycle and pedestrian park, in outer East Portland between two freeways, the first phase of construction is set to begin – as soon as “residents” are relocated. FoGG provided graphic

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Almost exactly two years ago, Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) closed a real estate transaction, purchasing a 25-acre strip of land between I-205 and I-84, and just west of Portland’s Woodland Park Neighborhood and the City of Maywood Park, from the Oregon Department of Transportation. The goal: To create a new park called Gateway Green.

But, with funding scarce to build out the unique bike and walking park, construction has been on hold while a nonprofit organization, Friends of Gateway Green (FoGG), raised funds. Their current appeal ends October 15.

With some “money in the bank”, PP&R is set to build out the first phase of the project.

“We expect construction staging around October 10 to 12, and expect the construction fence to be completed by October 14,” reported PP&R Public Information Officer Mark Ross.

“The construction of the off-road biking “DirtLab” is expected to begin on October 19, and consist of about 45 workdays,” Ross added.

Campers, several of whom moved in after being rousted from the Springwater Corridor Trail, now occupy some of Gateway Green.

However, potentially standing in the way of progress, is a growing homeless encampment on the property, said FoGG Board President Linda Robinson.

“As more campers are moving into the Gateway Green area, we were a little concerned that might happen when they started clearing the campsites from the Springwater Corridor Trail,” Robinson told East Portland News.

Gateway Green is located along, and connected to, the I-205 Multiuse Path, which runs from Clackamas up to Portland International Airport,” pointed out Robinson.

Before construction can begin, these campers will have to be removed from the property.

PF&R has been working with Portland’s homeless since midsummer, and started canvassing the area in September, Ross said.

“Starting on September 19, Portland Park Rangers and area social service providers began outreach efforts to people [camping] at Gateway Green,” Ross told East Portland News.

“It is heartbreaking, but there are people who are living on the property, as Portland is faced with a crisis around housing and people experiencing homelessness.

“Camping in parks and on park properties has always been, and continues to be, prohibited,” Ross observed.

Clean-out crews have their work cut out for them, as they remove these camps – and others hidden in the gullies – before construction can begin at Gateway Green.

Parks and natural areas are not designed for habitation, Ross explained. “This is even truer when the area becomes a construction site.  But PP&R recognizes that it is not a crime simply to be homeless.”

Rangers, who identify people camping in park areas try to from relationships with them, connecting them with resources and agencies such as JOIN. “If people do not wish to accept such services, Rangers’ options are limited,” Ross said.

“The other goal of the outreach is to inform people that October 3, is the start of cleanup of any debris or structures at the Gateway Green site; anyone staying there must move,” Ross added.

At an event, FoGG’s Linda Robinson pitches support for the capital campaign project.

Donate before October 15
Gateway Green will be an outstanding site for off-road cycling, as well as hiking and a place to reflect, among other uses – if they can raise the needed funds.

Until October 15, FoGG is has in place a crowdfunding effort to help realize this unique public/private partnership that received a Metro “Nature In Neighborhoods” capital grant, which they are required to match.

“If you have not already donated, or feel like you can give more, please donate today,” said Robinson. “Every amount helps, so do what fits your budget and lifestyle – working together we can reach our goal!”

CLICK HERE to open their secure, official crowdfunding webpage.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News


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