Centennial neighbors’ new park gets a new name

While the new, attractive playground is off limits, other areas of this outer East Portland park are now open, with restrictions. See how Lynchview Park has been massively improved, and why it has a new name …

Here in outer East Portland, adjoining Patrick Lynch Elementary School in the Centennial neighborhood, the formerly-named Lynchview Park has gotten a makeover, followed by a new name – Verdell Burdine Rutherford Park.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Starting in 2017, volunteers began working with Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) to develop a “Master Plan” for Lynchview Park, in the Centennial Community Association neighborhood at SE 167th Avenue and Market Street.

By the way, the site improvements were part of PP&R 2014 Parks Replacement Bond program – and its funding also flowed from Parks System Development Charges.

-2 Here’s how planners envisioned the new play area of this park. PP&R illustration

The committee had settled on a plan presented at an April 5, 2018, open house – showing how a “big empty field would be turned into a wonderful, all-ability playground with sports fields,” as PP&R Bond Community Engagement spokesperson Maija Spencer said at the meeting.

> To read about that open house, see our article,
“Lynchview Park plans solidify”, CLICK HERE.

With the construction fences finally down, the new play are looks inviting, and just as neighbors wished.

In April 2019, Portland Parks Commissioner Nick Fish approved additional System Development Charge funds for the project, to allow for the installation of a “Portland Loo” permanent restroom as part of the improvements at this Park, instead of a “Porta-Potty”.

After a year of wrangling with permits, contracts, and other issues necessary to building in a new park, construction began on May 13 last year, and continued throughout last winter.

This area — “paved” with a soft, resilient surface – is perfect for the rambunctious play of little kids.

As construction wrapped up in March, the planned public art was installed. During intervals of warm and dry weather in early summer, contractors began installing the poured-in-place rubber surfacing.

COVID-19 delays grand opening
Due to COVID-19 coronavirus concerns stipulating social distancing, the park’s official opening has been deferred.

“A community celebration will be held when it is safe to hold large public gatherings,” Spencer promised East Portland News.

Older kids will certainly enjoy the challenge of playing on this unique equipment.

Playground remains off limits
“The construction fences have been taken down; and, the park’s grassy areas and paths are open for relaxation, recreation, and reflection. However, we ask people visiting the park to abide by PP&R’s parameters regarding social distancing and group gatherings,” Spencer added.

Unsaid is that the new play area is officially closed, but the sidewalks, grass and other areas are officially open.

Racist concerns lead to park’s name change
Early residents Patrick and Catherine Lynch donated a parcel of land for Lynch School, the area’s first schoolhouse. When a more substantial campus was constructed in 1957, it was called Lynch View, as was the adjoining park – until the name was later contracted into “Lynchview”.

The school was renamed Patrick Lynch Elementary School recently. This was because many newer families coming into the school district associated the name with a verb involved in America’s violent racist history, according to Centennial School District Superintendent Paul Dr. Paul E. Coakley.

Before his passing in January 2020, then Parks Commissioner Nick Fish directed a naming committee comprised of nine community members from the Centennial Community Group neighborhood, the Rosewood Initiative, and Patrick Lynch Elementary School, to recommend a new name.

This new park is named after the nationally-recognized, prominent Portland civil rights leader, Verdell Burdine Rutherford. PP&R image

After reviewing multiple options, the committee chose to honor Verdell Burdine Rutherford, as revealed on June 9 by PP&R officials and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.

This is the first Portland Park named after a prominent and beloved Black female leader.

According information provided by PP&R:

“In 1936, Verdell married Otto Rutherford and settled in Portland. Together, they were leaders of the Oregon chapter of the NAACP, a national civil rights organization; and oversaw one of the NAACP’s biggest victories – the passage of the Public Accommodations Act of 1953 which outlawed discrimination in public places on the basis of race, religion, or national origin.

“Rutherford was also an historian of the Black community in Portland. In 2011, a decade after Verdell’s passing, her daughter Charlotte gifted her historical collection to Portland State University. It remains accessible for academic research and public use, as desired by Verdell.

This unique “water feature” is sure to be a hit, especially on hot, summer days.

So, enjoy your new park! But please keep in mind social distancing, and wear a face covering when in the presence of others. To view the official webpage dedicated to Verdell Burdine Rutherford Park, CLICK HERE.

© 2020 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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