Ed Benedict Skate Plaza now officially open

Find out why officials came out, made speeches, and held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open Portland’s new “cool” place to jump, grind – and oh, yes – skate, in outer East Portland’s Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood …

The new skate park having been open for a couple of weeks, this “inline skater” shows he’s already practiced moves like this rail-grind at the newly-constructed Ed Benedict Skate Plaza in the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
More than a year in the making, the new Ed Benedict Skate Plaza, located on the north edge of Ed Benedict Park on SE Powell Boulevard and SE 104th Avenue, was officially dedicated on May 30.

You’ve probably seen “skate parks” – featuring large dips and bowls, resembling empty swimming pools. But, Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) spokesperson Beth Sorensen told us a “skate plaza” is different.

“It provides a true, street-skating environment, with its benches, stairs, banks, handrails, and other elements typically found in an urban setting. Street skating is the most popular style of skateboarding,” Sorenson said.

Not satisfied riding on flat, level pavement, skateboarders like this one take advantage of Skate Plaza features to get some “air time”.

The Ed Benedict Skate Plaza was also designed to function as a public plaza, we learned – equipped with ample seating, open flat spaces for gathering, and public art for visual interest. “This makes it quality public space that is inviting to the general public as well as to skateboarders, added Sorenson.”

Zari Santner, Director of Portland Parks & Recreation, tells about the man for whom the park was named.

The Skate Plaza was already in use when PP&R Director Zari Santner asked skaters, neighbors, and officials to gather around for a brief ceremony.

“Let’s go way back,” Santner began. “This park is named after Ed Benedict, a neighborhood resident and activist. He was a neighborhood association Chair, and former state legislator. I had the honor of working with him back in the 1980s, when this area was all abandoned lots and abandoned homes, purchased to put a freeway through here. Mr. Benedict worked very hard to convince the Department of Transportation to turn this property back to the city of Portland, to make it into a park.

“His vision was that this would become a community park, for young and old to recreate – as good as or better than, Lents Park the only large community park in the area.

“I’m sure his spirit is smiling and is with us today, because this place turned into a great community park. We have playgrounds, soccer fields, picnic fields, and the Portland Memory Park. And now we have this incredible skating facility that engages young people to be active, without any programming or organized activities.

Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman – the former Parks commissioner who started the project – outlines the Plaza’s ecological features.

Next up, the former Parks Commissioner who started the project, Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, told how environmental sustainability goals guided the design and construction of the Skate Plaza.

“This is the first environmentally-sensitive skate plaza ever constructed,” Saltzman exclaimed. “The environmental guidelines for this project were influenced by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system. The project’s environmentally-sensitive development was based on design and construction procedures, material use, and stormwater management.”

Saltzman then pointed out the bio-swales and the recycled materials used in the park, among other features.

The current Parks Commissioner, Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, promises more skate parks and plazas will be built.

Before the ceremony, Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish – the current Parks Commissioner – confided, “As you may know it’s not my sport. But this is the next evolution in skating areas. I’m glad we’re providing a state-of-the-art Skate Plaza here in outer East Portland. But, you couldn’t pay me to do the stunts these folks are doing.”

Later, during the ceremony, Fish told the crowd of about 200 people, “Facilities like this don’t happen without partnership. In this case, it was a partnership of Portland Parks and Recreation, the Bureau of Environmental Services, the Portland Development Commission, and the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association. In particular, thank you to the neighborhood association and our Parks advocates.”

Fish said that a total of 14 skate parks have been planned. “I’m making a commitment here today, and I want you to hold me to it. Dan Saltzman and I will not be satisfied until all these skate parks are built. He and I will team up and continue to seek funding, and make sure they are built.”

He said that this particular project was also made possible by a grant from Vans Sporting Goods, which contributed $10,000 toward building the park.

Wrapping up his statement, Fish said, “It’s our goal to have the world’s best network of parks, natural areas, and recreation facilities, including trails. The dedication of this marvelous facility puts us one step further down the road toward being world-class in all the facilities we provide. Thank you for supporting our work.”

Gathering to snip the ribbon: Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman; a young skate enthusiast, Zari Santner; Director of Portland Parks & Recreation, Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish; East Portland Parks advocate and co-founder of the Gateway Green project, Linda Robinson; and Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association Chair Mark White – and a half-dozen others – officially open the Ed Benedict Skate Plaza.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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