Festive groundbreaking celebrates construction at Parklane Park

INCLUDES CELEBRATORY VIDEO | Watch, as lots of people – from Centennial neighbors to elected officials – shovel dirt, when long-awaited improvements to this park are getting underway …

Centennial neighbors, parks advocates and elected officials gather for the official, and long-awaited, groundbreaking ceremony in Parklane Park.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Because East Portland News has been following the efforts of neighbors in the Centennial Community Association to expand Parklane Park from 5 to 25 acres for more than a dozen years. That the  construction had already begun on it in early April didn’t reduce our enthusiasm for the “official” groundbreaking ceremony held in May 6.

The prediction of rain by didn’t deter the many who turned out for the Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) ceremony held under high overcast skies.

There is a significant lack of parks and open spaces, and a shortage of recreation facilities, in the Centennial neighborhood,” comments Portland Culture & Livability Commissioner Dan Ryan — standing by a poster showing the new plan for Parklane Park.

“The project did start a month ago,” PP&R Senior Community Engagement Coordinator Maija Spencer acknowledged at the event. “However, we wanted to get some of the construction underway. So this active construction site was cleared and made safe for the community to come and celebrate.”

Long time coming
Although the park’s original Master Plan was made in 2009, that document sat on the shelf, and most of Parklane Park was fenced off. The Master Plan was dusted off again in 2020, and revisited – in a series of meetings. CLICK HERE to read about one of those meetings, and see links back to previous articles.

Here’s a look at the PP&R graphic showing the layout of Parklane Park after construction.

“All the major elements that people wanted in the park – like grass soccer fields, community gardens, playgrounds, and skate parks – are still contained within the plan,” Spencer remarked. “There is space reserved for it all, but the hoped-for Aquatics Center is a pretty ‘big ticket’ item, and is to be a future phase. But a ‘splash pad’ will be put in!”.

Watch this video and see ground, being broken:

Friends and neighbors chime in
Neighbors were delighted to see former Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz at the ceremony. “I was in charge of PP&R in 2016, when we initiated this project by putting $6 million into it,” as “private citizen” Amanda Fritz reminded East Portland News.

“It’s fabulous that it’s finally underway! All credit to Ron Clemenson, and so many members of the Centennial Community Association, and the neighborhood volunteers who had a hand in keeping on the Parks Bureau and the Commissioner – whoever he or she might be – to remind people about this wonderful neighborhood, and how much it needs a beautiful park!”

“Private citizen” Amanda Fritz, as well as longtime Parklane Park advocate and Centennial neighbor Ron Clemenson, share a moment together.

Ron Clemenson smiled as he reminded us that he’s lived in the neighborhood since 1967. “There’ve been a lot of changes since then. But now, here we are, and this park is being built!

“As one who was involved with the planning process, I think the plan for this to be an ‘all purpose’ park is good,” opined Clemenson. “This’ll be a real gem when it gets done.”

Retired East Portland Parks Coalition Chair Linda Robinson shares her continued enthusiasm about the project.

Another outer East Portland parks advocate attending, Linda Robinson, the retired Chair of the East Portland Parks Coalition, was all smiles. “I was one of several who kept urging the City to develop Parklane Park – first, to do the Master Plan; and then, do the work. It sure is nice to see it happening!”

Clearly pleased to be attending the groundbreaking, it’s Centennial Community Association Chair David Linn.

“One of the things that’s really important to us is having the meeting space for our neighborhood association,” Centennial Community Association Chair David Linn told us.

“We’re looking forward to holding public meetings and public events here,” Linn continued. “Perhaps events like ‘Movies in the Park’, because those activities bring the community out, so they can start meeting each other and building camaraderie and identity with their community.”

Official ceremony beings
After the guests enjoyed coffee and doughnuts and settled in, PP&R Director Adena Long served as the program’s facilitator, and introduced the lineup of guest speakers.

Oliver Middle School Principal Jeb Hubbs points out that his school is directly east, adjoining Parklane Park.

“It’s an honor to be part of this community, having served at Oliver Middle School for the last eight years,” its Principal, Jeb Hubbs, said. “At school, we talk about community, a lot – everything starts with culture and community; we’re grateful see the park coming along.”

Addressing the gathering is Guerreras Latinas Executive Director Yolana Molina Marcial.

Another speaker was Guerreras Latinas’ Executive Director, Yolana Molina Marcial. “I feel so privileged to be here. I witnessed, first-hand, the effort Portland Parks & Recreation has made to make this process very inclusive. From a community perspective, it feels amazing to be taken into consideration. It’s great to be seen and heard!”

Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan addresses the group.

The next speaker was PP&R’s Commissioner-in-charge, City Commissioner Dan Ryan, who came prepared with extensive notes.

Ryan started off by documenting the history of the property, from being an airfield in the 1950s, to becoming a rock quarry, to the installation of what was called “Candy Cane Park”, because of the red and white striped play equipment in the now-developed portion.

Moving up to present day, Ryan continued, “We brought in more than 27,000 cubic yards of soil. That’s a lot of soil. Can you imagine how much that is?  It came from the Portland Water Bureau, and TriMet construction projects. This is free soil. It helped fill in the former quarry, and saved [the project] almost $1 million – actually, $750,000. This is a great example of partners collaborating. This is a time when local government agencies work together and save money, while doing good work.”

During the program, Amanda Fritz is greeted by Commissioner Dan Ryan.

After being called up by Commissioner Ryan, Amanda Fritz said to him, “I’m so happy that you have the honor of being the Parks Commissioner; it is truly a privilege. I also want to mention Commissioner Nick Fish who, was a strong proponent for this park, and for this area, here in outer East Portland.”

With that, Fritz read a list of those involved in the planning of the park.

Then, it was time to “break the ground”, formally kicking off the project. Some neighbors came with their own shovels; others used the “golden shovels” provided for them there. And, using small plastic shovels, some children present also got in on the fun.

After being given the word, all holding a shovel – and some kids using their hands – dig into the soft soil prepared for the ground breaking.

She’s excited and proud to see Parklane Park being built, says PP&R Director Adena Long.

As people afterward were lingering to talk and connect, PP&R Director Adena Long had a moment to speak with East Portland News.

“This has been decades in the making,” Long reflected. “The master planning, the fundraising, and doing all the community engagement around the design. Because, as you know, outer East Portland is parks-deficient – having a 25-acre park here is just momentous.

“Today, I’m proud; I feel excited, I’m especially excited for all of the young people here in this community,” observed Long. “I know what parks mean to me as an adult, but especially to a child – it’s really what made me get into this line of work. So yes, I’m really excited and proud!”

It seems that youngsters can’t get enough of digging in the supple dirt.

The $29.7 million project includes these amenities:

  • Playground
  • Splash pad
  • Basketball and tennis courts
  • Soccer pitches (fields)
  • Community events pavilion
  • Covered picnic areas
  • Community garden
  • Skate park
  • Dog-off-leash area
  • Paved walking paths
  • Additional restrooms
  • Parking
  • Public art
  • Hundreds of new trees

– all expected to be open to the public in late fall of 2024.

Learn more about Parklane Park and the construction project, and see its updated plans, by visiting its webpage: CLICK HERE.

© 2023 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™
[1,424 well-chosen words]

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