‘Groundbreaking party’ marks the start of construction on Mill Park

INCLUDES REAL DIGGING VIDEO | INCLUDES 12 IMAGES |Take a look at the celebration – as this empty field in outer East Portland park is finally on its way to being fully developed as a city park…

As this composed panoramic image shows, Mill Park doesn’t yet look very inviting – but, when completed, it will be another jewel in the crown of Portland Parks & Recreation.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Although heavy construction has been already underway for weeks at Mill Park, the evening of September 28 was the date selected by Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) to host an official groundbreaking ceremony.

Unless you’re a Mill Park local, you may not know where this 5.7 acre Portland City Park will be. It’s a landlocked field behind ,and just east of, Mill Park Elementary School – and it’s surrounded by housing.

Free cookies, provided by Portland Parks & Recreation, keep Mill Park Elementary School students and their families engaged until the Mill Park groundbreaking ceremony gets underway.

However, we’ve been following the progress of the development of this park for quite some time. (CLICK HERE to see our 2022 article about the planning process, with links back to previous articles.)

Spending a moment together in the Mill Park Neighborhood Association exhibit are Chair Trevor Hopper and Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan.

“This is great!” exclaimed Mill Park Neighborhood Association Chair Trevor Hopper, before the program began. “I’m glad that PP&R decided to hold this concurrent with the school’s ‘Family Back-to-School’ gathering, because we have a great turnout. As you know, I have been participating in, and watching, this park’s progress for many years – and I’ve have gathered history that I’ll share this evening with people here.”

The park’s property was purchased in 1961, back when the David Douglas School District was preparing to build the school, Hopper remarked. “It was simply named ‘Park #27’ until 1974. That’s when there was a contest for kids to name this park.

Folks gather under the school’s outdoor pavilion as the program gets underway.

As the City of Portland was annexing unincorporated East Portland, PP&R purchased the this land in 1986, Hopper continued.

See video highlights that’s short on speeches, but long on digging, at the Mill Park Groundbreaking:

“The park’s Master Plan process started in 2015, under Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz; I’ll be recognizing her as I talk before the people tonight because she was instrumental in getting it going,” Hopper told East Portland News.

Portland’s current Parks Commissioner, Dan Ryan, told us before the ceremony, “We annexed this part of the city years ago; but we’re still ‘playing catch-up’ in terms of assets. We’re improving this park — the ‘right asset at the right time’.”

PP&R Director Adena Long welcomes families, government officials, and neighbors to the groundbreaking ceremony.

PP&R Director Adena Long served as the host and moderator of the ceremony, and welcomed all of those present.

Mill Park Elementary School Principal Heather Craig revs up her students by leading cheers.

“You’re going to have, in this park, a beautiful space to play – and I’m so proud to have  a new park for our community, because we all deserve it,” Mill Park Principal Heather Craig said.

Taking the microphone, Mill Park Neighborhood Association Chair Trevor recounts the history of the park, and how much the neighbors are looking forward to having the new amenities.

Division Midway Alliance Iraqi Community Liaison Mohammad Khalid addresses the group.

Speaking in place of Division Midway Alliance (DMA) Executive Director Lisha Shrestha, Iraqi Community Liaison Mohammad Khalid told of the DMA’s civic involvement.

“We reached out to 65 or 70 community members,” Khalid said. “These included Nepali, Arabic, Vietnamese, and Chinese speaking communities. One of the frequent suggestions was having a Community Garden space is in the garden.”

This PP&R illustration by Mayer/Reed shows how Mill Park will look, when completed in 2024.

Many amenities featured in the park
Director Long elaborated on the many amenities to be featured in this park, including:


  • Splash pad to cool off in the summer
  • Covered picnic area and tables
  • Community garden
  • Fitness area
  • Dozens of new trees
  • Public art
  • Paved walking paths and sidewalks, including a central Promenade
  • And a Chinlone court. [Chinlone is also known as caneball, is the traditional, national sport of Myanmar (Burma), similar to volleyball].

“This will be a place to play, exercise, gather together, garden, and more,” Long concluded.

Parks Commissioner, Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan recognizes those who moved forward with the park’s Master Plan.

“I want to recognize former Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz for her work beginning the Master Plan in 2015 – a plan that was approved by Portland City Council in 2017,” acknowledged Commissioner Ryan.

“This park is a legacy of Commissioner Fritz – which then was passed on to Parks Commissioner [Carmen] Rubio, who had the funds allocated to design and build the park in 2021. And now, I’m so happy that I get to ‘bring it home’ – to me, that feels wonderful. I know that both the neighbors and the school’s teachers and counselors are really going to take advantage of this park!”

With that, Commissioner Ryan recognized 15 members of the Mill Park Project Advisory Committee by name and asked for a big round of applause.

Ready to dig dirt, with shovels in hand, these “groundbreakers” pose for a Portland Parks bureau official to take a photo, while they await the countdown.

Finally, Director Long asked the evening’s speakers, and members of the Project Advisory Committee, to gather at the mound of dirt in which gold-painted shovels had been planted. Other community members, who brought their own shovels, joined in the official groundbreaking ceremony.

In addition to those called forward, the area was rushed by enthusiastic kids, seeing this is a great opportunity to play in the dirt.

Even before the countdown ends, all have dug in and scooped the ceremonial soil.

Follow the Mill Park Project on the official PP&R webpage: CLICK HERE.

On our Front Page: Larissa and her dad Andy DeGregorio – they live just down the street, and both agree, “we’re thrilled to see this park coming in.”

© 2023 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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