New park dedicated in Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood

See why turning an empty field into an improved City park was reason enough to celebrate National Night Out just a little late, in this outer East Portland neighborhood …

Everybody smile! Portland City Commissioners Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz, with the help of Multnomah County Commissioner Judy Shiprack, help this eager group of kids cut the ribbon – opening “Gilbert Heights Park” in the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
As we promised, last week,  in our coverage of the 2010 National Night Out (NNO) in outer East Portland, we’re bringing you the story of yet another NNO party – one that took place two days later, on August 4, at Gilbert Heights Park, in the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood.

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish welcomes neighbors to the newly- completed park.

“We’re very happy to be celebrating the improvements here,” commented Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, who is in charge of the Parks Bureau. “The upgrades we’ve made here are long overdue. And frankly, they would not have happened had it not been for the urging of their neighborhood association, and its president, Mark White, a 2009 ‘Spirit of Portland’ Award winner.”

This park’s opening celebration, Fish pointed out, featured live music and a Movie in the Park. “It’s a fun evening.”

Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz greets folks enjoying Gilbert Heights Park.

Says park provides community-building space
Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz stepped up to agree with Fish, saying, “The improvements to this park came about because all the longtime residents in the neighborhood, and even our newcomers, have worked very diligently for this.

“It’s a community gathering space. And, I love that the park also has some nice ‘unscheduled space’, too,” Fritz added.

Multnomah County Commissioner of District 3, Judy Shiprack, says she saw this park – both “before”, and now “after”, improvements.

Multnomah County Commissioner of District 3, Judy Shiprack, said she was excited to be at the park, because, “I was here with my staff person a year ago. Believe me, it was a much different-looking place a year ago than it is today.

“To everyone, and especially to Portland Parks & Recreation, and Nick Fish, we’re very grateful this park has been improved, here in this district of Multnomah County.”

The very serious-minded Oregon State Rep. Jefferson Smith (D) admonishes youngsters to be involved when they grow up, and to advocate for East Portland.

Jefferson Smith talks, cartwheels
“Building community here, in outer East Portland, is critically important,” Oregon State Representative Jefferson Smith said to the gathered crowd. “Right now, in Portland, [the area] east of 82nd Avenue of Roses is the fastest-growing part of our City. As many as 44% of the schoolchildren in the City of Portland now live and go to school here. To build parks, and community, and invest in this area, are critical priorities.”

Smith continued, “There was a politician who once said, toward the end of a long event, ‘Everything has been said, but it hasn’t been said yet by everyone’. That being said, I don’t have much left to say. Except, that is, to the young people here who have no idea who I am or why I’m talking. To them I say, ‘when you’re old enough to vote, become an advocate for this area. Show up at meetings. Be part of the group of people building community who say, “We are going to make this fair city, fair, all over the city”.’”

Yes, that’s the lanky-yet-spry Rep. Smith performing his trademark cartwheel, along with a couple of kids at the event.

With that, he asked, “Is there any young person here who can perform a cartwheel? Let’s do it.”

Organizers remember purpose of NNO
Co-organizers of the event, Tom Barnes and Donna Dionne, spent a good part of the evening wrangling a long line of folks waiting for bike helmets for their kids.

“The best part of having a National Night Out event is getting people together,” opined Barnes. “It’s a place where people can share their concerns and enjoyment of the neighborhood.”

Event organizers, Midway Business Association VP Donna Dionne, with Love Boutique and Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association Safety Committee chair, Tom Barnes, pause for a photo.

Dionne added, “It’s great being able to meet new people, and find out all the different walks of life from which they come – yet all live here in the neighborhood.”

Because it was a combined NNO, a park dedication, and a Movie in the Park event, brought in to add to the fun was the PP&R rock climbing wall, a kids’ craft and game area, and several booths set up to provide community information. All of the guests were treated to a free hot dog dinner, served by American Legion Portland Post #1.

As the evening continued, the park was filled with music as guests were serenaded with live music provided by The Sounds of Norman – and, at dusk, were treated to a viewing of the film “Shorts”.

In so many ways, this party was a great way to wrap up the 2010 National Night Out season.

Gilbert Heights Park Dedication/NNO
Photo Album

Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association’s President, Mark White, enjoys the evening with Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Sgt. John Scruggs.

Vita and Valdmir watch, as their daughter Alina Khmaruk is fitted with a free new bike helmet.

At the prize table, Debbie Smith, the neighborhood association’s Outreach and Membership Chair (who also runs their website and Facebook page), hands out prizes to game winners.

These smiling folks are all volunteers from American Legion Post #1, serving up hot dog dinners to guests.

East Portland Crime Prevention Coordinator Rosanne Lee shares home safety information with a neighbor, at this NNO event.

As the sun sets – but before the start of the evening’s Movie in the Park – the “Sounds of Norman” band rocks out.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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