‘Soft opening’ shows off Errol Heights Park project to neighbors

INCLUDES PICTURESQUE 4K VIDEO | Take a look at what folks saw while exploring the upper area of this City Park; an outer East Portland area that offers some highly unique features …

Hot beverages and pastry treats are a welcoming sight to guests to the just-opened upper are of the newly-renovated Errol Heights Park.

Story and photos by David F. Aston

It was bitterly cold, it was clammy, and it was gloomy – on Saturday morning, December 23, at Errol Heights Park. The upgraded and expanded park is in the far southwest corner of the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood.

However, that bone-chilling weather didn’t stop hundreds of neighbors from coming to Portland Parks and Recreation’s “soft opening” of the renovated “upper” area of Errol Heights Park.

Those arriving for the celebration, near S.E. Tenino Drive and Tenino Court, were greeted with hot coffee, hot chocolate, and pastries, served by Parks Bureau personnel.

From the high mound of the Play Area in Errol Heights Park, this composed panorama photo shows many of the amenities in, and near, the Play Area.

Work in the Upper Park had been completed, but the new Portland Loo that was part of the project was closed up tight for the season; and, for obvious reasons, the Splash Pad had also been winterized.

“We’re calling it a ‘soft opening’ today, because we have not yet completed the entire park,” explained PP&R Capital Growth Program Manager Ross Swanson. “But, we know that the community has been eager to see what’s been done so far, and they have been very patient with both the construction of this park, and the road system.”

Take a tour of the opened area of this great new park
via our video, shot, produced and posted in 4K High Definition:

Originally, the fully renovated park was scheduled to open in October of last year; but, “Sometimes construction takes longer than anticipated, and we pushed that opening day back,” Swanson told East Portland News. “To be fair to the contractor, they did us a favor by having it ready to open now, so families could enjoy it during the Holidays – but they were not obligated to complete this part of the project as early as December.”

Total budget for the project was $12 million, Swanson said – including design and engineering fees, community engagement, permit fees, land-use planning, City of Portland project management, the construction management staff, and the incidental costs that were necessary to bring the overall project together over the last five years.

In the all-abilities Nature Play area, Sam Callister gave Mae a gentle ride on one of the new “basket swings” installed at Errol Heights Park.

“What’s interesting and innovative is that rather than ‘scraping off’ all the natural areas around us, we’ve integrated it all into the natural areas,” Swanson observed. “Portland has been a leader in ‘Nature Play’, and this is where we’ve taken ‘play’ back into the woods – into nature.”

“Marvelous”, landscape architect says
Seeing how the project came out, Carol Mayer-Reed of Mayer-Reed Landscape Architects – the designers of the park, based on the Master Plan – exclaimed, “I think this is really marvelous!

“The original park Master Plan was a bit different; and it was 10 or 15 years old by the time PP&R decided to build the ‘Upper Park’ area,” Mayer-Reed recalled. “It was good that the Master Plan was updated to reflect the needs and desires of the new ‘user group’ who have moved into the area. What we have here is expressive of what they wanted.”

In the picnic areas, the tables are designed to accommodate all users.

One of the benefits that stands out to her, Mayer-Reed told East Portland News, is the park’s accessibility.

“Here in Errol Heights Park, the accessibility is really remarkable, given all of the different terrain involved. This is because the play area is attractive to kids of different abilities, and encourages them all to play together.

This elevated walkway makes traversing the steep hillside easy for all visitors.

“And, making it easy for visitors to get from the upper level to the lower level was a topographic challenge,” remarked Mayer-Reed. “We were able to meet that need with a series of ramps and landings which connect the upper and lower parts of the park.”

A ‘dream job’, says contractor
Also at the celebration was Peggy Paul, of Paul Brothers, Inc., contractors for the project. “This park has been a dream-come-true project for us,” Ms. Paul commented.

“We love creating a brand-new place for community; and, this park is a wonderful melding of all the features that we like in a project!”

Neighborhood volunteer planner pleased
One of the hundreds of visitors was Brentwood-Darlington Neighborhood Association Board Member Gail Kiely – she was a member of the Neighborhood Planning Committee for the park, right from the start, 18 years ago.

“I love the layout of the play area, as much as I do the walkway that zigzags from the upper to the lower park,” Kiely said, broadly smiling.

Kids immediately know what to do when they see the play area in the park – have fun!

By the time pleasant weather comes around again, Errol Heights Park has the potential to be a destination for not only Inner Southeast Portland families, but also for folks from a considerable distance across the metropolitan area.

Watch our earlier video, produced late last summer for THE BEE, as Errol Heights Park is under construction. You’ll get to ride a steel beam from the stack to the place where it’s installed:

© 2024 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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