A Park Without a Playground?

13514702-standardAfter our in class discussion about neighborhoods and how they have a direct effect on students and families and thus on schools, I decided to do a bit of research on neighborhoods in the Portland area to see how well (or not so well) they are currently working. In my research, I found an article about Beech Park, which is located in east Portland. The City of Portland obtained the property that the park sits on in 1984. Now, about twenty nine years later, the property has yet to be developed. In 1994, a $59 million dollar parks bond was passed. In 2002, another bond was passed– this time for $49 million dollars. Yet, though all of these bonds have passed there is still no playground for the children that live nearby or sidewalks for families to ride their bikes. Beech Park has merely a section of grass on it and nothing more.

According to the article, many new parks have been established on the west side. However, the outer east side has yet to get the attention it deserves. Amanda Fritz, who is the Commissioner of Portland, reported that she has a plan to develop at least one park located in the east side before the end of her term . The issue now is coming up with enough funding to construct and then maintain the park. Apparently the city has $8 million dollars they could use towards the park but the questions is– will they?

On a brighter note, the article pointed out that there has been a couple of positive additions in the outer East side area such at the East Portland Community Center where they added an indoor pool.

After reading over the article, I can’t help but wonder: If one third of the city’s children live in East Portland, why doesn’t the area have more parks established? Where has all the money gone? Does anyone know if there are any organizations monitoring where the money is going?

Link to article: http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2013/10/portland_should_live_up_to_its.html

Amira J. El-Jamal

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10 thoughts on “A Park Without a Playground?

  1. I live on the East side of Portland and in my neighborhood there is not even a park that I could walk to take my younger siblings. I would normally have to drive a few minutes away from one. There a lot of kids in my neighborhood and a huge empty field that is down the street from me where an all you can eat buffet use to be but they teared it down. It had a map showing that a park was going to be put there, but I have yet to seen any construction done for one and it has been a couple years now. There are events that do go on in that area but that is usually in the summer. I really do feel that it should be turned into a park considering the many kids in the neighborhood. I am also curious to why there are not that many parks in the area and where the money is going.

    • Olivia,

      Thank you for your post. It sounds like your neighborhood is in great need of a park. I think you bring up a really excellent point when you talk about having to drive to the park. This brings up the issue of accessibility and how many parks in Portland are inaccessible. I think about all of the people that don’t drive or don’t have vehicles– what kind of options do they have if their kids want to go out and play? Also, the fact that they even had a map showing that they were planning on building a park in your neighborhood but have yet to do so points to the accountability issues we’ve been talking about. It is very clear to me that the organization around parks in Portland needs to change and the allocation of funds needs to be monitored much more closely than it is right now.

      Best,
      Amira

  2. Amira,
    I think you have brought up several good points and begun a great discussion. You mentioned over $100 million in bond money for parks since 1994. I would also be curious to know how that money was divided. I agree that you should write a letter and ask if there is access to information about how these funds are spent. Parks and especially playgrounds often serve as a place for families to come together and connect with each other in the neighborhood. I feel every community should have places like this accessible to them within a reasonable walking distance. Thank you for sharing I feel this is a really important issue to address.

    Alisha

  3. Hi Amira,

    I think your questions are good ones. Furthermore, I would like to know why parks are being established on the West side and not the East… I have never lived on the West side of Portland, but I have lived all over the East. My observations tell me that parks are more centrally located in the inner cities. Once you get past about 60th parks are slim pickings. It’s unfortunate that children and families in on the East side do not have the opportunity to build community by having a simple birthday party or barbeque at their neighborhood park. Thanks for bringing this my attention Amira.

    Best,
    Alicia

  4. Amira, great researching. I’m curious as to whether or not the bonds you mentioned were specifically supposed to help Beech Park? Either way, that sounds like a LOT of money for parks so I am also wondering how much it costs to develop a park. This is just a testament to the continued inequity in Portland. It’s kind of insulting to call Beech Park a park, I think, when it’s nothing more than a grassy empty lot.

  5. Amira,
    Great post! I think its unreal to see that there hasn’t been much progress on this project and it is something that needs to be done. I think that investing money into our community does make a difference if we make sure the money is used in accordance to what was promised. I believe it is also the communities responsibility to follow up on the projects. There needs to be more initiative given towards goals like these. A park is something that most definitly be something that is enriching towards children. Children have the chance to use imagination, go out and run, exercise and do various activities that can just make them happy and forget any stresses they might have. I’m glad that other positive establishments have been added such as the pool, but I still believe this is something that needs to be moved into production.

  6. This is very interesting to read. It is just interesting that there has been a lot of money for the parks on the east side and yet there are none. Things like parks are able to bring communities together and build up it neighborhood capital. The children are being short changed when they don’t even have a park to run around in and socialize with other children. It is just a sad reality to the inequity with in this city.

  7. Amira, thanks for your post. I want to point out that even though parks are being implemented into neighborhoods, it doesn’t seem like much thought is put into it. I work in Milwaukie and pass a new community on the way. The community has a park but one side is exposed to a busy main street. Although the backyards of homes surround the other three sides of the park, it doesn’t make much sense because there aren’t any side pathways between the homes that lead into the park (or doors into the park directly from these backyards). This means that children have to walk on the sidewalk of the main street to even get to the park. This can be a serious hazard because the speed limit on the main street is 35mph, which is pretty fast next to a park made for children. There aren’t even signs for drivers to slow down in this area. In addition to this, the park doesn’t seem very usable. The park consists of one bench, a small tree (that doesn’t provide any shade) and a gymnasium that looks like it’s for very young kids. This concerns me because it’s not convenient ad is unwelcoming to large groups and/or children of all ages. Do park planning people take any of these things into consideration? I wonder who’s in charge and how difficult it is to make parks reasonable.
    -Kelcie

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