At their open house March 31 at Shaver Elementary School, Portland Parks and Recreation staff and architects from 2.ink Studio showed off their final design for Beech Park. The design contained elements of the three schemes they presented to the community in February. Those three schemes, dubbed A, B and C, contained many common elements but moved from the most passive to the most active, meaning more and larger recreational sports areas were included in Design C. Parks staffers refused to use the word “final,” calling the design the “preferred alternative.”
“Right now it’s the preferred alternative because we still have to go through review processes that may change things a little bit,” said Britta Herwig, PP&R project manager for the park. “The final scheme has a lot of elements from Scheme B, but it looks a little different.”
The new park will be located on 15.7 acres of former farmland that borders that school on Northeast 131st Avenue. Construction begins summer 2016, with completion targeted for spring 2017. Construction fees range around $7.8 million, not including design, permit fees and other costs, which will be calculated in the near future.
More than 50 people showed up at the meeting March 31, with 80 attending the February open house, offering feedback and questions about the park. Staffers also reviewed online and written suggestions from the public, receiving more than 90 comments.
The three designs share common features: a community core area with a shelter, a community garden, a picnic area, a playground, an interactive water feature, an off-leash dog area, walking paths, a skate park, a wildlife area, art work, restrooms, a parking lot, and entrance and exit roads. However, these features differed in size, number and location in the three plans.
The new preferred alternative contains a “strong north/south access to the park,” Herwig said.
This main path system provides connections between the two parcels as well as access to all the main features surrounding that access.
In this design, the heart of the park lies in the southern parcel on the top of the hill. It features the community shelter, the amphitheater, the playground with a water feature, a small soccer field for 10-year-olds and an unleashed dog park, which is “a little over an acre in size and fully fenced,” Herwig said.
Hearing from the public their desire for a separate area for teens, planners placed sporting activity space in the center of the northern parcel. That area might include a basketball court and a skating area, with perhaps other features, such as ping-pong tables or a small climbing feature. “We met with a focus group of teenagers, and they were very aware of their needs and how they’re perceived by others sometimes,” Herwig said. “They wanted to be a little bit away from the family-oriented picnic shelters so that they wouldn’t cause any conflict.”
Because so many features filled up the southern parcel, planners shifted the large community garden to the northern swath.
At the last open house, some community members were still concerned about safety in the park. Consequently, PP&R plans to hold a Beech Park Public Safety Meeting May 6 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Shaver Elementary School gymnasium. Speakers will talk about what resources are available to keep the park safe. They will explain the maintenance plans, and park rangers will be available to answer questions from the public. “Our goal is to minimize the impact that this new park will have on the neighborhood, and one of impacts we’re always hearing about is parking,” Herwig said. “So we are including two parking lots. A small one on the north parcel and a larger one that has in and out access points.”
Planners are also working with the school so park visitors can use their parking lot after hours. “That will help when we have larger events, such as movies in the park,” she said.
Designers also chose a small U-10 size soccer field, 110 by 120 feet. “That’s what we feel we can comfortably fit on the south parcel,” she said. Such fields often need to be repaired, so this one allows park crews to rotate the layout of the field and move around goal posts so there is less impact on grass.
More important than the size of the field is how it is programmed. “There’s a balance between programmed uses and informal, neighborhood uses,” she said. “Once the park is opened, we will work with the community to ensure that the park is well used and well programmed. We have the option to modify things as we need to or change programming.”
Elizabeth Kennedy-Wong, PP& R Community Engagement Manager, said, “When we build a park, we are basically moving in as a new neighbor. It will have impacts on the community.
“Immediate neighbors will have different uses next door to them. We try to really minimize any negative impacts. People will have people playing in their backyard where before it was just a field. We try to make sure that the park, to the best of our ability, gets used well.”
For more information, visit www.portlandoregon.gov/parks.