The Parks Replacement Bond Measure has once again provided east Portland with another gem of improvement. This time, the Ventura Elementary School playground was the beneficiary, getting a full facelift, including completely new equipment, art and a Portland Loo.
The Mid-county Memo spoke to Portland Parks and Recreation (PP&R) Commissioner Amanda Fritz on a balmy Saturday afternoon in April, just before she took the stage to open the park. “It’s not much of a nice day, but it’s packed with people,” said Fritz proudly.
Just before she spoke to the Mid-county Memo, a child bounded up to her and told her proudly, “The thing I like most about this park is that you can do parkour,” before bouncing off in an agility routine paean to the French extreme sport. Fritz wasn’t the only adult there who was unfamiliar with the sport, but she was nonetheless thrilled by the child’s enthusiasm. “They’re using their imaginations and their bodies and getting fresh air and exercise. I was so happy we were able to do that in this neighborhood; they so need it,” said Fritz. “It’s just so inclusive!”
The process for renovating the dilapidated playground and park at Ventura Elementary school started in the summer of 2016, with open houses to gather public input held in July and August of that year. Construction started in July of 2017 and was completed in January of this year. The park has been unofficially open with kids allowed to use the playground since then but didn’t receive an official opening soiree from PP&R until April 14.
“Lynchview is our next one that we’re in planning for,” Fritz told the Mid-county Memo just before taking the stage to introduce the newly renovated Ventura playground and the new Portland Loo.
The playground itself features a large piece of play-art which was exhibited outside the Pacific Northwest College of Art before being delivered to Ventura. Called the PlayForm 7, it was donated by Playworld and retails for just under $84,000 new. According to the Playworld website, the sculpture “provides multiple play experiences: tactile, sensory and motion; offers areas for play under the structure; and inspires imaginative, open-ended play experiences.” It looks like an array of tripods that are connected by a variety of different things for kids to climb and grab onto. In short, a wonderland for little ones.
Additionally, the park has a large and innovative climbing mound at the center, water features and art pieces dotting the perimeter and a unique swing that can be used by many people at once. When compared to the outdated playground and porta-potty that once stood there, it’s a marked improvement. “When you get your property tax bill and you think about, ‘Well why am I even paying this?’ The answer is some of it came back to you in renovations,” said Fritz in her opening remarks, continuing, “[This is] thanks to the $68 million Fix Our Parks Bond that you, the voters, passed in 2014.”
Fritz thanked everyone who was present and then gave way to PP&R Director Mike Abbaté, who thanked the variety of stakeholders who were present. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it? In addition to being fun, it’s beautiful,” said Director Abbaté ecstatically about the playground. He then introduced the three sculptures that dot the walkway to the park, called the Venturian Trio. “The Imp is adjacent to the playground, and with the right energy, you can move it,” saidAbbaté, referring to the interactive nature of all the art at the park, continuing, “the Twine is over by the school, and Sprung is between the [bicycle] pump track and the loo.”
Last on the docket was the now-traditional swearing-in of the children present by the assembled park rangers, which went off without a hitch. Three rangers were present, as well as roughly 50 attendees and additional representation from construction, art, PP&R staff and administrative staff for the City of Portland. Cupcakes were served, and children made the most of the new and innovative park that had been unveiled for them.