Parkrose residents will have a say in the remodeling effort for “Windscape” –– the roundabout island at Northeast 102nd and Weidler Street––after all. At least, this is what appeared evident at the project’s latest, and likely last, open house held Thursday, June 21.
As previously reported (“Updates to ‘Windscape’ roundabout draw strong reactions,” MCM February 2018), the project’s impromptu first open house came as a surprise. Since learning of the project, neighbors have expressed concern over the redesign, which is being funded through a $60,000 Prosper Portland grant. At the second open house, many argued for a solution that is low-maintenance and subtle; they also want a reduction in homelessness and loitering, considering the spot’s positioning opposite a bustling Kaiser clinic (1700 N.E. 102nd Ave.).
The open house was put together by Tom Badrick, who authored the grant on behalf of the Parkrose Heights Association of Neighbors (PHAN), and David Goodyke, the senior registered landscape architect from design firm Nevue Ngan Associates Landscape Architecture. Nevue Ngan created the updated designs for the open house. Most illustrations offered less flamboyant logistical ideas for the space, in contrast with what was displayed in January.
“We had a consistent theme: people wanted something easy to maintain that can resist drought. ‘Let’s not make this super complicated down the road,’ [they said,]” says Badrick. “The water meter is inaccessible, though there is a watering system. If we had a water supply, you could take care of things. It doesn’t have to be a sprinkler system.”
The solution might come, in part, from revamping the on-site bioswale. A bioswale, in Goodyke’s words, is “a landscape feature with plants that allows water from a road or a patio to run into it. It then holds the water while the surrounding plants let the water infiltrate. It’s basically a ditch.”
In June, there were no mentions of flashy statues or garish accent lighting. Instead, proposed improvements for the sight gave viewers glimpses of native plants and trees, such as Oregon grape bushes and Oregon oak trees.
According to Badrick, the community response to the second open house was positive.
“I didn’t see anything to complain about, as long as the plants chosen were going to be native and drought resistant,” says Nancy Davis, a Portland native who has lived in the Parkrose area her entire life. “Native plants won’t require much water, and we’re going to get warmer and warmer every year. I’m very glad somebody was going to do something with the area. It’s been sort of a disaster weed patch for too long.”
Open house visitors did not receive a formal presentation. Instead, they were tasked with placing post-it notes with their thoughts next to each design while Badrick and Nevue Ngan representatives stood by, on hand for questions and concerns. Public input has been key in the months between the two open houses.
The sketches themselves were formed somewhat last-minute, but they’re realistic, contends Badrick.
“We had the meeting with the city folks [the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), which owns the property, and the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES)] that Monday, and everything we put on the table was kind of something they said yes to,” says Badrick. “We started talking about campers, and then it came to this ‘fence it off’ approach, but a six-foot chain-link fence just says to the community ‘Screw you, we don’t care about you.’ But also, from their perspective, it’s like, ‘How do we keep people out?’ They’re not getting one thousand calls about Windscape, but they’re getting one thousand calls about people on properties all over town.”
Goodyke believes that adding boulders to the space, like the ones already being utilized by PBOT for the Halsey-Weidler Streetscape Plan, will deter the homeless from resting on the site. He hopes that PBOT will incorporate the Windscape redesign into the Streetscape Plan, which launches this summer. The Halsey-Weidler Streetscape Plan is already using materials like large boulders. These could be transferred to the Windscape. “There’s been some camping happening down there, so to discourage camping, we’ll install some large boulders and plant around the boulders and try to occupy this space that could be a tent site with a rock or a plant,” says Goodyke. “I don’t know that it will 100 percent keep people out, but we’re trying to make it less attractive.”
Plans to decrease homelessness on the traffic island is music to neighbors’ ears. “[The homeless] were removed, and now they’re back,” says Lorraine Martinson, a Parkrose resident. “I go to that Kaiser clinic, and they’re not happy about it, but there’s nothing they can do. It’s a shame.”
Badrick says that BES will take care of planting and maintaining new native plants. Privy to Davis’s concerns over climate change, Badrick confirms that native plants will be somewhat self-sustaining, especially in warmer temperatures.
“BES has always been responsible for maintaining the ‘swale’ part of it,” says Badrick. “What we talked about is BES coming back and revisiting the plantings. Most of what they put in 10 years ago hasn’t survived.”
At the end of the day, the hot-button issue for all parties involved is reducing homelessness. In accomplishing this, there is a cohesive vision. “I didn’t think we’d be spending any of the grant on the boulders, but it looks like we’ll be buying some. If I have to spend some of the money so we won’t have campers there, then that’s a significant win,” says Badrick.
PHAN and Ngan Nevue intend to submit a final design to PBOT, BES and Prosper Portland by August after an in-person meeting to assess the final plans that will bring together a nine-person committee. Nothing would be planted until fall, but Badrick expects finalized drawings by August. And before planting, there will be plucking. “Ninety percent of the vegetation there right now wasn’t founded there on purpose, so we’d want to come and remove the four-foot-tall grass,” says Badrick. “And there’s a significant amount of invasive species in there that we’d want to clean up before planting the new stuff.”
Down the line, Badrick would like to do more to the site, but for now he prefers to keep immediate improvements simple. “One of my favorite ideas that’s come out of this is a spinoff from the proposed community garden. We could have an international herb garden. You would put in some African herbs somewhere and another four-by-six square would be Asian herbs, and then toss in European herbs like oregano or rosemary. These would look good year-round, and it would do honor to the fact that we have a diverse community. If we have herbs represented from all different continents, nobody would steal the produce because nobody knows what lemongrass looks like. So, you could do a form of gardening that’s not high security or high maintenance.”
To learn more about plans for Windscape or to submit input on the project, contact Badrick at 971-325-9727 or firstname.lastname@example.org.