After years of planning and construction—not to mention nearly a year of delays—Gateway Discovery Park, one of Portland Parks & Recreation’s (PP&R) signature new park projects, will open Aug. 4. The 3.2-acre park has been reported on extensively in these pages and features a host of technological amenities aimed toward making the park one of the cleanest, most accessible and inclusive parks in the state.
The park features a Harper’s Playground, which is built to be fully accessible to everyone, regardless of their physical limitations. It’s a marvel of physical accessibility through and through, with wheelchair-accessible pathways throughout, lighting and other safety features.
“To me, the most exciting aspect of Gateway Discovery Park is the inclusive playground—thanks to Harper’s Playground—which helps further our equity goals and allows kids of all abilities to play together,” says PP&R Interim Director Kia Selley. “The park and plaza provide a welcome space for recreation, reflection, Summer Free for All activities and special events year-round. It will be a vital part of our city for generations to come.”
Gateway Discovery is also an important accessibility point from a social mobility standpoint as well as a physical one. According to statistics provided by PP&R, Gateway Discovery provides short-range access to more than 800 households in the area that weren’t previously within a half-mile walk of a park or natural area. What’s more, over one-third of those households are racial or ethnic minorities, and a quarter are living under the poverty line. It will also, of course, sit right in the shadow of the mixed-use development (also reported on previously herein), which will add another 75 households of mostly lower-income residents. Gateway Discovery Park is a park to bring together people on the east side of all ethnic backgrounds and economic backgrounds.
The land for the park was acquired by the Portland Development Commission (now known as Prosper Portland) in 2008 and cost $10.2 million to build, with $1.2 million coming from Prosper Portland and $225,000 coming from Harper’s Playground, the nonprofit behind the accessible play areas of the park. The land totals 4.2 acres, of which the park occupies 3.2 acres, with the rest soon to become the multi-use development with housing, retail and office space. There’s adjacent parking on Northeast 106th Avenue and Northeast Clackamas and Halsey streets, though there is no dedicated lot. There will be a new lot going in with the mixed-use development, though none of that parking is earmarked for the park. The Northeast 106th Avenue corridor will also have special parking—docking, really—for a group of food trucks, which will cater events and perhaps in the future take up a more permanent residence serving the area.
The opening festivities kick off Saturday, Aug. 4 at 10 a.m. with family-friendly activities, face painting, open play and other experiences to get the park in use. From there, the rest of August and the autumn are packed with events designed to entice the local community into using the park. Right off the bat on opening night at 7:30 p.m. is the Reelabilities Disability Film Festival & Dance. Keeping with the park’s spirit of physical inclusivity to those with disabilities, the festival will feature “an integrated and cross-disability dance performance from the Inclusive Arts Vibe Dance Company,” as well as a family film. On Friday, Aug. 10, DJ Brownbag will be spinning vintage hip-hop, R&B and soul music for the Friday Night Groove, a weekly event all summer. Aug. 16 features the Tonga Day Festival, just a taste of the multicultural events to come at the park. There will be food vendors, likely utilizing the food truck area on the east side of the park, as well as performances and activities to celebrate Polynesian culture before an evening screening of the 2016 Disney animated film “Moana.” There’s a full slate of other events planned for PP&R’s Summer Free-for-All, of which Gateway Discovery is a centerpiece.
In addition to the inclusive play areas, seating for food and large open space, Gateway Discovery features a skate bowl (which neighborhood kids have been cruelly kept from for the last year through a variety of creative deterrence techniques) and a state-of-the-art water feature. The park is also home to a stunning art piece entitled “The Fifth Wind” by Portland’s own Horatio Law. The piece is an elegant addition to a long-neglected area. Law was born in Hong Kong and moved to the United States as a teen. Now a faculty member at Pacific Northwest College of Art, Law’s own art is infused with a celebration and appreciation for the melting pot of immigration. The statue sports five butterfly wings meant to symbolize the “combined immigrant histories, both ancestral and contemporary,” according to a press release from PP&R.
The park has been reported on extensively in these pages for more than a year, with PP&R taking the Mid-county Memo on a guided tour last summer, predicting an open date this past fall. A variety of weather delays have set the project back, and it has seen a slow finishing phase that has residents nothing short of anxious for the park’s open. There’s no telling yet whether the local concerns surrounding camping and crime at the park will be real or unfounded, but hopefully they will be addressed by ranger patrols. At this point, the neighborhood is simply ready to feast its eyes on the park that is meant to make Gateway into a neighborhood where families want to spend time outside.