Gateway Discovery Park is open for business after years of planning and construction, delays and design innovations. The new 3.2-acre park at 10520 N.E. Halsey St., built on the former site of a bowling alley and buffet restaurant, welcomed the community Saturday, Aug. 4, with a bash featuring dancing, play, speeches from the stakeholders and a healthy dose of community celebration. “The grand opening of Gateway Discovery Park represents another major milestone in my work with Portland Parks and Recreation [PP&R] to increase east Portland neighbors’ access to parks,” says Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “The park site was once a restaurant, parking lot and field lot. Now it is a welcoming, vibrant Gateway regional center plaza and gathering space for the Hazelwood and Parkrose Heights neighborhoods. I hope it will be a catalyst for economic development in Gateway.”
Fritz isn’t the only one hoping for economic revitalization related to the park. The city is also banking on it with the construction of the adjacent multi-use development, which will overlook the park. Offering retail space, said to include a brewpub and grocery store, as well as 75 units of housing (much of it classified as “affordable”) and the headquarters of nonprofit player Human Solutions, the development has been the cause of recent excitement and concerns, particularly surrounding parking and the future of the businesses set to occupy it.
The opening of the new park has at least temporarily distracted from those concerns. The families who turned out in force for its dedication were nearly unanimous in their praise, and the stakeholders both within City Hall and the business community were all smiles.
The park, with year-round programming and on-site staff, was designed to be the Gateway neighborhood’s “living room”. It features a plaza, food cart areas, picnic tables, a skate bowl, a splash pad with water features, a large grassy region and massive play areas. “This park is a gem to the Gateway Area Business Association (GABA) and our community. We’re so proud and honored to be a part of this project throughout its design and construction,” said GABA President Nidal Kahl, a longtime east Portland resident who was among the speakers. “This park is an example of what happens when business associations come together with neighborhood associations in the community and then partner with government to create something great.”
One of the much-anticipated features of the park, which has been reported on extensively in these pages, is Harper’s Playground, a special fully accessible playground designed to be played on by anyone, regardless of what assistance they need to get around. “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,” said PP&R Interim Director Kia Selley.
Cody Goldberg, who created the concept to help his own daughter, Harper, not be limited by her own physical disabilities, started Harper’s Playground in 2009. Since then they have been working to build playgrounds that children in wheelchairs, with walkers or using any type of medical assistance can access fully, so they can play with their friends and not miss out on the social experiences of play. “Harper’s Playground is honored to be included as part of this wonderfully realized community asset,” said Goldberg. “Our vision of a Harper’s Playground-certified inclusive playground in every quadrant of Portland is one big step closer to reality. We are thankful to Parks Commissioner Fritz, all PP&R staff and partners and everyone involved for embracing this park’s vision. Together, we are ensuring that everyone is invited to play and connect at Gateway Discovery Park.”
The grand opening also hosted dancers from the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral and showcased the unveiling of the park’s art centerpiece, a sculpture by artist Horatio Law entitled “The Fifth Wind.” The sculpture sits just next to the covered seating area and the ranger station at the corner of Halsey Street and Northeast 106th Avenue.
Marlene Zellars is the PP&R representative who oversees much of the programming that will be available in the park. She’ll also often be working out of the station at the park and will be on hand helping everything run smoothly. “We will have everything from dance to theater, music events and movies in the park,” said Zellars.
The opening celebration was just the beginning of a spate of activities to round out the summer and welcome autumn at Gateway Discovery. PP&R’s website, www.portlandoregon.gov/parks, has the full summer schedule, including music, movies and other family-friendly events that will utilize the park’s many features. “The park and plaza provide a welcome space for recreation, reflection, Summer Free-for-All activities and special events year-round,” said Selley. “It will be a vital part of our city for generations to come.”
For more information about the new park, call 971-275-3081, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.