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Beech Park planning begins with children


As part of the planning process for the new Beech Park, a site tour was conducted for first- and second-grade students from Shaver Elementary School by design consultants hired by Portland Parks & Recreation to oversee the new park’s planning. Afterwards, the students were asked to draw their park then tell about their park. The former Garre farmland plotted to become parkland encompasses 15.71 acres around Shaver Elementary School in the Argay neighborhood.
“This Park will ROCK,” said Shaver Elementary second-grader Kyera T. She went on, “It’ll rock because it will have giant slides and swings and monkey bars and a tire swing and a huge pool.” Kyera was one of dozens of Shaver Elementary students who drew what they want in Beech Park during a community workshop held last month.
This site analysis was prepared by design consultants Moore Iacofano Goltsman, Inc. for the community workshops and planning meetings for Beech Park. When built it’ll be the largest park in Mid-county.
Tara Byler, left, project associate at MIG, Inc. answers questions from first- and second-grade students at Shaver Elementary School during the draw-your-park segment of the Beech Park Master Plan Community Workshop held last month.
Park-to-be offers options of beautiful views, nutrient-rich soil, and performance and assembly space. Hired consultants from Moore Iacofano Goltsman, Inc.: left, MIG Principal Sally McIntyre, Katy Wolf and Aaron Abrams (back to camera) conduct the first Beech Park Master Plan Community Workshop for neighbors.
In 1984, Portland Parks & Recreation purchased a 10.07-acre parcel of land west of Shaver Elementary School, 3701 N.E. 131st Place, in the Argay neighborhood. Fifteen years later, in 1999, PP&R acquired the 5.64-acre plot to the north of the school. The Garre family, former owner of the parcels, continued the farm operation as it had for generations, until May 2007.

Finally, in April of this year, the PP&R appointed a Project Advisory Committee from community members, teachers and school officials to advise their chosen design consultants, Moore Iacofano Goltsman, Inc., in formulating a park prototype with the goal of unveiling a final project design in October. Having held the first meeting in April, the Beech Park PAC will convene four times — each meeting to be followed by a community open house to field input and address potential concerns.

Neighbors, teachers, parents and students assembled for the first such open house on Monday, May 19 at Shaver Elementary. Run by MIG principal and project consultant Sally McIntyre, the brainstorming session exhibited the company’s pledge to “embrace inclusivity and encourage community and stakeholder interaction in all of our projects.”

MIG plans to seek such neighborhood approval at every step of the process. With ideas gathered from this session, MIG, PP&R and the Beech Park PAC will devise three alternate plans to present to the community at the next open house, scheduled for July 26 at Parkrose High School Community Center. One design will be chosen for further development and submitted to final community comment at the last open house on October 1. From there, the committee must hope its model has enough appeal to expeditiously attract funding. Currently PP&R has only allocated enough money for this project to see it through the planning process.

Conscientious to gather input from all members of the neighborhood, specifically those in closest proximity to the park, the consultations opened the process in the afternoon with student sessions, divided by age, in which students were taken to the park site and encouraged to speak their minds and share ideas. Afterwards they retired to the gymnasium where they crayoned their dreams onto aerial shots of the prospective park site. The young artists’ concepts were later taped onto the walls of the gym to greet and perhaps inspire parents and neighbors as they gathered for the adult segment of the program that same evening.

Those assembled included representatives of the school system, parents cradling patient children, members of the Argay and Parkrose neighborhood associations, and nearby neighbors. Kathleen (Kip) Wadden, Parks bureau senior management analyst, addressed the audience first while MIG project assistant Aaron Abrams stood by with a large aerial view of the site and markers to fill the expanse of white space around it with notes.

With a diligent translator helping the Spanish-speaking community members understand the English comments and vice versa, Wadden welcomed all interested parties and introduced McIntyre, who explained the planning process and opened the floor to dreams and goals for the park.

Predictably, members expressed varied visions, but often shared themes. All ideas centered on the possible human uses of the park — nary a suggestion or idea as to the concept of the park as a botanical habitat. Most neighborhood voices advocated a multi-use community center, like East Portland Community Center, which would offer classes, display art, provide local information, and host indoor recreation facilities and a performance space. Earlier, the children’s sessions elicited, on this 80-degree day, ideas revolving around water like a wading or swimming pool, and teachers seconded their call for more play space and sports fields. Older residents concurred on the need for an exercise space, such as a walking path around the entire area, similar to the Glendoveer walking trail around Glendoveer Golf Course on Northeast Glisan and 140th Avenue.

Trailing each proposal were a number of concerns. Safety issues took paramount importance, especially regarding traffic, parking and vehicles around an area that would naturally attract kids on foot or bike. The discouragement of more nefarious acts in the park was discussed in calls for vandal-proof structures, adequate lighting — that won’t interfere with homeowners’ views — and advocating open spaces. Al Garre, owner of the abutting farmland, expressed the need for a definite barrier between the two tracts of land and consideration for the strategic placement of sports fields to ensure all home runs remain in the park, a concern echoed by neighbors. Another issue of concerns for people with homes abutting the property are the policing of the park and its environs. These residents would love to have some guarantees that the new park would be policed on a regular basis; they don’t want it to become a haven for illegal activities as other nearby parks have.

After fielding a myriad of ideas and concerns, which Abrams scribed, McIntyre asked the assembly how they felt the designers could best appeal to all age groups and reflect the neighborhood’s diversity.

The one horticultural proposal bridged these objectives with the idea of community gardens, which would utilize the former farmland as a planting space for apartment dwellers. This was followed by an idea to place interpretive plaques at the base of plants to inform students and adults alike on horticulture. Local information on the history of the site was also called for, translated into the four languages most commonly used in the community today: English, Spanish, Russian and Vietnamese.

All agreed that a sense of community ownership could help protect and fortify the park. Attendees called for school/park interaction and partnership. Some posed the idea that the children themselves have a hand in its creation, much like their encouraged involvement in Parkrose High School’s mural and Peace Labyrinth or Shaver’s Peace Park, which invited children of all ages to lend a hand for posterity. Parents and teachers also broached the need for some sort of commemoration ceremony to recognize their efforts.

Among other ideas that gained support were a fenced dog park — the nearest city-run fenced dog park is at Normandale Park at Northeast 57th Avenue and Hassalo Street — equipped with baggie stations, and echoing the children’s sentiments on such a hot day, something incorporating water, either a wading pool, natural pond or fountain.

In essence all assembled sought a common space, one to relax or play in, to improve body or mind, or to simply sit on a bench and think about how far our neighborhood has come ... together.
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