Ready, Set, Fundraise!

This little car and the playhouse behind it have been loved by generations of kids here in Northeast Portland. To be quite honest, it’s been loved to death. It’s splintering and those old boards are creaking. It’s time to retire this hard-working piece of play equipment and get something new.

There is currently nothing in the city budget, however, to pay for a new toy car, which can cost over $20,000. That may seem like a lot but the price tag covers more than just a toy. The price includes the fabrication of the equipment in Minnesota, shipping the pieces out, removing the old parts, building supports below ground level, and assembling the new equipment, which is made to last about 30 years. This is not a cheap backyard toy that will break after a few summers — the equipment is made from high-quality, hard-wearing materials that will survive the thousands of rugrats who will climb all over it every day in the coming decades.

The Friends have worked with representatives from the city to come up with a way to privately fund the replacement of the equipment. We can’t alter the site’s layout — this would trigger a costly and time-consuming review process. The current budget situation at the Parks Department doesn’t leave any staff time for such a review anyway, so we came up with a simpler solution — we’ll select very similar items out of the catalog that the city already uses. These items are already approved, so they don’t need review. The city also already has a contract with a construction company that installs play equipment in Portland’s parks, so no review process is needed to pay them directly to install the equipment. All we have to do is come up with the cash.

Particular pieces of equipment that will go in will follow the theme that our neighbors voted for in our poll — Woodland. This was the landslide winner, and that came as no surprise to us as Wilshire Park’s soaring Douglas Firs remind us of what we love most about Oregon — its beautiful natural spaces. So the broken little car will be replaced by something that looks like an off-road vehicle and the play house might be a little cabin. But they will be similar in size to the existing toys and will still be appropriate for children aged 5 and under. The basic function and overall look of the play space will not change, other than being more attractive and safer. After speaking with parents, the Friends have decided to buy a new car first, and then replace the cabin as the car is slightly more popular with the kids.

So what can you do? The best way to help is with cash. Any amount that you can give to this project will get us there that much sooner. Because the Friends of Wilshire Park are a grassroots group and is not legally able to handle money, the Central Northeast Neighbors Coalition has generously offered to act as our fiscal sponsor. They are an officially recognized part of Portland’s neighborhood system and a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit. This means they can legally accept donations and pay the company building the new play pieces. It also means that every penny donated is 100% tax-deductible. You can send your checks to:

Central Northeast Neighbors
4415 NE 87th
Portland, Oregon 97220

IMPORTANT: Please write “Friends of Wilshire Park” in the memo section of your check so that CNN knows that the donation is for the improvements to the children’s play area.

We have other plans in the works to raise funds and will make more announcements soon, but direct cash donations will be the fastest and best way to make a difference at our neighborhood park. Our kids deserve safe, fun places to play, imagine, and grow. Your contribution can make a huge difference. No amount is too small.

If a financial donation is beyond your means, then you can also help by spreading the word! Tell your friends, neighbors, and relatives. Many businesses look for ways to make a difference in their neighborhoods, and Portlanders are known for caring about one another and having fun outdoors. The amount we need to raise is a very realistic goal, and we can get there with your help.

And The Winner Is . . .

The results of our neighborhood poll are in, and the clear choice for the theme of the children’s play area at Wilshire Park is Woodland. About 40% of respondents were from the Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhood, with Concordia and Alameda also well represented. Only a few neighbors from other neighborhoods voted in the poll:

We asked two sorts of questions. First, we asked people to rank each proposed theme. 1 for love it, 2 for neutral, 3 for hate it. Voters were lukewarm on the Barnyard and Submarine themes, but really liked the Woodland theme:

So while in the overall vote Woodland won 51% of the vote, the fact that it was the only theme people strongly liked made it the clear winner:

This result came as no surprise, as Wilshire Park’s soaring Douglas Firs remind us of Oregon’s beautiful woodlands and forests. Any of these themes would have been great. Kids really just need something to act as a foundation for their imaginations. But Woodland it is, and any future equipment put in by Friends of Wilshire Park will include items such as an 0ff-road vehicle, a play cabin, logs and stumps, or boulders. Great choice, neighborhood!

The Plan for the Toddler Play Area

Great news, Friends! At our most recent monthly meeting, we heard back from several members who have had conversations with people from Portland Parks and Recreation, and we now have a plan for how to finish fixing up the play area for small children at Wilshire Park.

We all know that over the last several years, there has been no money in the budget for parks like Wilshire while the city has devoted its parks funds to building new facilities in areas of the city that previously had no play spaces at all. The bad news is that it looks like the Parks budget will be further slashed in the coming years, so it’s up to us to raise the funds if we want to see improvements. There are a lot of political issues here, and the Friends of Wilshire Park take no position on that at present other than to say that we’ll never stop advocating for our park, which is the heart of our neighborhood and serves people from all over Portland because of its varied facilities, ease of access, and toddler play area, which very few parks in Portland have.

But the Parks team is able to meet us in the middle. If we can do the fundraising and work within their existing system, we can get some new equipment installed. This makes sense to us; the city already has contracts with builders and equipment vendors, so why start from scratch? The sample equipment we’ve seen in pictures and at parks around town look great. However, in order to achieve a full replacement of the rotting equipment at Wilshire Park, we will need to raise at least $50,000. This is achievable with the right level of commitment, and anything more we can raise would mean an even nicer park for our little ones.

We have outlined the following first steps to get our fundraising effort going:

1. Choose between three general themes for the play area

This does *not* mean selecting specific pieces of equipment. We will not be able to do that until we have raised money and know what we can afford to purchase. Instead we’ll choose between a Woodland theme, which matches Wilshire Park’s many native plants, a Barnyard theme, which goes with Northeast Portland’s strong tradition of mini-homesteading, or a Submarine theme, which really is just fun. These three themes were offered by the city’s vendor as having the best selection of equipment that is appropriate for small children. We want members of the community to participate in a poll, which is linked at the bottom of this post, to be sure that their voice is heard in the conversation.

2. Write grant applications

We need money, and when fundraising it’s best to spend time and energy on larger sums first. Our strategy is to start by applying for grants that fund the construction of children’s play areas, then move on to asking large businesses in the Portland area for donations, then ask local businesses and neighbors to chip in. As soon as our fiscal sponsor is in place, we’ll take money from anyone with a check to write, but the Friends should focus their energy on finding large sources of funding first. Our next meeting, to be held on March 13 at 7:00 pm at Bethany Lutheran Church, will be a grant writing workshop. We are asking all members of the Friends to search online for one or two parks grants and bring this information to the meeting so we can work on the applications together.

3. Set a deadline for fundraising

We do not want to have an open-ended period for fundraising, as this would lead to frustration and stall the construction of urgently needed equipment. At our meeting we did not set a firm deadline, but we thought that about six months would be right, beginning on the day that we secure a fiscal sponsor who can legally collect the money for us. As Friends of Wilshire Park is just a neighborhood group and not a 501(c)3 organization, it is very important that we use an organization that is a recognized charity so that we do everything properly and so that all donors can claim their donations as tax-deductible.

4. Fix the play area!

When we hit our fundraising goal or our deadline, whichever comes first, we’ll look at our budget and then see what equipment we can purchase. The new equipment won’t be identical in appearance to what is already at the park. The wooden structures that are currently there stopped being sold years ago. However, any new equipment will be similar in its function and age level. The Friends of Wilshire Park will actively seek input from the neighborhood when it’s time to do a final site plan, but please keep in mind that this step is still a long way off.

So what can you do now?

Spread the word! Come to our next meeting and bring a friend and come ready to help write grant applications. We also need your input on our poll to determine a theme for the play area. Please share the link to this poll with anyone who lives near Wilshire Park or who regularly uses Wilshire Park. As you can see below, there are images that offer a suggestion of what a theme might look like, but these are NOT specific site plans. A Woodland theme might have stepping logs, a cabin, a lumber truck, or any other piece of equipment that goes with an outdoorsy vibe. A Barnyard theme could have riding toys that look like animals, or perhaps a tractor, or, appropriately, a barn. The Submarine theme might have rideable seahorses, a submarine, climbable “kelp,” and other undersea-themed toys. When voting, please consider a few things. Think about how Wilshire Park already looks. Think about the fact that this equipment will be for kids five and under. And consider how it will affect the appearance of the park over the lifespan of the equipment — about thirty years.

Here’s the poll. You can vote right here or copy this link to spread the word to your neighbors:

What Theme Do You Think Best Fits the Wilshire Park Children’s Play Area?

Two volunteer opportunities

We hope you’ve had a good holiday season and are enjoying the NatureSpace and new toddler play structure at Wilshire Park. Please come to our next meeting on Wednesday, February 13 to see the plan we’ve been working on for continuing to improve the children’s play area.

There are two chances to help our neighborhood parks next week. The first is at Irving Park, which is just down the road from Wilshire Park. A small planting project will be taking place there on Tuesday, January 22 from 9 am to noon. School is out that day, so if you need something do with the kids, come on out to the park. If you’d like to help, please contact Hillary Maurer at [email protected] and let her know you’re coming.

Our second opportunity is happening Friday, January 25 at 9:30 am at Wilshire Park. The recent windstorms have left quite a lot of broken branches laying around our park, and we’ll be helping park staff clean them up. If you would like to volunteer, just send an e-mail to [email protected] and let us know you’ll be there. Dress for the weather and bring some good gardening gloves to protect your hands.

January meeting canceled

Because not much happens over the holidays, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of action items on our January agenda. For this reason, we’ve decided to cancel our meeting on Wednesday. However, the Friends have a request: send us your photos! If you participated in any of the volunteer days to help build the NatureSpace, or if you have a photo of yourselves enjoying Wilshire Park that you don’t mind sharing, please send it to us. We’ll post them here in a gallery as well as use them occasionally for illustrating grant applications, flyers, and online materials. We’ll take all kinds of photos — family photos, shots of your adorable dogs, joggers. All we ask is that the photo you submit be appropriate for a general audience and that you have the right to share it. We’ll never sell your photo or use it for commercial purposes, but it will of course be publicly posted on this website.

We’ll see you next month on Wednesday, February 13 — we can show some love to Wilshire Park just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Meeting Notes: 4 December 2018

The last 2018 meeting for Friends of Wilshire Park was held on Wednesday, December 4th at 7:00 pm. In attendence were Gary Hancock, Georgina Head, John Sandie, Al Ellis, Oren Bernstein and Peter Mogielnicki were present.  The initial discussion focused on a Mission and Vision statement but it was concluded that since we have readily available fiscal agents with Central Northeast Neighborhood coalition, Northeast Coalition of Neighbors, or the Portland Parks Foundation, it was not necessary to go through the complex process of becoming an independent 501(3)c organization and therefore unnecessary to agree on Mission or Vision statements at this point. The primary purpose of Friends of Wilshire Park remains to make improvements to the park that preserve and enhance its lovely character as a pleasant neighborhood park.

There was some discussion of dog park improvement which recognized that a group of the local community had met the previous week to focus on the dog park and that they seemed to be making some good progress and FWP was generally excited to see that project getting some traction.

The remainder of the meeting was devoted to playground issues. The recent addition of previously planned new toddler equipment was gratefully acknowledged. The replacement of one of the rotting structures with a new play piece will go a long way to providing a place for children to play safely while the group works on replacing the rest of the equipment. There was significant interest in continuing to work towards improving the playground. The discussion focused on two possible paths:

  1. Begin to fund-raise with the goal of acquiring additional new playground equipment (Gary has catalogs of equipment and planned to review them for potential pieces ).   This path has the benefit that it is well defined and straightforward.
  2. Add natural elements to the playground.   This would be quite inexpensive (e.g. logs and boulders which would function  as climbing and balancing features, and double as adult seating.) A conceptual drawing of a sandbox improvement was reviewed.

There was also a discussion of a longer term vision for the playground – turning it into a “world class playground”.  There was a consensus that that should remain a long term aspiration, but a smaller focused project with good bang for the buck would be the right next step to focus on now. The broken merry-go-round was discussed  but no action steps emerged.

Tiffney Townsend was unable to attend but reported through Gary her conversation with Director of Northeast Parks Maintenance Mike Grosso about the feasibility of improving adult seating in the vicinity of the playground by strategically placing several community-funded boulders in the area.  Mr. Grosso’s initial response was a positive one but shortly thereafter Tiffney received the following e-mail:

We won’t be able to implement any new improvements until the entire scope of the project is reviewed by PP&R.  We have estimates and play themes for the potential toddler area. The Friends were going to determine how much money they can raise for that toddler area project.  Jessie Bond was the main PP&R contact, but she has moved on to a different job. I copied her manager, Jennifer Yocom, who can provide us with an interim contact until Jessie’s position is filled.

These ideas for including a nature play element would first need to be reviewed for compatibility and space requirements with the existing traditional play equipment.  Estimates would be needed for any potential nature play project and additional funding commitments from the Friends.

Let’s first find out from Jennifer where we are at presently in the overall process and go from there.

The meeting ended with a plan for Gary Hancock and Oren Bernstein to meet with Mike Grosso to clarify his note and explore ways to move forward. Others in attendance will explore other routes toward playground improvement.

Let’s be friendly to Hazeltine Park

Eric Rosewall, the Ecological Landscapes Coordinator for Portland Parks and Recreation, has done a great job supervising the Friends of Wilshire Park as we’ve put in the NatureSpace, which will be completed on Saturday, November 10 when we finally install the native plants into the garden. He let us know that a similar project is going on elsewhere in Portland, and Hazeltine Park is also looking for some volunteers to improve their native garden.

The Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood, the Johnson Creek Watershed Council, and Portland Parks & Recreation have teamed up to install hundreds of native, pollinator-friendly plants and cut the ribbon on the new natural landscape with the park’s guest of honor and namesake, Dick Hazeltine.

Planting will take place Saturday, December 1st, from 9am-12pm. Everyone is welcome. Arrive at 8:45 for orientation, or feel free to join in as a second wave later on. Hazeltine Park is located at 5416 SE Flavel Drive. Street parking is available nearby in the neighborhood. Transit options include nearby bus stops on lines 71 and 75. Dress for the weather. They will have gloves, tools, and refreshments.

Please RSVP to attend the planting here

Learn about the project here

Sign up on Facebook here

Back Yard Bird Shop is a Friend!

The Backyard Bird Shop has made a very generous offer of matching donations to the NatureSpace made at their Fremont Store between October 22 – November 4. Backyard Bird Shop is a great place to get fun, environmentally friendly holiday gifts for anyone on your list and they are a terrific locally owned chain. If you’d like to visit the store and support our NatureSpace project with a donation it would be very much appreciated. We will use the funds to pay for the hundreds of native plants and shrubs we are buying. Here’s a digital flyer that you can share online:

Don’t forget to sign up to volunteer for Planting Day at the NatureSpace on Saturday, November 10! Also, we’ll be celebrating the completed NatureSpace at our November 14 meeting, so be sure to put that on your calendar. Anyone who is interested in making improvements to the dog park or fundraising for the children’s play area should also attend this meeting.

That’s easier to read!

This morning we cleaned up the signposts around the off-leash dog park. All of them were quite dirty with a lot of moss and lichen growing in the recessed lettering and the Portland Parks logo. One post had also been marked with some graffiti.

Honest, there’s lettering under there.

Yeah, it’s graffiti, but even by the standards of vandalism it’s not terribly good graffiti.

We discovered that there is still actually quite a bit of paint on the signs, but the main problem affecting legibility was just that the posts are covered in moss and dirt. So this morning we focused on just giving the signposts a good cleaning, and the results were good:

The deep cleaning was much needed, and we’ll schedule another day soon to touch up the lettering as some of the signs have had the paint wear away in places. Even that graffiti came off with soap, water, and elbow grease. We want to coordinate further with the Parks team about properly repainting the rest of the posts so they last longer.

This is the sort of task that we can do. The Portland Parks and Recreation team is made of of great, hard working people, but there just isn’t staff time or budget to take care of every little thing. By taking responsibility for our community park, we can show park visitors what a great neighborhood this is and how much we care about our public spaces.

As we worked, we chatted about last weekend’s mulch party over at the NatureSpace, particularly about the great volunteer turnout and how many children were involved. It really was gratifying to see so many children helping and having a great time doing it. The little ones were proud of themselves and eager to show that they could help their park. Children can do so much if adults will just provide them with the opportunity. We decided that we need to be sure to come up with service opportunities for children at least a few times a year, not only to cultivate a sense of community pride in our kids but also to help them see that they have valuable skills to offer the world.

Dog Park Signpost Painting Party

Tomorrow morning at 9:00 the painting party will convene at Wilshire Park. It’s not too late to join the volunteers who have already committed to helping, and all you need to do is show up. Looks like the weather will be perfect — nice and clear, although it will be brisk so wear a coat. It would be very helpful if volunteers could bring old hand towels or paper towels, small craft paint brushes, and old dish brushes, so don’t forget these supplies as everyone will need these tools to work. Paint will be provided.

We’ll use the dish scrubbers to to clean out the recessed lettering, removing any dirt and moss. After a wipe down the lettering will be ready for repainting.

This is a small project, but an important one, as it will make the boundaries of the off leash area more clear. The top concern we’ve had expressed about the dog area at Wilshire Park is that not enough park visitors are using it, instead allowing their dogs to wander off-leash all over the park. Multnomah County’s leash law (and basic politeness) prohibit this, and parents in particular don’t like to see dogs off leash outside the dog park, as a perfectly friendly golden retriever can be massive and intimidating to a toddler. It’s our hope that repainting the signpost lettering will help people be aware of the boundaries of the off-leash area and be more conscientious about keeping their dogs on leash outside of its boundaries.

We’ll see you at the park!