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!

Great turnout on Mulch Day!

Our volunteers are amazing! Yesterday was Mulch Day at the NatureSpace, and we had about 40 volunteers turn up — half were children, and most of them five or younger. The little ones not only got quite a lot of work done but they really enjoyed being out in the park on a nice fall day. Even quite small children understood that their efforts made a difference. They brought gloves, toy buckets, and a lot of fun. We had so many helping hands show up that we completed the job early, applying a thick layer of mulch to the perimeter of the NatureSpace both inside and outside the new split rail fence. This will conserve moisture and prevent grass and invasive weeds from getting into the habitat.

We did notice one unfortunate thing — one of the fence rails is already broken, likely from a park visitor who sat on it. Split rail fences aren’t meant to bear weight, so please discourage your friends from sitting on the NatureSpace fence. However, we’ll get that rail fixed as soon as we can.

The site is all prepared, with nice rich planting compost inside the habitat and the mulch framing the site with the fence. Logs are in place, and the boulders and path will be installed soon. Over the next month, the remains of the struggling lawn will break down under the mulch and compost, and the soil will soften in preparation for Planting Day on November 10. This will be the big payoff! We still have room for more volunteers on Planting Day, so spread the word.

Four volunteers brought large wheelbarrows, which made the work go very quickly.

Everyone can help in their community, no matter how small.

Mulch needs to be applied at least three inches deep in order to prevent grass and weeds from growing back. We went even thicker, as in a public park mulch will eventually be disturbed a little.

The littlest volunteers were the most enthusiastic. Everyone can do something to help their neighborhood, whatever their age or ability.

A few happy, dirty volunteers at the end of a job well done.

The fence, logs, mulch, and planting compost are in place. All that’s left to put in are the path, boulders, and plants!

Volunteer Instructions for Mulch Day

We are just a few days from Mulch Day, where we will prepare the NatureSpace for Planting Day on November 10 by spreading mulch over the site. We completed the split rail fence enclosing the site last week, and it looks great. Check out photos here.

Volunteers should check the weather and come dressed accordingly. It currently looks like there will be no rain (hooray!) but the morning will be cool. Each of you should also wear gloves, as mulch should not be handled by bare hands. If you have wheelbarrows, hard-tined rakes, buckets, and shovels, bring those too. Don’t forget a water bottle and a sack lunch.

While we want anyone interested in volunteering to come help out, we especially hope that families with children — even babies and toddlers — will come out because the Friends believe that it’s never too early to give children a chance to serve their community. It’s their park too, so come on out and bring those toy buckets and shovels with you! Even if little ones only have the ability to help for a little while, their contribution matters. Older children can receive credit for their volunteer time to use toward scouts, school service awards, or other volunteer programs. Just send an e-mail to [email protected] to get a form verifying service hours.

Please remember to sign up using our official volunteer form:

Spread the word about this service opportunity however you can. This is one day where we can say the more, the merrier. Volunteers who stay until 12 should bring a picnic lunch, and we can all eat together when the work is done.

See you on Saturday morning!