On June 20, 10 Friends gathered for our monthly meeting with our new President, Gary Hancock, presiding. In attendance from the City of Portland were Evan Callahan from the Parks department’s bond team, Park Supervisor Mike Grosso, Partnership and Development Coordinator Jessie Bond, and Ecologically Sustainable Landscapes Coordinator Eric Rosewall.
At this meeting we were able to hear the good news that Wilshire Park will receive some funds from a bond passed by voters in 2014 for the repair and maintenance of equipment in Portland’s parks. The bond had passed with 74% of voter support and initially allocated $48 million for improvements and maintenance at parks all over the city. $28 million of the bond remains, and Wilshire Park has been given a slice of these funds to replace the largest of the toddler play structures. This was great news for the Friends, as the sad state of the children’s play equipment has been one of our primary areas of concern.
Furthermore, Jessie Bond will work with us as we raise funds privately to replace the other smaller pieces of play equipment. As we move forward, the Friends will need to make a formal agreement with the city that lays out how the funds will be raised, the amount of time allotted for fundraising, and the exact equipment that will be installed. At the next meeting of Friends of Wilshire Park, a formal Children’s Play Area Team will form to begin working on fundraising and planning for this project, much in the same way that the NatureSpace Team has functioned so far, with separate e-mail communication and in-person meetings from the main Friends group.
The Friends were also informed about the Adopt-a-bench program, which allows private donors to install seating in parks. A new park bench costs $5,000, and a refurbished bench is $3,000. At first glance this may seem like a high cost, but this amount covers the purchase of long-wearing, sturdy seating, in addition to its installation and maintenance. Unfortunately at all of Portland’s parks vandalism is common and costly, and even a bench that isn’t vandalized periodically needs cleaning, repainting and treatment for rusty parts.
The meeting then turned to Eric Rosewall, who gave an update on the NatureSpace. The site will be located just east of the picnic area, filling a disused patch of ground that covers about 10,000 square feet. It will be surrounded by a split rail fence and feature a gravel path with boulders and logs for seating. There will be between three and six volunteer days in fall and winter, which are the optimal time for installing native plants. Each planting day will require the work of 20 to 40 volunteers. The plan is nearly finalized and at this point there would likely only be minor tweaks to the design.
Oren Bernstein provided an update on fundraising for the NatureSpace. The project has already secured a grant of nearly $10,000 from the Community Watershed Stewardship Program, and the team is applying for a second smaller grant of $2,000 from another source. The NatureSpace team also plans to solicit donations directly from the community through a crowdfunding site. The Central Northeast Neighborhood Coalition is acting as our fiscal sponsor for this project, and as soon as details are finalized with them, we’ll begin a big push for donations, using printable flyers and graphics that can be shared online to spread the word. More donations means more plants, a more lush space, and a stronger ecosystem in what we hope will be a pleasant area for parkgoers and healthy habitat for birds.