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: