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?

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.

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.

We need two more volunteers for Wednesday

This is an exciting week for Wilshire Park. The city will begin installing a new piece of toddler play equipment thanks to some funds from the voter-supported Parks Replacement Bond.  The largest play structure in the toddler area will be removed and replaced with a new, safer play piece along with new poured-in place safety surfacing. Work will take about three weeks, and details can be found here: portlandoregon.gov/parks/76593.

On Wednesday, we begin the installation of the NatureSpace between the pavilion and children’s play area. We have had a positive response from the community on this project, and more volunteers are enlisting every day to participate on October 6 (Mulch Day — bring the kids!) and November 10 (Planting Day — the big payoff!), but we have come up two volunteers short for this Wednesday from 7 am to 2 pm, when we will assist Portland Parks and Recreation staff with building a split-rail fence. Please share this e-mail with everyone you know who cares about vibrant outdoor spaces for everyone to share, and let’s get the job done! Detailed information and our signup form is found here:

https://www.friendsofwilshirepark.org/2018/09/05/get-your-buckets-shovels-and-gloves/

Please remember to use our official signup form, located at the bottom of that post. It’s the only way we will know you are confirmed to volunteer and all official instructions, including how to get credit for community service, will only be sent to those who have signed up.

See you at the park!

Get your buckets, shovels, and gloves!

Friends of Wilshire Park are pleased to announce the installation schedule for the NatureSpace at Wilshire Park. This project is being done in partnership with Portland Parks and Recreation, and their official information can be found here. Here is our finalized site plan:

Whatever your age, ability, or knowledge of gardening, you are wanted and welcome. We have been particularly happy to see how many families want to get involved with their children, because it is their park too and it’s never too early to find ways for little ones to make a difference in their community.

Here is the schedule for volunteers. There will be other installation dates, such as when the site is marked out and when the gravel and boulders are installed, but these tasks will be done by Portland Parks and Recreation and Verde, an organization that helps to build native landscapes because they require special knowledge and equipment or just don’t really require volunteer work.

Wednesday, September 26 from 7 AM to 2 PM: Let’s Build a Fence!

We need 4 to 6 adult volunteers to assist Portland Parks and Recreation with the installation of a split-rail fence. Volunteers should bring their own gloves and a water bottle, dress for whatever weather Portland decides to throw at us that day, and either bring a bag lunch or a few bucks to pool for pizza delivery. Volunteers should be in good health and able to lift rails, dig with shovels, and move dirt and gravel.

Saturday, October 6 from 8 AM to 12 PM: Mulch That Grass!

This is the volunteer day that is particularly aimed at families who wish to involve their children. We need many people of all ages and abilities spread wood chips over the site. Every volunteer should dress for the weather that day, bring lunch and a water bottle, and wear gloves (even the little ones). Kids are encouraged to bring their toy buckets, shovels, trowels, and rakes. Older volunteers should bring hard-tined rakes, large buckets, and wheelbarrows to help move bark mulch and spread it to a depth of 3 or 4 inches to smother out the grass underneath the planting site. There will be a kids’ area set up in the pavilion for stroller parking, coloring, and diaper bags. Volunteers are encouraged to stay for a picnic at noon. In the event that the mulch hasn’t been fully spread by lunchtime, volunteers who can are asked to stay until the job is done. Volunteers with physical conditions that make it difficult for them to spread mulch are still needed to help with handing out coloring pages for kids, directing volunteers to the right place, and helping students and scouts with their paperwork confirming their volunteer hours.

Saturday, November 10 from 8 AM until we are done: Planting Day!

We’ll need plenty of volunteers of (most) ages and abilities needed to install native trees, shrubs, and plants. Volunteers should dress for the weather, wear gloves, and bring trowels, hand rakes, shovels, and other tools for planting items of various sizes. Those who participate in planting should be in good general health and be able to dig, lift plants of various sizes, carry them from a truck to their planting site, and lift bags of soil. There will be large and small plants, so we will match you with activities that fit your abilities. Volunteers who are unable to help with planting are still needed to help with paperwork and organizing volunteers. Children are encouraged to come, but parents should consider age and maturity before deciding to participate as we don’t want plants to be damaged during installation. Volunteers should bring a lunch or money to pool for pizza delivery.

If you have questions, just drop us a line. Please sign up for our newsletter using the form to the right in order to stay up-to-date on volunteer opportunities and improvements being made to Wilshire Park. We look forward to seeing you on our volunteer days!

Volunteers needed!

Our push for volunteers and donations for the NatureSpace is rolling out! We have secured a grant for about $10,000 from the Community Watershed Stewardship Program and have applied for more, but any extra donations that come in will mean more plants, shrubs, and trees for a vibrant, healthy habitat between the picnic area and the pavilion at Wilshire Park. We also have a site plan. Check it out!

The space will be enclosed by a simple split-rail fence, with a curving path and layers of low, medium, and tall plants to fill the canopy under the mature Douglas Firs already at the park. Here’s the location of the NatureSpace within the park:

Site of NatureSpace within Wilshire Park

We’ve been working with members of Portland Parks and Recreation to develop this plan. Our hope is that the NatureSpace will serve many needs. It will help prevent runoff and erosion into storm drains, provide shelter and food for native and migrating birds, and give bird enthusiasts a great place to spot their favorite flying friends. As it’s adjacent to the picnic area, we know it will provide a pleasant place for children to explore or for families to sit and relax after a meal. We’ve also learned that students from Beaumont Middle School have surveyed the site with their science teachers, taking soil measurements and counting the number of plant and animal species they saw in the home of the future NatureSpace. An ongoing school science project will be to track the soil health and biodiversity of the site. This project is especially gratifying to the Friends of Wilshire Park, as it shows what a direct public benefit the NatureSpace will be.

As Friends of Wilshire Park is a grassroots organization, we are not a 501(c)3 and cannot collect tax-deductible donations. To ensure that we are transparent about how we handle funds and meet every legal requirement for fundraising, we’ve partnered with the Central Northeast Neighbors Coalition, the umbrella group for our cluster of Portland neighborhoods here in Northeast. They’ll hold onto every tax-deductible donation that comes in for the NatureSpace, and donors will be able to see how every penny was spent. A crowdfunding effort will begin soon to augment the grant we’ve secured, which will mean more plants, a more lush space, and more happy people and animals at Wilshire Park.

Our page at friendsofwilshirepark.org/volunteer will always have the latest information on what you can do to help make the park a nicer place for everyone. If you would like to be added to our mailing list for Wilshire Park Volunteers, please drop us a line at [email protected] We will never share your information with third parties and you will only receive information about volunteer projects at the park. You can also subscribe to our newsletter using the form in the column to the right on this page. This will allow you to get all of the news and announcements about upcoming projects, meetings, and events.

Great news and here’s a flyer

Great news, friends!

We have heard from the city that it’s possible to replace the rotting children’s play equipment, but we will need to do some fundraising and do it before next spring. This is tricky as we are about to launch our NatureSpace project, which will bring native plants and seating to a less used area of the park, and we don’t want these fundraising efforts to conflict. The NatureSpace has been issued a generous grant by the Community Watershed Stewardship Program, and our crowdfunding effort will bulk up this budget to make a truly beautiful space. This first fundraiser will be smaller in scale and will provide good practice for the big push we’ll need to achieve the much larger goal of $50,000 to rebuild the baby and toddler play area, which hasn’t been updated in over 25 years.

This news makes it particularly important that anyone who wants to get directly involved in the NatureSpace or in the revitalization of the children’s play area should attend our meeting on Wednesday, June 20 at Bethany Lutheran Church. We also have a flyer for you to print out and post anywhere you can — local businesses, your front yard, your car window . . . anywhere you can! If you post it in a shop or cafe, cut the bottom into a fringe so people can tear off the pieces of paper with our web address on it. The fringe can also just be cut off if you wish to post it inside your car window or in another place where people would be unable to tear off the strips. You can download it here and you can also find the flyer and other downloadable items at our Resources page.

We are making things happen! Let’s keep the momentum going.