The phrase ‘sense of place’ has become a buzzword for those that work with land conservation for at least a decade. It is often envisioned as a physical aspect of the landscape itself – a beautiful tree, rich agricultural soil, a field where a historic event took place. As places in Portland come and go with development and time, people’s sense of the places that mark important feelings, memories or values inevitably alter as well.
Often all that is left of a place are the citizens that keep the memories, big and small, that define our city. Thankfully, Portland’s nearly 12,000 acres of parkland have been reserved for generations of these memories to collect and enrich our lives. For our 15th anniversary year we’ll be talking to folks whose big and small memories of Portland’s park spaces shape their lives and the way they view the city itself.
We asked what parks mean to our Board Chair Gina Eiben. A transplant like many Portlanders these days, parks have helped her establish deep roots within our city.
How did you come to Portland?
I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. I began my legal career in Cleveland, Ohio where I practiced law for two years before relocating to Portland. I was drawn to Portland long before I moved here - amazed by the abundance of natural beauty and the prevalent use and enjoyment of the outdoors. When I first visited Portland in November 1998, my sister took me on a walk through Washington Park. It was a torrential downpour and we were soaked, but that didn’t stop us or the crowd of turkey trotters from enjoying the lush scenery. I, like so many others, fell in love with Portland. Since moving to Portland in 2007, parks have proven to be a great source of entertainment, relaxation and refuge through the various phases of my life.
How have Portland’s parks played a role in your life?
When I finally relocated here in 2007, and didn’t know anyone, I did a lot of hiking by myself in Forest Park. When my now husband moved here, and we got a dog, the three of us spent numerous weekends hiking and relaxing in Portland parks. Now that I have two sons, ages 2 and 5, we regularly walk to the many wonderful parks near our neighborhood in NE Portland.
Some of my best memories include my inaugural walk through Washington Park with my sister in 1998. In 2010, my husband and I were married in the Shakespeare Garden in Washington Park. I was delighted and proud to welcome my friends and family, most of whom had never been to Portland, to experience the city, but especially the park. On a sunny afternoon in 2011, I strolled through the Rose Garden in Washington Park experiencing the wonder of labor, and waiting to welcome our first son.
Do you feel parks are important to Portland’s identity?
I believe that Portlanders are especially lucky to have the natural resources that we do. The city is blessed with natural beauty that can’t be recreated or substituted. Portland’s parks are a real treasure. Parks have something to offer to every person in this city – nature is a great equalizer. I love our parks. I want to maintain what we have and continue to grow the prevalence and accessibility of parks throughout the city. I don’t want to see our parks be taken for granted. In our fifteenth year, the Foundation has an energy, sense of stewardship and commitment to equity that is inspiring. I feel proud to be part of such a capable and focused organization whose work is essential to protecting and promoting park space and programs throughout the City .
Parks are more than just empty places in the city. They deserve to be preserved with the same care as the memories created within their boundaries. We hope you will join us to make them even better for generations to come.