New grants projects connect underserved communities with local parks and programs

Portland Parks Foundation is pleased to announce the new grantees from our Small Grants Program, which provides capacity building support for organizations whose work aligns with PPF’s mission to ensure a thriving and accessible parks system for a healthy Portland. “We are excited to work with our new grantees, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO)  and Ecology in Classrooms and Outdoors (ECO). These projects directly address PPF’s priority for supporting underserved communities that have barriers to accessing the benefits of local parks and programs,” said Jessica Green, PPF’s Operations Officer.

IRCO’s Slavic Youth and Families Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) Community School Program at Gilbert Park Elementary.

IRCO’s Slavic Youth and Families Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) Community School Program at Gilbert Park Elementary.

IRCO is nationally and locally recognized as a culturally and linguistically specific community-based organization with a deep understanding of the diverse communities residing in Oregon. Their proposed project supports Portland’s Slavic Community, Oregon’s largest refugee-based community, which includes diverse ethnicities such as Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian, and Czech. “After experiencing religious and political persecution, conflict, and corruption, Slavs are often isolated and reticent to mainstream systems. Almost one in three Slavic children live in poverty, twice the rate of White children. One in five Slavs speak English less than well. These disparities represent significant obstacles for Slavic families seeking resources through PP&R,” IRCO wrote. Through this project, IRCO will provide opportunities to engage Slavic community members with Portland parks spaces and programs through information sharing and events. IRCO hopes to not only increase Slavs’ access to parks, but also help “provide the sense of belonging that Portland’s public spaces, and by extension the city itself, is ‘for them.’”

Students participating in an ECO program at Kingsley D. Bundy Park in SE Portland.

Students participating in an ECO program at Kingsley D. Bundy Park in SE Portland.

With a mission to reconnect kids with nature, ECO shared that their work “is rooted in the understanding that when kids enjoy and understand the natural world, they grow into adults who take value and take care of it.” Eighty percent of the students ECO serves qualify for free or reduced lunch and 63% identify as minority. City parks that ECO students engage with include Powell Butte Natural Area, Springwater Corridor, and Kingsley D. Bundy Park. The proposed project is to provide diversity, equity, and inclusion training for ECO’s staff and board, with the goal of increasing capacity for the organization to deliver equitable and culturally responsive ecology programs. With increased capacity, ECO sees the impact of this program as helping to build “a more inclusive and diverse next generation of Portland residents who value and support access to thriving parks and natural areas.”

Congratulations to IRCO and ECO!

If you’re with a public park friends group or another community partner, be sure to keep in touch with the PPF throughout the year. You can learn more about our Small Grants Program here. Our next round of applications will be open beginning March 1, with a deadline of March 30, 2019. In addition to small grants, we also offer seasonal technical assistance workshops. Past programs have focused on fundraising strategies, equity and inclusion, grant writing, and building your board.

Portland Parks Foundation welcomes new Executive Director Randy Gragg

Portland Parks Foundation (PPF) welcomes Randy Gragg as the new Executive Director. Gragg succeeds Jeff Anderson who recently retired from the role. Bringing a dynamic background in journalism, urban planning, and advocacy, Gragg will lead the organization that serves as the chief philanthropic partner for the City of Portland’s Parks & Recreation.

For nearly 30 years, Gragg has helped to shape conversations about the city of Portland’s spaces and culture. His leadership and advocacy has helped champion a number of public parks projects, including Eastbank Esplanade, Pioneer Courthouse Square, and Lawrence Halprin’s Portland Open Space Sequence, also known as Lovejoy Fountain, Pettyrove Park, and Keller Fountain.

“The Portland Parks Foundation is proud of the impacts we've made on Portland’s Parks system, most recently the Barbara Walker Footbridge over Burnside, opening next summer,” said Mary Ruble, the foundation’s Board Chair. ”With Randy Gragg at the helm of the Foundation, our goal is to increase our visibility and expand our range of public/private partnerships to build a stronger and more vibrant parks and recreation system throughout Portland. We are honored to have Randy join us, and look to his vision and experience to take us to new heights.“

As a journalist, Gragg served as Editor-in-Chief at Portland Monthly Magazine from 2009-2013 and as a columnist and reporter at the Oregonian for 17 years. More recently he has developed exhibitions and public programs with Design Week Portland. From 2013-2017, Gragg was the Executive Director of the University of Oregon’s John Yeon Center for Architecture and the Landscape where he developed a major 2017 retrospective for the Portland Art Museum on the seminal Oregon architect and landscape designer John Yeon.

“Portland is entering an exciting era,” Gragg said. “The city is growing dramatically, not just in numbers, but with deepening cultural diversity, creativity, and awareness. With the Parks Foundation’s 16-year legacy of good work to build on, we’re ready to partner with Portland’s wide-ranging communities to create new parks and programs, refresh those we have, even rethink what a park is and where it can be.”

Gragg was a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and an inaugural National Arts Journalism Fellow at Columbia University. His volunteer affiliations include roles as a board member with Pioneer Courthouse Square and the Alumni Council Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University. As board chair of the Halprin Landscape Conservancy, he co-led the development of an innovative $4.5-million public/private partnership to restore Halprin’s world-renowned fountain plazas.

Portland Parks & Recreation recently came under the leadership of City Commissioner Nick Fish, who will also be the Foundation’s City Council liaison. “Randy is a respected community leader and will bring a strong vision during this time of growth for the Portland Parks Foundation,” said Portland Parks Commissioner Nick Fish. “I look forward to building on our longstanding partnership and expanding Portland’s world-class parks and recreation system.”

About Portland Parks Foundation

The Portland Parks Foundation is devoted to building a thriving and accessible parks system for a healthy, sustainable, and creative Portland. We are the chief philanthropic partner for Portland Parks & Recreation. Through leadership, partnership, and philanthropy, we advance the City of Portland’s commitment to excellence, equity, inclusion, and good stewardship of our public parks. PPF will soon complete the Barbara Walker Footbridge over Burnside.  We have played key roles in the creation of Cully Park, Director Park, the Bill Naito Legacy Fountain, the Gateway Green Master Plan, and the Dawson Park interactive fountain. PPF also provides technical assistance and financial support to parks affiliates and friends groups.

Photo courtesy of Sabina Poole.

PPF's newest board member's lasting impact on Portland parks

PPF Board Member Mary Anne Cassin. Her legacy to Portland parks includes 22 years with Portland Parks & Recreation and a planned gift through Portland Parks Foundation.

PPF Board Member Mary Anne Cassin. Her legacy to Portland parks includes 22 years with Portland Parks & Recreation and a planned gift through Portland Parks Foundation.

Mary Anne Cassin was with Portland Parks & Recreation for 22 years. At the end of her time there, she managed the implementation of the successful 2014 campaign to pass a bond measure that would raise up to $68 million for parks. We’re now at the halfway point of the implementation of that money. It is making vital repairs and improvements citywide and it has prevented many playground facility closures. Read about it here. Mary Anne has joined the Portland Parks Foundation board and we’re so delighted. We sat down with her in September, just before her first board meeting.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! What’s your favorite neighborhood park?

I had a hard time choosing just one, so I’ve narrowed it down to two. My own neighborhood park, Gabriel Park, is such an amazing urban amenity. At 90 acres, it has a stream, a forest, a community garden; it has everything; and yet it can still be a place to be quiet and contemplative. I’ve absolutely loved living near it for the past 30 years. When we built Southwest Community in the late 90s it has become an incredible resource for the city since the community center was built.

You said you had another one, what is it?

Tanner Creek Springs, because I worked on it, and because it’s such an unusual and wonderful one square block amenity. It does so much in so little space. It manages to make you feel like you’re off somewhere in a wetland somewhere with the still water, and the stream, but at the same time it still fits so much into its highly crafted space in an artsy neighborhood. I just think it’s great.

What is your favorite thing to do in a park?

That’s easy, walking in a park, you see people, you see plants, birds, it’s just a wonderful way to go through life. It’s so much better than walking anywhere else because you’re away from cars and you’re in a little bit of nature.

Do you have a moment or memory that encapsulates this?

I remember walking up the stairs at Washington Park Rose Garden one time, it hit me really hard that I was in this amazingly gorgeous place with all these roses and all this beautiful art and sculpture, and that it belonged to the people. This was no one’s private garden, it belonged to all of us.

What inspired you to join the board?

I know some of the people quite well, having worked at Parks for so long. It’s full of people I admire and miss working with, so that will be nice. The mission also inspired me. It’s close to my heart. What the Portland Parks Foundations has been able to do in its short existence is phenomenal. Public funds will not always cover, what in an ideal world they should cover. The fact that the foundation is there to help bridge that divide is wonderful.

You’ve put Portland Parks Foundation into your will - what inspired you to make this kind of commitment?

My career is so tied into Portland parks and when you think about legacy, you tend to think about what will continue to have value to people, not just people but also to habitat. That’s what kept me at Parks all those years. The benefits are so universal, no matter what kind of person you are, what kind of animal you are, even the water — everything benefits from parks. It’s hard to find any kind of nonprofit that rings all the bells that way. You can address hunger, you can get people books, but it all felt like a tiny little slice. Portland Parks & Recreation has done such a good job of being responsive to people. I know enough about park history to know that it is responsive to the culture and the needs of the time. It’s not just this static thing, it will continue to grow and evolve with what it needs to do. Parks seemed like a really good place to leave things for.

What would you tell someone considering a legacy gift but not sure of what the next step is?

Just go do it. The Portland Parks Foundation makes it so easy. They will sit down with you, answer any questions you have without pressure. You can just have an exploratory conversation. The fact that it’s a younger organization makes it more user friendly. I did a couple legacy meetings in my exploration stage, and I felt welcoming arms from the Portland Parks Foundation, more so than I did from bigger, more corporate organizations.

Do you have anything else to add?

It takes a while for any organization like the Portland Parks Foundation to find out who they are and hit their stride. I really think they’ve found it now. It’s an exciting time to be a part of it. I have the context to see that!

We’re so excited to welcome Mary Anne to our board. To learn more about legacy gifts click here.


Community Connections through new PPF Board Leadership

Meet JR Lilly, PPF's newest member of the Board of Directors. JR brings with him a deep connection to the Native community as well as a true love of parks and respect for the value that they bring to life in an urban setting. PPF is honored to welcome JR to our team. 

JR Lilly
Civic Engagement Coordinator, Native American Youth & Family Center (NAYA)

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What is your favorite neighborhood park? My favorite park is Peninsula Park which is always worth the drive across town no matter where I live. I just moved and my neighborhood park is going to be Thomas Cully Park (opening Jun 30).

What is your favorite thing to do in a park? Growing up I was in all the sports, so anything active is great. Some of my best memories are with friends playing kickball on a nice sunny day. Our parks are always great for a simple walk or to toss the football with family.

What inspired you to join the Portland Parks Foundation's board? I love our parks! And I want to make sure that everyone in Portland has access to a place that is safe, fun, and welcome. The Portland Parks Foundation does great work and I look forward to supporting those efforts.

The value of community involvement in local parks

"Even if you don’t go to a park every day, you can still recognize the value that it has." - Gary Maffei

Our board chair, Julie Vigeland, recently sat down with Charles Jordan Circle member Gary Maffei to learn why he supports public parks. 

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Tell us about your upbringing and how it’s influenced your relationship with parks.
Well, I’m a native Portlander—I grew up in Southeast Portland—and our closest park was Mount Scott. I used to spend all summer there. As a child, I remember that the parks system was a center for the neighborhood. We couldn’t afford to go to the beach or to the mountains or on vacation, but we could walk over to the park and have a picnic or play on the playground. I also used to do Little League in Lents Park. My brother did the Babe Ruth league for high school and my dad was a coach.

What has your relationship with parks been like as an adult?
For 20 years of my career, I lived near Council Crest, and I’d go for walks there. We’d take the dog out for runs because there were beautiful hills for playing fetch—the ball would just keep going and so would the dog! In my career years, I was on the City League for tennis, so we played in all the city parks: in North Portland at Peninsula Park, at Grant Park, up at the Rose Garden tennis courts… It was lots of fun.

In your view, what makes parks important for cities?
It’s a gathering place for the neighborhood, especially the parks that have community centers. The community center at Mount Scott had a roller rink in the basement that we used in the winter, and of course the pool opened in the summer for all the kids. The park near where we live now has the farmer’s market and movie nights in the summer—they have a man-made hill where people put their blankets out, and a big screen so everyone can watch the movie.

How can we make parks more accessible for Portlanders in every neighborhood?
I think it’s important to promote the use of existing parks, and also maintain the existing parks so that people want to use them. Maintenance isn’t as exciting as big new projects, but it’s necessary so that parks and sports facilities don’t fall into disrepair. The Parks Foundation has a unique position where you can really advocate for maintenance within the parks, or even for a bond measure to make improvements.

Do you know of any parks advocates who are doing inspiring work?
Any civic leaders that are in love with Portland are going to be in love with the parks—I mean, who isn’t? Even if you don’t go to a park every day, you can still recognize the value that it has. Anybody who’s donated to parks is supporting parks.

You’ve mentioned a number of parks. If you had to choose a favorite, which would it be?
I’d say Mount Scott. I grew up there—20 years of my life was spent in that park, whether that was hanging out with friends, swimming in the summer, or bicycling there. As an older person, my favorite has been Gabriel Park, because I play tennis there. I’ve spent so many evenings playing tennis there, with friends or in the League.

Meet Our Intern

Heidie Ambrose
PPF Programs and Partnerships Intern

We are delighted to introduce our new intern, Heidie Ambrose, to our team at PPF. Heidie is hard working, insightful, and a very thorough researcher. As an intern, she offers fresh perspective and a new voice to our discussions.

Heidie Ambrose.jpg

What is your neighborhood park?
Rockwood Central Park

What is your favorite thing to do in a park?
I love to go hiking with friends and exploring playgrounds with my nephews.

What inspired you to join the Portland Parks Foundation?
I'm interested in the non-profit sector, and care deeply about Portland's green spaces.

What are you most excited to learn about during your internship?
I'm excited to learn more about development, as well as the grant application and review process. It's especially helpful to be a part of the grant program that PPF facilitates. I'm starting to understand what an organization is looking for in an application and getting excited about the proposed projects.

Fund our Parks: A Message from PPF's Executive Director

Thank you to everyone who came out to support Portland's parks at the Community Budget Forums on April 3rd and April 17th along with those who submitted written testimony.  On April 3rd PPF's Executive Director, Jeff Anderson, had the opportunity to testify on behalf of the Foundation. Below is the text of the testimony he read from. You can also access the video version of the testimony here (Jeff's testimony begins at 1hr47min).

Community Budget Forum - April 3, 2018
Statement to City Council
Jeff Anderson, Executive Director

Good evening, Mayor Wheeler and members of the Council.  Thank you for the opportunity to speak about the proposed 2018-19 city budget.

My name is Jeff Anderson.  I’m Executive Director of the Portland Parks Foundation.  The mission of the Portland Parks Foundation is to mobilize financial and popular support to ensure a thriving and accessible parks system for a healthy Portland.  The Foundation was created by the city in 2001 as Portland’s chief private fundraising partner for parks.

The Portland Parks Foundation is extremely concerned about the ongoing general fund cuts for PP&R in the proposed 2018-19 budget. 

Public parks are very likely our most popular city service.  86% of Portlanders rate their parks as good or excellent.  More than 9 out of 10 residents use our parks.  Parks advance community wealth, community health, and community culture.  They are not an expendable amenity.  They are as essential as any other service supported by city budget dollars.  Yet the City Budget Office’s proposed cuts to parks are disproportionately high.  In fact, it appears that 40% of ALL the recommended ongoing cuts target our parks.   

Parks are integral to our core character as a city.  Parks host major music festivals, diverse cultural events and holiday celebrations, and a variety of events promoting local businesses.  A recent study estimates the economic impact of local parks in Oregon at $1.9 billion dollars and over 17,000 jobs.  Portland’s a big slice of that pie.

Portlanders routinely give some 470,000 hours per year to volunteering in the parks—an annual value of $5.5 million or more.  The City of Portland’s budget should signal appreciation for that contribution and should reinforce—not undermine—the efforts of volunteers.  In fact, the city should be looking for every additional opportunity to leverage the good will and private resources that have already contributed so much to iconic parks all over Portland.  

We already have a backlog of $430 million in deferred major maintenance for parks.  The proposed budget cuts accelerate a downward spiral that the City Council has started with its cuts to general fund support for parks over the past decade.  Other cities have found to their sorrow that massive disinvestment in parks is nearly impossible to make right.  It’s also a huge deterrent to success in the Parks Foundation’s own work to encourage private contributions to our public parks.

This year the city is projected to have record tax revenues.  This is not the time to put parks’ ongoing general fund support on the chopping block.  As PP&R’s Budget Advisory Committee letter to you observes, “After multiple years of reductions, the cuts now dig deep into core PP&R services and values, have significant service-level impacts for the public, and further erode employee morale.”  

In closing, I urge you to support the public parks the way Portland’s public wants you to.  Invest in what makes Portland not only livable, but exceptional.  The Portland Parks Foundation stands ready to help.  Thank you for your attention.

Enjoying the Parks in the Rain - The Value of Community Centers

By Julia Benford

Here at the Portland Parks Foundation, we love to see people enjoying their neighborhood parks as often as possible. But we also understand that in the winter, Portland’s rainy, wet weather can make outdoor activities seem a bit less than ideal. One great way to avoid the rain while still taking advantage of Portland’s parks: visit your local community center! PP&R’s community centers offer tons of different amenities, from fitness classes to swimming to kids’ activities. Here, we break down what makes some of Portland’s community centers awesome.

Gymnastics at Montavilla Community Center. Photo courtesy of Portland Parks & Recreation.

Gymnastics at Montavilla Community Center. Photo courtesy of Portland Parks & Recreation.

Montavilla Community Center: 8219 NE Glisan Street
If you’re a teen (or have one in your household), Montavilla Community Center is the place to go. The center offers unique and interesting classes specifically for tweens and teenagers, including spoken word poetry, weightlifting, and gymnastics. If your teen has a busy schedule or just wants more flexibility, there are also drop-in classes (breakdancing, anyone?), movie nights, and homework help. Best of all, every class for teens is FREE thanks to Portland Parks & Recreation’s TeenForce program, which helps teens get involved with their local parks.

Matt Dishman Community Center: 77 NE Knott Street
The Matt Dishman Community Center truly offers something for everyone, from empowerment programs for young women to van trips for seniors—including a coffee and chocolate tasting tour that’s perfect for Valentine’s Day! The center also offers a wide variety of affordable, inclusive classes for people with disabilities or special needs, including dance classes, winter crafts, and button making. It’s the perfect place for all your loved ones to socialize.

Peninsula Park Community Center: 700 N Rosa Parks Way
Located in beautiful Peninsula Park, this North Portland community center has lots of fun activities for both kids and adults. Parents can enjoy adult/child dance, music, and gymnastics classes together with little ones. Or if your 4-6 year old loves the circus, they might enjoy the center’s circus arts class, where they can learn improvisation, clowning, and juggling! For adults, it’s never too late to learn a new skill—you can learn to play guitar, piano, ukulele, or violin with private music lessons.

Charles Jordan Community Center: 9009 N Foss Avenue
Are you an older adult looking to get more involved in your community? Charles Jordan Community Center has plenty of options just for you, with classes for ages 55 and up. From inclusive fitness options like Yoga in Chairs to floral design classes to van trips to the coast, there’s something for every interest. For the younger set, the center offers before and after school care and birthday party rentals—you can even rent a bouncy castle for extra fun!

Woodstock Community Center: 5905 SE 43rd Avenue
Woodstock Community Center offers some of the most unique classes of any community center in Portland. If you’re a senior interested in recording your family history, the center offers genealogy and memoir writing courses, which let you share your history with younger generations! For people of all ages who want to pick up a new skill, there are classes for calligraphy and antique clock repair. Finally, adults ages 60+ who want a relaxing fitness class can give hula dancing a try for a unique workout.

Swimming for all ages at the East Portland Community Center.  Photo courtesy of PP&R.

Swimming for all ages at the East Portland Community Center. Photo courtesy of PP&R.

East Portland Community Center: 740 SE 106th Avenue
For fitness buffs and people looking to keep up their New Year’s resolutions, East Portland Community Center is ideal. They offer exercise classes for all ages and activity levels, as well as family fitness classes perfect for keeping the whole family healthy.  Take a break and enjoy swimming in the pool—swimming lessons and water fitness classes are also available! And finally, for those with homeschooled kids looking to socialize, the East Portland Community Center offers sports and art classes specifically for homeschoolers. It’s a great place to branch out and try something new.

Sellwood Community Center: 1436 SE Spokane Street
Feeling crafty? Sellwood Community Center might be the place for you. They’ve teamed up with the Portland Lace Society to offer low-cost lacemaking and crochet classes—try it out and you might discover a new hobby! Little ones can also discover their creative sides with baby and toddler art classes for children 10 months and up. If you have school-aged children, check out the Sellwood Community Center’s Grow after-school program, which helps children build gardening and cooking skills and find physical activities they enjoy.

Don't miss Daddy Daughter Night at the Southwest Community Center.  Photo courtesy of PP&R.

Don't miss Daddy Daughter Night at the Southwest Community Center. Photo courtesy of PP&R.

Southwest Community Center: 6820 SW 45th Avenue
If you have a child who’s looking for a new hobby and some new friends, the Southwest Community Center is a great place to go! They offer some amazing classes that will build lifelong skills, including cooking, rock climbing and skateboarding classes. Adults can find unique ways to get active too—take advantage of the community center’s rock wall, or try out a barre class. Finally, if you’re the father of a daughter, consider taking her to the center’s Daddy Daughter Night on February 24th or 25th! The $20 cost includes pizza, salad, frozen yogurt, and plenty of fun bonding time.

Meet PPF's Newest Members of the Team

Board members are critical to our success as a foundation. Over the last three months, PPF has had the honor of introducing four new board members to our team.  We are very appreciative and grateful for their time and guidance. Today would would like to introduce each of them.

Jorge Guzman Headshot.jpg

Jorge Guzman
Founder - Executive Director, Vive Northwest

What is your neighborhood park? Director Park

What is your favorite thing to do in a park? I enjoy hiking or simply sitting down and enjoying the fresh and clean air. 

What inspired you to join the Portland Parks Foundation? My goal is to support the great work Portland Parks Foundation is already doing by providing a diverse and inclusive perspective.

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Cristin O'Brien
Sales Manger - West, Sorel Footwear

What is your neighborhood park? Forest Park (photo from snowy Christmas hike 2017)

What is your favorite thing to do in a park?  Hike, run, think, and de-stress!

What inspired you to join the Portland Parks Foundation?  Desire to contribute to the community & ensure that as the city of Portland grows that access, maintenance, improvement, and development of city parks in all communities continues to happen for future generations.

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Kathryn Beaumont
Retired Attorney, Portland City Attorney's Office

What is your neighborhood park? Irving Park

What is your favorite thing to do in a park?  My favorite things to do in a park are walk, ride my bike, and enjoy the plantings throughout the seasons (and imagine them growing in the garden of my dreams).  What makes me happiest is to see people of all ages engaged in all sorts of activities--recreational sports, picnics, family celebrations, relaxing, and enjoying the respite a green or natural space provides--in a park.

What inspired you to join the Portland Parks Foundation?  I joined the Portland Parks Foundation Board of Directors based on my deep appreciation for the role public parks play in Portland.  In my past work for the city, I helped support the Parks Bureau in creating and preserving needed parks and community centers. I saw first-hand how important they are in knitting neighborhoods together and providing places for all Portlanders to play, relax, enjoy nature, celebrate, and gather with others. By serving on the Foundation's board, I hope to help maintain these vital public spaces for all Portlanders to enjoy both now and in the future.

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Lee Novak
VP of Development - Western Region, Fore Property Company

What is your neighborhood park? Healy Heights is our neighborhood park, but we love roaming throughout the hills.

What is your favorite thing to do in a park? We like to hike and walk our dog on the trails in the hills. We also enjoy attending events in our great public places like the Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

What inspired you to join the Portland Parks Foundation? Portland’s parks give all of us wonderful places to engage with nature and one another. They make the City beautiful. While we are relatively new to Portland, we want to help preserve and enhance the things that make it special.