From Brownfield to Soccer Field

By Julia Benford

One of the greatest features of parks is the way that they bring people together. Take a stroll around a Portland neighborhood park on a nice day and you’re likely to see children playing, joggers and dog-walkers getting some exercise, and people lounging in the grass while soaking up the sun. Parks provide a space where neighbors can socialize and relax at the same time, making them ideal for community-building. We spoke to Kari Christensen, director of the Brownfields Initiative at the Oregon Department of Public Health, about the role of parks in creating healthy communities.

What is the Brownfields Initiative? What impacts does it have on local communities?

The Brownfields Initiative works to clean up abandoned spaces in Portland and around Oregon, turning them into spaces, like parks, that the general public can use. In the process, we solicit a lot of input from the community about the kinds of places they’d like to see brownfields turned into. One project that we’ve been working on is the Salmonberry Trail, which will replace an abandoned rail line in Tillamook with a new trail for cyclists and pedestrians. These kinds of projects help the community prosper by bringing in visitors and business opportunities.

How do parks benefit communities here in Portland?

Parks have enormous benefits, particularly when incorporated into park-deficient communities. The new Cully Park in Northeast Portland has involved the whole neighborhood in the planning process, soliciting the input of community organizations like Hacienda CDC and Verde. Neighbors were able to collaborate to address safety concerns, building trust in one another. The park also sourced labor from within the community, providing jobs for low-income residents.

What impacts do parks have on community health?

When people think of health, they typically picture biological health-- doctors, medicine, feeling better when you’re sick.  But health has multiple dimensions. Parks support holistic health, giving people tools to help their well-being and avoid getting sick in the first place. Not only do they provide opportunities for physical exercise, they also have mental and social benefits. Being out in nature helps people relax and manage stress, and having a park in the neighborhood allows community members to get to know one another in a casual setting. These aspects of parks promote overall well-being.

The next time you feel the urge to get out in nature, try looking up parks in your neighborhood! Visiting local parks is a great way to meet new people, whether you’re playing a game of pick-up basketball or chatting with other parents as your kids use the playground. And keep updated here on the progress of Cully Park in NE Portland. You can help us make it happen by donating to the effort today!

Parks for Prosperity

In his TED talk, Chicago community organizer and artist Theaster Gates says about his effort to revitalize his neighborhood, “I think beauty is a basic service.” One organization in Portland, Living Cully, epitomizes how beauty is born from the people of a community and their dreams for the future.

The many community members and organizations that are part of Living Cully started out in 2010 envisioning better lives for their neighbors.  As they say, “Through its work in NE Portland’s Cully Neighborhood, Living Cully reinterprets sustainability as an anti-poverty strategy by concentrating environmental investments at the neighborhood scale and braiding those investments with traditional community development resources.”

Living Cully is benefiting everyone in the Cully neighborhood, and those benefits are rippling out into the rest of Portland by doing something radical – building a sustainable livelihood not piece-by-piece, but TOGETHER.  They are focusing on the economic, housing, environmental, health, transportation and leadership aspects of their community as one project with many parts instead of separate parts alone.

Partnering with one of the Living Cully organizations, Verde, the Portland Parks Foundation is helping Verde revitalize Cully by turning a landfill into a park for the community.  Having a destination park in Cully will bring jobs, opportunities for new business, raise the health of families in the area, and provide a beautiful area where community can convene. Please consider joining the effort by donating today or volunteering today.

View: How to Revive a Neighborhood With Imagination, Beauty, and Art  Photo by Jason Smith, courtesy University of Chicago

View: How to Revive a Neighborhood With Imagination, Beauty, and Art

Photo by Jason Smith, courtesy University of Chicago

Cully Update: Construction Begins on NE 72nd Ave Greenstreet

Excerpts Re-posted with permission by Anna Gordon of Living Cully

Running north from its intersection with NE Killingsworth, today’s NE 72nd Ave is one of Cully Neighborhood’s many forgotten streets – an 860lf crumbling asphalt street with no stormwater infrastructure: no curbs, no storm sewer, no sumps, and a shoulder that collects and ponds stormwater. It ends at the entrance to the Community Garden, but lacks sidewalks, appropriate lighting, and other pedestrian safety features. Verde, together with minority-owned contractors Colas Construction and Raimore Construction, began rebuilding NE 72nd Avenue in late 2015, and anticipate that we will complete construction by April 2016.

Enhancing local infrastructure contributes to community pride, safety and future opportunity.
— Luis Lopez

PPF asked Luis Lopez, Project Engineer at Probity Builders about the project. He explained that the project's design goes well beyond city requirements and includes other benefits like 9 bio-swales, 1 storm water facility, 11 pervious (porous) vehicle parking stations and sidewalk, and native plantings throughout the entire street. As Lopez said, "My favorite feature of the street is the vehicle parking areas. The street incorporates pervious parking areas that benefit neighbors while helping manage stormwater."

By building NE 72nd Greenstreet, Verde improves water quality, educates youth, provides diverse and local green job and business opportunities, improves pedestrian and bicycle mobility, and tests a community-based model for Greenstreet development. "The 72nd Ave Green Street improves and benefits a community long overlooked and underserved.  Enhancing local infrastructure contributes to community pride, safety and future opportunity,"said Lopez.

Verde hopes to complete the project by next month, and we look forward to celebrating their new gateway to Cully Park together.

 To see the original post visit the Living Cully Website