Park Champions Exemplify the Power of People and Parks

Above: Park Champion Award presented to Yvonne Boisvert for amazing efforts at Peninsula Park Rose Garden, from PPF Board Member, Jules Bailey. Below: Linda Robinson receives Park Champion Award for tireless work on behalf of parks in East Portland.

Above: Park Champion Award presented to Yvonne Boisvert for amazing efforts at Peninsula Park Rose Garden, from PPF Board Member, Jules Bailey. Below: Linda Robinson receives Park Champion Award for tireless work on behalf of parks in East Portland.

We are thrilled to announce the Portland Parks Foundation Parks Champion Award winners. Their inspiring work exemplifies the power of people and parks to benefit Portland and our region. On September 24, as part of our 15th Anniversary celebration, we honored Yvonne Boisvert and Linda Robinson as our Parks Champions. Along with the award, a cash contribution of $1,500 was given to the parks-based community of their choice. The Parks Champion Award is an honor presented by Portland Parks Foundation to recognize an individual who has provided outstanding service to a park, community center, natural area, or community garden.

Did you know that the first public rose garden is actually in North Portland? Park Champion Yvonne Boisvert was a founding member of the Friends of Peninsula Park Rose Garden. One of Portland’s best kept secrets, the Peninsula Park Rose Garden is over 100 years old. Yvonne has worked tirelessly to preserve, enhance, teach about, and advocate for the garden over the years. She and her Friends co-founders worked with Portland Parks and Recreation to replant the entire garden - over 4,000 roses for the centennial celebration in 2013. She helped design new signage for the garden, and can often be seen there giving tours and teaching free rose classes. In 2015, she founded the Art in the Rose Garden summer art show and sale. This year’s event drew over 3,000 to the garden.

On the other side of town in East Portland, Linda Robinson has spent decades as a tireless for parks across East Portland -- including Ventura Park, Gates Park, and Gateway Discovery Park. She also founded and leads the East Portland Parks Coalition to support current and future parks, open spaces, and green spaces projects in East Portland. One of Linda’s significant current projects is Gateway Green. Over the past decade, Linda has been spearheading the ambitious public-private project to develop the former site of Rocky Butte Jail into Gateway Green, a dynamic open space and recreational park for the region.

Congratulations to our winners Yvonne and Linda, and to our communities benefitting from their incredible contributions.

Parks that Changed America

Portland was ranked 6th for the best parks in the nation last spring according to the Trust for Public Land’s survey of the top 75 largest cities in the nation.  Portlanders are proud of their parks, and work hard year-round to fundraise, friendraise and volunteer to continue making our parks more accessible to our citizens. 

But what really goes into designing a park or park system? What makes a park a place where a community will gather? This documentary explores 10 historic parks that look very different, but have defined what parks mean to our communities.  Get some popcorn and enjoy looking at some of our nation’s most historic city parks.

CLICK HERE: 10 Parks That Changed America photo courtesy PBS

CLICK HERE: 10 Parks That Changed America photo courtesy PBS

More Than A Walk In The Park

By Julia Benford

In the modern world, people interact with their neighbors very differently than they did a century ago. Acording to a recent study by the National Association of Realtors, today 70% of Americans  live in single-family houses, separated from people outside of their immediate family.  The design of American neighborhoods also means that people use personal cars to get almost everywhere, from home to work to the grocery store. As a result, most people don’t spend much time interacting with their neighbors in a meaningful way.

Childhood development research shows that cultivating relationships with people outside of one’s immediate family is important for social engagement and mental well-being. Unfortunately more and more we don’t have as many opportunities to make those kinds of connections in today’s world.

Luckily, a few spaces still exist where community members come together. Parks are one such space, and they’re especially important because they’re free for everyone to access. Neighborhood parks allow people to interact in casual ways while doing other activities-- joggers say hello as they pass one another, dog owners chat as their pets play in the dog park, and parents schedule playdates with other families. These interactions build familiarity and trust, strengthening the sense of community in the neighborhood. A well-maintained park can truly serve as a “third space,” where people create social relationships outside of the home and the workplace.

Improving the stewardship and accessibility of Portland’s parks is a big part of our mission here at the Portland Parks Foundation,  but sadly not everyone has access to a safe and well-maintained park in their neighborhood. However, people still recognize the value of parks, and they often come together to support the parks in their neighborhood. Mark Wells, Portland’s Neighborhood Watch coordinator, spoke to us about some community efforts to promote safety in local parks. A new Neighborhood Watch program called Park Watch serves as “a collaboration between neighbors and crime prevention, where both work together to bring positive activities back to neighborhood parks.” In Sellwood, the local Neighborhood Watch has teamed up to help take care of nearby Sellwood Park, cleaning up trash and reporting maintenance issues. Many of these types of programs have been very successful, showing how positive the effects can be when communities come together around parks.

Everyone deserves access to a clean, safe neighborhood park. The space that parks provide is incredibly valuable for creating connections between neighbors and helping reduce the sense of isolation that some people feel. Even if your local park needs some work, chances are good that others in your community feel the same and want to help create positive change. If you spot maintenance issues in your neighborhood park, you can report them using the PDX Reporter app. Or you could get involved by volunteering at a park near you with Neighborhood Watch! When you volunteer, you not only make connections with people in your community, you can also help create parks that forge those connections for others.

Nike Gives Back at Parke Diem

We are gearing up for Parke Diem on October 14 & 15 and wanted to take a moment to thank one of our biggest supporters from the beginning - Nike. Parke Diem is Portland’s largest citywide volunteer event for the city’s parks and Nike has supported the event since its inception with t-shirts and other gifts for volunteers across the city.

More than 1000 volunteers are joining forces at 58 community gardens, neighborhood parks and natural areas across Portland for Parke Diem’s fourth year. Teams of Nike employees will be volunteering with their colleagues and families throughout the city showing their support for our wonderful Portland park system.

As part of its 15th anniversary celebration, the Portland Parks Foundation is also awarding $11,228 in micro-grants to support Parke Diem projects this year and is hoping to raise a total of $15,000 to invest in parks. Installing new trail railings in Forest Park, renovating the display garden at Leach Botanical Garden and installing and winterizing garden beds in 57% of Portland’s community gardens are just some of the exciting Parke Diem projects supported by PPF funds.

“Portlanders benefit so much from their parks, and Parke Diem is a great way to give back,” says Portland Parks Foundation Executive Director Jeff Anderson. “We're also pleased to be able to give micro-grants to support Parke Diem’s grass-roots projects--they may be small compared to the $11 million of investments we’ve made in parks and park programs since 2001, but the community volunteers make a little go a long way."

Thanks to Nike sponsorship and volunteers, Parke Diem will be a citywide event to remember. Don’t miss your chance to sign up today and give back to the Parks we all love!

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

Steps for a 15-Minute Nature Break

Photos courtesy OSU Master Naturalist Program

Portland is home to thousands of acres of natural areas with interesting flora, fauna and geology to discover around every corner.  In an effort to get Portlanders out to enjoy their natural areas, we teamed up with an OSU Master Naturalist Program student, Kenneth Cobleigh, to write a series of seasonal blogs about parks through a naturalist's eyes. See the steps below for your 15-minute nature break today!

Ken Cobleigh is a systems engineer and author with a strong passion for the natural world and how humans fit into it.  His favorite park to spend time is Hoyt Arboretum and he is currently enrolled in the OSU Master Naturalist Program to expand the breadth and width of his nature knowledge.

Ken Cobleigh is a systems engineer and author with a strong passion for the natural world and how humans fit into it.  His favorite park to spend time is Hoyt Arboretum and he is currently enrolled in the OSU Master Naturalist Program to expand the breadth and width of his nature knowledge.

Have you ever been 'lost' in the woods?  I have, and it wasn’t because I didn’t know where I was on a map; rather I was lost in the wonderful world of nature that surrounded me.  As I have gotten older, I have had to moderate my pace due to painful arthritis that restricts my movement.  But in addition to the changes in my physical body I have come to realize that I have been missing out on the real beauty and the subtlety of the natural world by rushing through it to reach a destination.  Now I walk slowly and deliberately and with a passion to discover new things.  

I am studying to become an Oregon Master Naturalist, a program offered through OSU extension service, and in doing so have been instructed to increase my observational skills.  This includes using more than my eyes to see, and this process is very enlightening to me.  
To contemplate even a small part of the extreme complexity of the natural world is a daunting task. For example, I am in awe of the numerous interrelationships between species in a given ecosystem that may take decades or even centuries to fully comprehend.  And what drives this life-long adventure? Primarily careful, recorded observations!  A journal for notes, sketches, ideas, questions, etc. is a great tool and is indispensable for the naturalist.

Here is a simple exercise that anyone can do in a short time – say 15-20 minutes.  First, pick a place, maybe one of your favorite parks or natural areas or even your own backyard.  Then find a peaceful spot to settle into.  Your chosen spot should be off the beaten track a little so you are not interrupted.  Sit on the ground or on a log.  Relax and close your eyes.  What immediately happens?  You feel deprived of a very primary sense – your sight!  But don’t fret; in a few minutes you will acclimatize.  

As you do this exercise, do more than just sit and enjoy the peace.  Ask yourself questions such as:

  • What is the current microclimate like?  Is it cold, warm, moist, dry? Am I in a field, the woods, on a mountainside? Am I near water? How does the local geography shape this microclimate?

  • How does the ground feel – rocky, soft, sandy?  How does the local geology impact what I feel?

  • What sounds am I hearing?  Which are natural and which are man-made? If in the woods, listen for branches rubbing or the wind whispering through the needles and leaves.  Pay attention to the birdsongs and what direction are they coming from.

  • What direction is the wind coming from; how strong is it; how does it fluctuate?

  • What am I smelling?  Is it floral, pungent, or foul smelling?

  • What can I feel?  How does the bark of the log I am sitting on feel?  Is it deeply furrowed, slightly furrowed, or smooth?

Upon opening your eyes, see how many of your observations make sense from a visual perspective. Begin your walk again.  Move slowly and quietly. Use your eyes to scan the ground for animal tracks. Pay attention to the texture and the color of the foliage and the diversity and activity of the fauna of your chosen spot. Now integrate all of your senses together.  What is the story this place is trying to tell you?  You are on your way to a much deeper understanding and appreciation for the nature that surrounds you.

I encourage you to do this numerous times until all of your senses are working together in harmony to perceive the natural world around you in detail.  I guarantee this to be a very satisfying journey!


450,000+ Hours For Portland's Parks

Good cities like Portland are made up of good citizens that give back and advocate for their communities. While parks may seem like an effortless part of Portland's identity, the truth is that it takes over 450,000 hours of volunteer effort to keep these vital community spaces beautiful year-round.

For this week's blog, we'll look at one inspirational example from a much larger city of what volunteers, parks foundations, and private investment can do for park spaces. While Portland and New York are very different cities, it is easy to find inspiration in this story of park revival.