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Nancy Hebb Freeman Grants

Nancy Hebb Freeman

Nancy Hebb Freeman

This Fall the Portland Parks Foundation created a new small grant program, which will help local parks complete improvements and add new features such as fountains and playgrounds. The grant program is named after Nancy Hebb Freeman by a generous donation from the estate of Nancy Hebb Freeman who passed away in August 2015 and left a bequest to the Foundation. Nancy loved Portland’s parks, and she and her family wanted to continue that legacy.  To honor her memory, we wanted to share Nancy’s story and her relationship with Portland parks.

Nancy Hebb Freeman grew up on the east coast but fell in love with the West. Here, she met her partner Ray Siderius, who very kindly gave us the material to write this little bio. Both Nancy and Ray greatly enjoyed spending time in the outdoors, and went on frequent walks in Forest Park, Hoyt Arboretum, Macleay Park, Gabriel Park, and many other parks around Portland. Along the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park, they would make little bets on the mileage markers-- whoever guessed the number closest to the one on the mileage marker would have to buy the other a cup of coffee. For Nancy, Portland’s parks were a place to not only get some exercise, but to find peace of mind as well.

Portland’s parks also provided inspiration for one of Nancy’s greatest passions: art. Nancy studied art in college and found a passion for Pacific Northwest landscapes when she moved to Bellingham in 1990. She continued to draw inspiration from parks in and around Portland, and she greatly enjoyed painting from nature. Her partner Ray Siderius writes, “I think the time in nature was an essential part of Nancy’s spiritual life."

We are honored that Nancy left everyone a parks legacy and look forward to crafting a small granting program in the next year that serves those that love our parks the most - the volunteers that work every week to keep our parks beautiful.  You can carry on Nancy’s legacy of appreciation for Portland’s parks today by exploring one near you. Take a page from Nancy’s book and make bets with your friends and family on the mile markers in Forest Park! Or you could continue her love of art by taking a class at the Multnomah Arts Center, which is run by Portland Parks & Recreation and features outdoor classes as well. Nancy’s pressence brightened the lives of the people around her, and we’re grateful that her legacy continues to live on at the Portland Parks Foundation.

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!

Remembering a Parks Advocate

In this week’s PPF blog, we remember, Lisa Turpel, a wonderful park advocate that passed away earlier this month.  Lisa worked with PP&R for 30 years and volunteered in parks her whole life. As one of our board members, Julie Vigeland said, “Lisa is one of the first people I met when I joined the Portland Parks board. I was overwhelmed at the amount of information that was provided at my early meetings. . .She was warm, welcoming, and sincere in reaching out to this newest of Parkies.”

With permission we’ve reprinted the PP&R post about Lisa’s lasting legacy in parks.  You can view Lisa’s obituary in the Oregonian here.

Lisa at PP&R picnic. Courtesy Portland Parks & Recreation

Lisa at PP&R picnic. Courtesy Portland Parks & Recreation

Our PP&R family has lost another friend and colleague, Lisa Turpel. Lisa was an institution with Portland Parks & Recreation during her 30 year career. Lisa came to the bureau in 1980 with a degree in therapeutic recreation and a passion to develop PP&R's ability to meet the needs of people with disabilities, and she retired in 2010 having overseen virtually every element of PP&R’s recreation services.

We take from her passing the strength and confidence to carry on this great work.

Her role with the bureau touched on everything from community education; services to people with disabilities (even before ADA); arts & cultural programming; senior recreation; sports; and aquatics. It was more than just a job – she lived an active life experiencing recreation as a supporter of the arts, a daily swimmer, a lifelong learner, and a fierce advocate for inclusion and access. Lisa transformed PP&R through policies and systems that promoted professionalism, equity, access, and most of all reflected the understanding that recreation can change lives and build community in profound ways.

Among her many accomplishments were the creation of an ADA review committee to guide project design for the 1994 bond which is still active today; establishment of gender-specific swims in response to the Muslim community’s request; personally championing and supporting the legendary Summer Concerts program we have today; among many, many, other examples.
Lisa’s work at PP&R will forever be woven into the fabric of the services that we provide the community. She leaves behind her husband Mark, daughter Claire and son-in-law Andrew, along with many other beloved family members and a wealth of deep friendships in PP&R.

The year Lisa retired we planted a Kentucky Coffee tree in Laurelhurst Park in her honor. We had a gathering with Lisa, her husband, a few friends and several of us “parkies”. Lisa was thrilled we honored her with the tree and could not believe we chose one of her favorite parks. We all agreed great tree, great park, great person. It just fit.

This sad news is just another reminder that the work we do each day is on the shoulders of great women and men who also worked hard to ensure that Portland's Park & Recreation system was the best it could be for all Portlanders. We take from her passing the strength and confidence to carry on this great work. Rest in peace, Lisa.

Top Flower Displays

Spring is an enchanting season in Portland.  April showers bring May flowers that fill our parks this time of year, and behind every bursting azalea are hundreds of Portland Parks & Recreation staff and dedicated volunteers that make these beautiful blooms possible. Below are our top Portland Parks flower displays (in no particular order) that will leave your heart singing and camera full of pictures. Thanks to the volunteers at the Portland Garden Club for helping compile this list!

1. Lilac Gardens in Duniway Park [pictured above]: Over 225 plants grace the Lilac Garden in Duniway Park and are cared for by the Portland Garden Club.  Blooming from late March to early May, the fragrance of the flowers wafts throughout the park. 

2. Portland Memory Garden: One of a few memory gardens on public land in the nation, the garden is designed specifically for people who are experiencing Alzheimer’s disease and other memory problems.  It includes many beds of flowers that bloom throughout spring, summer and fall.

3. Powers Marine Park: Driving along Macadam Avenue south of the new Sellwood Bridge, you may notice swaths of white toward the Willamette River.  These are dogwoods planted by volunteers in the Portland Garden Club on this strip of park land near the water.

4. Leach Botanical Garden: This best-kept secret garden in SE Portland includes such a profusion of greenery; it is sure to please any time of year. Touted as a library of plants, the volunteers at this garden post garden highlights on their website each month.

5. Pittock Mansion: You may visit Pittock for the spectacular view of Portland or the historic house tours, but you’ll stick around for the beautiful garden. Volunteers help make sure the gardens are picture-perfect this time of year.

6. Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden: The Azaleas and Rhododendrons at Crystal Springs are so beautiful this time of year it is almost hard to believe.  A feast of tangerine, fuchsia, red, yellow and purple delight your eyes in this garden at every turn.

7. Lan Su Chinese Garden: Where Crystal Springs is the picture of overabundance, Lan Su is the champion of the perfectly placed flower.  If you especially enjoy the rare and small things in life, the blooms at Lan Su are sure to please!

8. Peninsula Park Rose Garden: This historic garden in NE Portland was Portland’s first rose garden and the volunteers at this garden carefully tend each bloom.  Early blooming roses turn into hillsides of blooms by June.

9. Tom McCall Waterfront Park Japanese American Historical Plaza: The celebrated cherry blossoms lining the paths in this historical plaza along the Willamette provide the perfect cure to the winter blues and bring promise of sunnier days ahead.

10. Washington Park International Rose Test Garden: Last but definitely not least are the renowned rose gardens in Washington Park.  While the roses are the star of the show later in the year, there are plenty of other flower beds woven into this park to please early spring visitors.

Photo credits – visit these groups’ websites linked above for more beautiful photos!
1 Portland Garden Club
2 Friends of Portland Memory Garden
3 Portland Garden Club
4 Leach Botanical Garden
5 Pittock Mansion
6 Portland Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society and the Friends of Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
7 Lan Su Chinese Garden
8 Friends of Peninsula Park Rose Garden
10Portland Parks & Recreation


New Footbridge Campaign Chair and Case Statement

New Footbridge Over Burnside Chair Charlie Swindells

New Footbridge Over Burnside Chair Charlie Swindells

The Foundation is in the midst of a campaign to build a footbridge over Burnside where the iconic Wildwood Trail crosses from Washington to Forest parks.  Local attorney and philanthropist Charlie Swindells recently joined the effort to chair the Footbridge Over Burnside campaign. We asked Charlie to describe his passion for parks and why he supports the footbridge project.
How have Portland’s parks played a role in your life?
A couple days after my family moved to Portland in 1974 (my summer before 5th Grade), my mom took me to Hoyt Arboretum.  She wanted to ease my shock of "moving to the big city” by exposing me to the extraordinary beauty there.  I decided maybe Portland wouldn’t be so bad after all!
Since then, my lifelong enjoyment of Forest Park has been measured in dog years — three dogs have been my personal trainers on the Wildwood Trail since high school, and my newest hiking partner is named Marsha.  Her ecstatic first day on Wildwood after moving from a kennel in San Francisco is probably my favorite park memory. 

Why did you decide to chair the Footbridge Over Burnside campaign?
I am excited to serve as the campaign chair for the Footbridge Over Burnside because my wife and I drive through the Wildwood-Burnside intersection daily.  Even from inside our cars we can feel (and share) the fear and frustration of trail users waiting to "make a run for it."  With current traffic levels, the Wildwood Trail is now effectively closed at that intersection for most trail users most of the time.  The Footbridge is an elegant solution that will be a destination in its own right for generations to come.  
What do you think a robust park system does for Portland?
Portland's parks mean different things to different people, but the connection they provide to our Pacific Northwest natural heritage is something we all share in common.  The Portland Parks Foundation is vital to enhancing our parks network by leveraging private financial resources while serving as a focal point of critical public support.  
Why do you support the Foundation?
Parks can be too easily short-changed when diverse constituencies are lobbying aggressively for scarce public dollars.  As our region becomes more intensively developed, we can’t afford to neglect this community life support system.  Support for the Portland Parks Foundation ensures that our invaluable park system is maintained and expanding to serve future generations. 

Securing South Park Blocks' Future

Friends of South Park Blocks at Parke Diem

Friends of South Park Blocks at Parke Diem

Walking through the South Park Blocks, it is easy to see why visitors and residents alike find them alluring. The South Park Blocks combine art, architecture and beautiful gardens to engage the visitor in Portland’s history and future all in just a few steps. Cultural institutions like the Portland Art Museum, Oregon Historical Museum, Portland’5 Centers for the Arts, Portland State University, many historical churches and two farmer’s markets all call the park home.

That is why Gunnar Sacher and David Newman got together in 2011 to improve and protect this important community resource. The Portland Parks Foundation started supporting the Friends of South Park Blocks (FoSPB) in 2014 by sponsoring garden bed improvement in the Lincoln Block. Today, the Friends of South Park Blocks serve as an example of the positive difference involved citizens can make in parks, and the Foundation is proud to call them a partner.

“The South Park Blocks are not your traditional park – they are the heart of where Portland started, and today are the first cultural address for people visiting,” said Mr. Sacher. The
group works to improve the South Park Blocks’ safety, beauty and the park’s overall support in the community. The list of projects they’ve completed is long and includes: planting new garden beds, facilitating business utilization of the parks, conducting a research project to find the best turf for its high-use and shaded lawns, supporting healthy trimming of the tree canopy, improving and maintaining its rose beds, patrolling and reporting illegal activity in
the park, conducting educational park ‘safety summits’ with local officials, businesses and residents, and recruiting volunteers to give time to clean and maintain this heavily used park.

Their work on park safety was one of their first, and continues to be a priority for the group today. “To be accessible, parks need to be safe for everyone. That is why one of our first projects was to support creating the city-wide park ranger program,” said Mr. Sacher. Unfortunately, due to limited resources and re-prioritization of other parks the Friends of South Park Blocks saw a decrease in park ranger patrols in the past year. As a result, the group reinvigorated the idea of Safety Summits with local officials and residents to talk about how to decrease illegal activity in the park and increase overall safety. So far they’ve learned what regulations exist, how those rules are enforced and collected incident metrics. FoSPB will continue the summits in 2016 to come up with ideas and volunteers to maintain and encourage new positive social activity and minimize unwanted social behavior in the park.

In the coming year FoSPB hopes to recruit more of the approximately 3,000 neighborhood residents (not including nearby PSU students) to give back by supporting their campaign to install new fencing in the Lincoln Block, increasing positive activity in the park through the foot patrol or other community events, and leading new maintenance teams to beautify the park. “If you live and use services in the neighborhood, you should also give back and participate. We want to feel safe and comfortable in our neighborhood, and this is the best way to contribute and make that happen,” said Mr. Sacher.

The Portland Parks Foundation is excited to support the Friends of South Park Blocks outreach efforts this year. You can keep tabs on their work or to volunteer your time by visiting the Friends of South Blocks here.

Coaching in the Community

It is impossible to refrain from cheering on the sidelines as coaches Brian Christiansen and Curt Miller guide their 3rd grade basketball team through a series of drills, play and even antics at practice.  Every Thursday and Saturday this winter you will find these two unsung heroes focusing the unbound energy of their 10-child team into positive recreation and teambuilding.

Brian and Curt are two of the nearly 475 volunteer coaches that lead about 3,750 children each year through Portland Parks & Recreation’s sports team programs.  The basketball and volleyball leagues are just a few of the recreational programs Portland Parks & Recreation runs throughout the year in its network of community centers.  As parent Greg Rice put it, “Coaches like Brian have the skill set, and love what they do.  The kids gain confidence and you can tell.”

Just like his father, Brian started coaching over 4 years ago when his son Colby began playing basketball.  While Brian went on to play with other teams all the way through college, he still remembers his youth league days, “To this day, my dad was my best coach.”
Out of all of the basketball teams in Portland, Brian picked coaching with the Portland Parks & Recreation leagues because, “Everyone here gets to play and develop skills.  We keep it light and fun so the kids see playing sports and exercise as something they can do the rest of their lives.”

While the teams change each season, Brian still sees some of his previous players around East Portland Community Center.  “I’ll never forget my first year coaching.  One of my team members was such a sweet kid with a huge passion for basketball, but he didn’t really get the team concept.  It was wonderful seeing him pass the ball and enjoy being part of the team by the end of the season.”

Brian enjoys working at Nike where employees are encouraged to support the communities where they live, work and play.  “We believe in supporting our communities, and to especially help our kids enjoy being active.  I love seeing kids have fun and also grow through these experiences. As a volunteer coach, I also get to show kids how much we care about their growth and wellbeing.”

Portland Parks & Recreation is continually seeking qualified coaches for its sports leagues. Interested volunteers can sign up through the Portland Parks Foundation in the WE Portal or contact Rick Cantu at 503-823-5126 or to get more information and sign up.

Discover Portland's First Rose Garden

Contributed by Yvonne Boisvert

It’s surprising in this great city of park lovers that many residents have not yet discovered Peninsula Park Rose Garden. Once they do, however, they immediately fall in love with what is often described as a hidden gem. Nestled in the heart of historic Piedmont neighborhood, this formal French garden has delighted visitors for more than 100 years.

Level grassy paths and wide brick walkways were key to making Portland’s first public rose garden a strolling pleasure when the site opened in 1913. And ever since, Garden visitors have enjoyed a profusion of blooms from more than 5,000 roses during a season that typically runs from late May through October. A lovely central fountain, graceful lantern posts and an octagonal bandstand – a Portland Historic Landmark – complete the setting.

Friends of the Garden, formed in 2012, have spent the past three years building a dedicated volunteer crew, increasing awareness of this historic treasure and highlighting the need to preserve it for future generations. The Friends also devote significant effort to supporting the surrounding neighborhoods, sponsoring community events and collaborating with local organizations on a variety of causes.

Tending the roses during bloom season is one of our most important tasks. In 2015, for example, our volunteers contributed nearly 2,000 hours to keeping the Garden in peak condition. In addition, the Friends and our volunteers host a number of interesting community activities, including free rose classes, our newly launched winter speaker series, Art in the Rose Garden and Garden tours, as well as support for North Portland Sunday Parkways, Portland Festival Symphony and Parke Diem.

If you are looking for a way to brighten the grey days of winter, please join us on January 22, 2016 at 10 a.m., when noted author Donald Olson will discuss his latest book, The Pacific Northwest Garden Tour. Mr. Olson will speak at the June Key Delta Community Center, 5940 N Albina Avenue, across from the Rose Garden’s main entrance on N Ainsworth Street and N Albina Avenue. This event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. To register, visit or email

We’ll also have opportunities for you to get hands-on experience when we hold our winter climbing roses class, spring pruning and replanting days that usually take place in late January through early March. If you prefer warmer weather, you are welcome to lend support during bloom season and for any of the popular events the Friends sponsor throughout the season. To keep updated, visit our website, or follow us on Facebook,

Making Space for Parks

Building cranes raise up to the grey clouds as Portland’s population continues to climb.  According to the Portland State University Population Research Center, Portland added nearly 12,000 residents in 2015.  Projections show population continuing an upward trend and housing is already becoming an issue.  Another issue that rises with increased population is accessible public park space for new residents and their families.

This is just one of the thoughts that came to mind when listening to a talk given by William J. Hawkins III last month at the Friends of Peninsula Park annual meeting.  Mr. Hawkins talked about his recent book, The Legacy of the Olmsted Brothers in Portland, giving a history of how Olmstead’s visit and vision turned Portland into a city of parks. 

Portland in the late 1800s was booming even more than Portland today. Leaders of the city came together to set up a city system for the increasing population. In 1903, John Olmstead, son of Frederick Law Olmsted whose accolades include New York’s Central Park, came to Portland on a whirlwind trip to establish a vision for Portland’s park system. 

While the original design for Portland’s park system included connecting parks along park boulevards like the Terwilliger Parkway in southwest Portland; the vision wasn’t fully realized.  However, what was created remains a park landscape that rivals the best in the nation and has swelled to meet the ever expanding footprint of our city.

During this current building boom, it is important to remember the importance of parks in Portland’s landscape to maintain the character and livability of our city.  As Mr. Olmstead wrote in his plan for Portland, “All agree that parks not only add to the beauty of a city and to the pleasure of living in it, but are exceedingly important factors in developing the healthfulness, morality, intelligence, and business prosperity of its residents.”

The Foundation remains a great advocate to maintaining that vision for Portland’s parks in the face of multiple demands on public funding and spaces and we encourage others to protect park spaces with us.  Looking out at the crowd of Peninsula Park friends it was easy to see we already have great group of park supporters leading the way.

More Information:
Check out our calendar to attend public meetings about park developments in your neighborhood.
Watch the recent PBS Documentary on Frederick Law Olmstead and his work across America:
Follow this bike trip of the original Olmstead boulevards: