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: