A couple of dozen people gathered in Lynchview Park on Thursday evening to munch on tamales, study diagrams, fill out surveys and confer with the people who will be transforming the park's woebegone 7.6 acres into a lively space for play and recreation.
"This is exciting. I have three small children. We live right down the street. It would be great to have a park to walk to," Ana Pineda said, keeping an eye on her 5, 7, and 9 year-old children as her husband filled out a questionnaire. She said she usually takes the kids to the playground at Patrick Lynch Elementary School, adjacent to the park.
Portland Parks & Recreation held its first meeting the evening of Thursday, Sept. 7, to gather ideas from the community about how to develop the park at Southeast 165th Avenue and Southeast Market Street.
"We're trying to get a hint as we begin to look at options" for the park, said Kurt Lango, the Portland landscape architect designing the park upgrades.
Some folks had very strong opinions about what should be constructed.
"There are three things I want them to put up," said 9-year-old Easton Hopkins, "a rope climber, a climbing wall and the mist play," he said "Oh, and a merry-go-round."
Portland parks officials had pinned up lots of photos up of possible park features, and people were putting little round stickers on the photos of the items they'd like to see in the new greenspace. Easton placed his stickers on the three items and said, "I like to climb." Sadly, there was no photo of a merry-go-round for him to apply a sticker.
"We live really close by, said Easton's mom Jennifer Hopkins. "It would be fun to have a nice, safe playground. The school playground is kind of sad, kind of rundown. I grew up around here, and there has never been anything here. We'd ride our bikes and play football."
PP&R, which has owned the land since 1993, has money to build a playground, pathways, benches, irrigation improvements or other amenities. Currently the park is just a dried-up field with a few trees.
"I'm really excited about it," said Marisol Clark, who works in the after-school SUN program at Patrick Lynch school. "SUN will be able to utilize it as well, for outdoor concerts or outdoor carnivals. And it will bring the community together. Parks always do that."
Kristy Peterson, who was at the event with her dog, Grace, said, "I'd definitely like a walking trail, a bathroom and a playground."
She has lived near the park for 13 years. "I'm really glad that something is going to happen."
Marge McDevitt, who lives two blocks away, has history here. "I've lived in my house since 1960," she said, showing Outlook clippings and letters from an aborted attempt to develop the park in the mid-1970s. "They went on to other things. The park was never developed."
"I'd like to see a natural playground." she added. "I like the one at Blue Lake. The kids really like that."
Portland parks will continue to gather public input and work on plans for the new Lynchview park through the winter. Following that, the parks department will work up construction documents and final designs. Necessary permits will be acquired in the spring and summer of 2018, with construction on the park set to start in 2019.
Gary Datka, the park's project manager from PP&R, said the park also will have a public art component.
"It could be a playable piece, something interactive," he said.
Funding for Lynchview's improvements come from a bond passed by Portland voters in 2014 and system development charges that developers pay when they build new homes and neighborhoods.
Although several big, new parks are under construction east of Interstate 205, the area is still underserved, critics charge. Portland parks' target is to have a park within a half mile, or a 15 to 20 minute walk, of every household in the city. The target has been hit for 80 percent of Portland residents, but for only 61 percent of residents east of I-205, which contains 40 percent of all Portland children.
Like the others, McDevitt is thrilled the park is being developed. In addition to some fun play spots, she also would like to see some green space and benches to create "a place where you can sit and visit," she said. "That's what a neighborhood park is supposed to be."
New park on the way
Portland Parks & Recreation is developing another new park at Southeast 150th Avenue and Southeast Division Street. PP&R is having a meeting to unveil preliminary plans for this park from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 20, at the site. The community has already given PP&R ideas about this new park, so far dubbed D150. People can tour the park space, look at proposed designs and learn about next steps. There will be children's activities and snacks.