Friday, November 23, 2012

St. Francis Park expedition


[View Larger Map]

Some photos from St. Francis Park, in inner SE Portland, on Stark between 11th & 12th. It's an unusual spot in that, although it looks a lot like a city park, it's actually owned and operated by the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic church next door. The church also operates the St. Francis Dining Hall, which serves meals to the city's homeless population, so there tend to be a few homeless people hanging around the park at any given time, and big crowds around mealtime. As a result the park's gained a long-term reputation for drug and alcohol problems. This has repeatedly put the church at odds with the surrounding neighborhood, at one point leading to a city-mediated six month closure of the park.

At some point, I'm guessing during the 1970s, a great deal of money was spent on the park. A big fountain and wading pools were installed, as well as a brightly painted wagon wheel drinking fountain, and a lot of landscaping work was done. But the church seems to have an even lower maintenance budget than the city parks bureau does, and everything's fallen into serious disrepair over the years. I'm sure they prioritize feeding people ahead of repairing fountains, and fundamentally I can't really disagree with that. I can't imagine the creepy, decrepit state of the park helps mend fences with the neighbors, though. The Catholic Church probably isn't interested in unsolicited advice from a nonbeliever such as myself, but it seems like they could send word around the local archdiocese and guilt-trip people into donating or volunteering or something. It's been done at least once before; an article in the May 23rd, 1977 Oregonian is titled "St. Francis Park - once eyesore, now pride of Buckman neighborhood", detailing the then-current efforts to revitalize the place. Since it was 1977, we're told that one of the park's trees is named Beverly, and the article includes part of a fifth grader's poem about the tree.

A post over at Portland Public Art had a similar take on the place several years ago. That post points at a Picasa gallery of the park, with more photos along the same lines as the ones here.

No comments :