Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thomas & 53rd

Thomas & 53rd Park


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[Disclaimer: A comment to this post (see below) asserts that basically everything I have to say about this place, both facts and guesses, is flat wrong. If that's true, I guess you could ignore the text and just enjoy the photos, or you could if they were very interesting, which they aren't. Not to dis any of my loyal Gentle Readers -- there's so few of you, I really can't afford it -- but I do think I'm right about the city limits situation, as I'll explain when I get to it.]

A few photos of our fair city's obscure, unnamed park at SW 53rd Ave. & Thomas St., out in the Raleigh Hills area where Portland morphs seamlessly into Beaverton. The park's an empty, grassy field in the midst of a mid-70's uber-suburban subdivision. No sign, no name, no facilities. The key thing to realize here is that most of the park, and most of the surrounding neighborhood, are just outside Portland city limits. I haven't seen a definite answer about this, but my theory is that the city bought the land in the hope they'd be annexing the area soon. For reasons that probably remain buried in yellowed issues of some obscure neighborhood newsletter, the annexation never happened. So, I guess understandably, the city never put in play equipment or otherwise developed the place. Why go to the trouble, after all, if the neighbors won't be paying any city taxes to support the thing?

Thomas & 53rd Park

This is all pure speculation, mind you, as there's next to nothing about the place anywhere on the interwebs. The parks bureau's info page, such as it is, simply mentions that it was acquired in 1980 and totals 2.57 acres. There's also a vegetation survey page for the park, which doesn't tell us much more. And on PortlandMaps, we learn the place is actually two legal parcels, the northern one lying just outside the city limits, and the smaller southern one just inside.

So here's where I try to justify saying the park's partly outside Portland city limits. If you look at those PortlandMaps pages above, there's a section for each parcel titled "Tax Districts". For the northern half of the park, the list looks like this:

101   PORT OF PORTLAND        134   TV FIRE/RESCUE DIST #1 JT
143  METRO                  161  VALLEY VIEW WATER DIST
170  MULTNOMAH COUNTY        170L  MULT CO LIBRARY LOCAL OPT TAX
180  CLEAN WATER SERVICES    198  TRI-MET TRANSPORTATION
304  MULTNOMAH CO ESD        309  PORTLAND COMM COLLEGE
311   PORTLAND SCHOOL DIST #1


And for the southern half, it's different:
101   PORT OF PORTLAND                130   CITY OF PORTLAND
130L  CITY OF PORTLAND CHILDREN LOP  130M  CITY OF PORTLAND PARKS LOP
143  METRO                           170  MULTNOMAH COUNTY
170L  MULT CO LIBRARY LOCAL OPT TAX   171  URBAN RENEWAL PORTLAND
173  URB REN SPECIAL LEVY - PORTLAND 198  TRI-MET TRANSPORTATION
304  MULTNOMAH CO ESD          309  PORTLAND COMM COLLEGE
311  PORTLAND SCHOOL DIST #1


As you can see, only the southern half has entries for "City of Portland" (and "Urban Renewal Special Levy - Portland", and instead of those the northern bit lists "Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue", "Valley View Water District", and "Clean Water Services" (which is the PC, non-icky name for Washington County's sewer system). You'll see the same distinction if you look at details for houses north and south of that line through the park. I would consider this fairly definitive. Also, here's a photo of a little 4th of July parade in the neighborhood, organized by the Tualatin Valley fire district, not the Portland Fire Bureau. The same photo shows up here, on a page primarily about historic buildings in the neighborhood. Apparently there's a sort of huge historic manor house just a couple of blocks from the park here, and I had no clue it existed. Go figure.


FWIW, this isn't the only case of a Portland city park lying outside city limits. Elk Rock Island is another example, one a bit more interesting than this place, if I may say so.

Thomas & 53rd Park

You can probably tell from these photos that I didn't stay long. I didn't see anything that grabbed my interest. Plus I noticed that the neighborhood seemed to have a lot of rather elderly residents, and I figured that if I hung around too long someone would call the police about the strange young man wandering around the old vacant lot taking pictures.

Given the aging demographics of the area, I imagine many residents are on fixed incomes and would have no interest in joining the city anytime soon. And until that occurs, I imagine nothing's going to change about the park here. That will probably have to wait until a new generation of homeowners has moved in, and there are kids in the neighborhood again. Although most kids would be just as happy to go play in the big vacant lot as they would be with actual play equipment. I know that was the case with me, and I think I turned out ok, basically, more or less...

Thomas & 53rd Park

3 comments :

Anonymous said...

This field is in the Portland city limits. Wilcox is the neigborhood and it has a large community of children(Not to many fixed income folks).I think someone may have given you incorrect information. Keep up the great work with your blog. I really enjoy your pictures.

Anonymous said...

http://www.portlandonline.com/bps/index.cfm?a=51672&c=30426 this map shows that it's one of the unincorporated parts of the city. It's technically in the city limits. A strange loophole. Still enjoying your photos. Have you photographed witches castle in forest park?

-b- said...

The map you linked to shows "within Incorporated City" as blue, and "Unincorporated" but part of the city's "Urban Services Area" as pink. The border between the two seems to run right through the park, consistent with the northern vs. southern parcel distinction I mentioned.

I read this to mean that residents of pink areas receive some degree of city services and/or the city has some degree of planning authority in these areas, but they're outside city limits in the sense of being able to vote for mayor, for example. I know this is the case for the Dunthorpe/Riverdale area, also shown in pink.

I think in practice the pink regions on the map are areas the city would really like to annex someday, but annexation hasn't happened yet for some reason.

I haven't seen a clear explanation of what you get from the city if you're in an unincorporated part of the urban services area. Based on the tax roll info I found earlier, it appears the area gets most of its services from various Washington County / suburban westside agencies (sewer = Clean Water Services, emergency = Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, etc.) They might get Portland city water -- I can't find the map for that at the moment -- and I suppose they're sort of served by Portland city parks, in a way.

Interesting that on that map, Elk Rock Island isn't even in the city's Urban Service Area, and yet the city still owns the place. Weird.