Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sabin HydroPark expedition

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Today's adventure takes us to Northeast Portland's Sabin HydroPark, at NE 19th & Prescott. A "HydroPark" is, sadly, not a park with waterslides, a wave pool, or that sort of thing; it's simply a Portland Water Bureau water tank site that's open to public access. Until a few years ago, Water Bureau sites were typically closed to the public, resulting in a bunch of fenced off park-like areas, often in neighborhoods with few "real" city parks. The first HydroPark opened in 2006, and the city has seven of them now. I've covered two of them here before: Marigold HydroPark in the West Hills, and Pittman Addition in North Portland near Swan Island.

The huge water tanks are obviously the distinctive feature of the park. I hesitate to call it an attraction, since all you can really do is take a few photos of the tanks, and try to imagine how much water is looming over your head. Maybe you don't want to think about that, I don't know. I thought it was kind of cool. Although I'm not sure I'd want to live across the street from the place.

The Sabin location wasn't entirely closed to the public like some other sites were, and the Parks Bureau has run a playground & community garden on the south side of the HydroPark for quite some time. Lots of normal city parks have those, and I didn't spend a lot of time looking at the ones here, but they do exist. The HydroPark itself doesn't have a lot of visitor amenities -- I could swear I didn't even see a drinking fountain, oddly enough -- but the Master Plan for it does envision adding some public art here someday. Recent controversies over Water Bureau spending, and a new city commissioner in charge, make it unlikely they'll spend any ratepayer money on art anytime soon, though. At least if they have any staffers with any political sense at all.

A post at Vintage Portland points out that the current two water tanks were not the original ones on this site. A smaller, cylindrical standpipe once, uh, stood here. It was moved to make way for the older of the two current tanks, and to this day serves the St. Johns area.

One other unusual detail to pass along: You might notice there's also a small Pacific Power building here. It turns out that the Sabin tanks host a micro-hydroelectric energy project, which generates electricity from water flowing through the city water system. Not a huge amount of electricity, but apparently enough to make the project worth doing. There aren't any obvious signs or indications of this when you look around the park, although I admit I have no idea what a micro-hydroelectric system looks like.

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