Sunday, January 12, 2014

Kingsley Park expedition

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One of the things I like to do here is track down strange and obscure places and things around Portland. Ok, that's actually the majority of what I do here. Over time I've realized my idea of "strange" is maybe not the standard one. If you're here to scout locations for a travel show about "Weird Portland" or "Historic Portland", you will find plenty of material here, but you'll also be scratching your head a lot wondering what on earth I was doing at such-and-such a place and why I wasted my time going there and writing about it. This is one of those times, I'm afraid. I've never made it a goal of mine to visit every single city park in town. Most of them are your basic neighborhood park, with a baseball field or two and maybe some playground equipment. Some have an interesting history behind them, like Irving Park in NE Portland, but (at least as far as I know) most don't have a lot to offer if you're looking for the strange and obscure.

Kingsley Park was intended to be another nice, mundane place like that, albeit a small and remote one. It's part of the Linnton neighborhood, in the far northwest corner of Portland, on US 30 a few miles beyond the St. Johns bridge. The park was donated to the city in 1925, a gift from E.D. Kingsley, president & general manager of the West Oregon Lumber company. Linnton was already a mix of residential and industrial land by then, and the park sat between Kingsley's West Oregon sawmill, and an Associated Oil plant. The article explained Kingsley's reasoning behind the donation:

In presenting the new site to the city Mr. Kingsley declared that he had been planning the move for years to provide proper play facilities for Linnton's increasing child population. Children heretofore have been forced to play in the streets or around the industrial plants of the district.

"Day by day I have seen little ones playing by the roadside with automobiles tearing by at 40 or 50 miles an hour," said Mr. Kingsley. "My blood has run cold at the thought of what might be the outcome. In fact, only a short time ago two lads were run over by a reckless driver, and there have been numerous other accidents."

At present the park is simply a small flat grassy area without any facilities, at least any that I noticed during my brief stop there. The only entrance is a sort of narrow driveway that angles off from the entrance to the huge oil tank farm next door. The photo above is looking down the driveway toward the park. In early 2013 the local neighborhood association applied for a city grant to improve (or re-improve) the place:

The request by the Linnton Neighborhood Association is for funds to develop Kingsley Park a 1.14 acre facility located in Linnton. The land was donated to the City of Portland in 1924 for use as a park and playground facility and until 1971 had playground equipment. The request is intended to provide for fencing, plants, trees, a pathway and for grading of the land. The fencing will be along the side of the park that is parallel to the train track—to reduce the risk of injury to children while playing in the park. This is the only facility of its kind in the Linnton neighborhood. Highway 30 is the west boundary of the park and the east boundary is the rail road line. The proposed fencing would create the north and south boundaries.

A $27,000 grant was awarded in August 2013. In addition to the improvements mentioned above, the neighborhood association is investigating putting in a community garden. Apparently the ground's been tested and judged safe for food production, despite being between an oil tank farm and a fiberglass plant.

In addition to the loss of playground equipment, the park's also lost area over time. Part of the park was shaved off in 1962 as part of widening US 30.

The land between Kingsley Park and the river is an empty industrial brownfield area. It's owned by the fiberglass plant nearby, and I don't know what the future holds for it. Whether it would be redeveloped with a new industrial use, or possibly as open space, or possibly it's too contaminated to do anything with. Right now Linnton is in the weird situation of being an old, historic river community with no public river access at all. I have no idea whether public access to the river is possible here, but the local neighborhood association is lobbying for it. The Port of Portland's Terminal 4 is directly across the river, so the view would be unsatisfying for anyone looking to commune with nature, but it would afford an unusual perspective, and there would be a lot of huge passing ships to watch.

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