Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dickinson Park

Our next adventure takes us to SW Portland's Dickinson Park, 18 acres with forests and a large open grassy area, located on a rather steep hillside. I dropped by a few months ago when it was too muddy to get to the forested part, but a page at ExplorePDX has a few photos showing what it's like. The park's open area has nice views to the west and, somewhat incongrously, it's home to a shiny new "Evos Play System", a very fancy new play structure. Willamette Week's Summer 2014 guide dubbed the park "Portland's Backyard Jungle Gym", but pointed out the park still has no restrooms.

The city's owned it since 1993, when it acquired the property from Multnomah County, as part of the county's dismantling of its struggling park system. Apparently the county had never done much of anything with the land, and the city didn't immediately have any budget for the place, so they only began design work for it in 2001. A plan soon came together but initially there was no money in the city budget to implement it. 2006 rolled around, and the city had a temporary budget surplus thanks to the national real estate bubble, so they were finally able to break ground on the park at that point.

At first I couldn't find anything at all about the county's prior stewardship of the park, until I looked at the transfer agreements and realized the county called it "Dickenson" with an 'e', not "Dickinson" with an 'i'. Even then, I found next to nothing about the place dating to that era, but the few things I've come up with seem to indicate the county seriously neglected its park system when it had one. A 1982 letter to the editor complained that the county had effectively defunded the system around that time. By 1986, the county was already anxious to transfer it to the city, which had annexed the land (along with Lesser, Maricara, Orchid St., West Portland, and Woods Parks) in 1979. The city was reluctant to take them over until the county settled up for some disputed sewer construction charges at these parks (as well as at SE Portland's Brentwood Park). The article mentions that the aforementioned parks were all undeveloped and the county had no idea what to do with them. Lesser, Maricara, and Woods parks must have transferred before 1993; West Portland, aka Loll Wildwood never transferred, and eventually ended up as a Metro natural area. The remaining "Orchid St. Park" is unfamiliar. A June 1987 article about the proposed transfer mentions the city had pledged to maintain all but the Orchid St. site as parks, and a previous article about a city-county land dispute over Woods Park mentiosn the Orchid St. park was only 0.3 acres. So I suppose they must have sold it off at some point.

Other assorted Dickinson Park tidbits I ran across:

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