Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Sabin Community Orchard

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Today's adventure takes us to an unusual little spot along NE Mason St. between 18th & 19th Avenues. The city owns a street right-of-way through here, but never got around to creating a street, and now they probably never will. In 2010 the vacant stretch of land was repurposed as the Sabin Community Orchard, a project of the Sabin neighborhood association along with the Portland Fruit Tree Project, a local nonprofit. It's a volunteer project, and fruit grown here is split 50/50 between volunteers and a local food bank.

Since 2010, two additional orchards have gone in, one in North Portland near McCoy Park, and another in Outer SE Portland's Brentwood neighborhood. It's nice that they picked these locations instead of automatically going to gentrified or soon-to-be-gentrified neighborhoods. I know I sound like a broken record talking about that stuff, but it would be the easiest thing in the world to make fruit trees another twee hipster amenity, and I'm pleased they didn't go in that direction.

I'm not sure what was here before the fruit trees arrived. It turns out this stretch was on a certain obscure list of obscure places I found on the city's website a while ago, places I've slowly been tracking down to see what they're like. The list predates the orchard, but doesn't say what was there at the time. I'll bet it was probably just some boring inedible landscaping, though.

For casual visitors, the orchard includes a short path with some interpretive signs explaining what the various trees are and why they're important and so forth. This is actually helpful. I learned to identify trees for a merit badge one time, but as I recall that was limited to a.) commercially valuable conifers and b.) things you should and shouldn't build a campfire with. In fairness, that was a long time ago, and it's possible that fruit trees hadn't evolved yet.

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