Jim Sitzman and Gary Spanovich: Let's seek leadership and funds for effort to create Oregon Harbor of Hope

We advocate for creating new parks and connections between key components of Oregon City to create a healthy downtown for all our citizens. We may also be able to do some significant work on homelessness and climate action, empowering a decades-old policy to promote tourism for the city and creating a new set of lungs for our city. Jim Sitzman and Gary Spanovich

Oregon City does not have a Climate Action Plan, yet Clackamas County does and so do other cities. It is time for Oregon City to accept their public responsibilities in this area. Oregon City's 132-acre landfill as a Washington Square-style shopping center would have a huge carbon footprint versus a 132-acre park. Oregon City is as vulnerable to global warming as every other city. Remember the 1996 flood and since then other weather events that flooded Clackamette Park?

Proposed high-impact development of the former Rossman Landfill site poses risks from composted waste, calls for a contribution of $40 million of public funds in addition to massive private funds and it compromises several provisions in Oregon and local land-use regulations. Rather, let us seek leadership and funds for an effort to create an Olmsted Legacy Park and an Oregon Harbor of Hope.

Oregon Harbor of Hope is focused on developing special facilities featuring systems of care that meet the broad needs of the chronically homeless and unsheltered. Oregon City is in the midst of widespread homelessness evidenced by tarps and tents scattered along streets and hidden from view in remote areas along the rivers.

Countless citizens of Oregon are caught at the bottom of America's economic pyramid. What this population needs far exceeds housing. Add food, medical care, mental health therapy, abuse counseling, violence constraints, education tutoring and job training.

The Oregon Harbor of Hope Navigation Center is a 9,500-square-foot safe haven, offering one hundred beds and founded by Homer Williams, a Portland real estate developer (South Waterfront and Pearl District locally). In 2016, Williams was inspired after a trip to San Antonio where he toured Haven for Hope, a privately funded campus that delivers a centralized, compassionate, and multi-service approach to the many difficulties facing San Antonio's homeless population. Residents have a home for up to 90 days with 24-hour access, two daily meals, sleeping accommodations, showers and laundry facilities to help them get back on their feet again.

Contemplate, if you will, a carefully designed Olmsted Legacy Park that incorporates a variety of equally well-designed and interspersed facilities and services. There will be an Oregon Harbor of Hope funded by city, county, private and urban-renewal funds to provide services including education tutoring (some leading to GEDs or standard diplomas), job training and employment placement.

While living there for up to 90 days, participants will receive help obtaining employment. Transportation assistance, primarily from public transportation agencies, are available. Contemplative and active recreation venues are available for both the general public and for residents.

Community gardening spaces and resources invite shared gardening experiences and food supplements. Such intermingling stimulating more natural growth and human healing. The Olmsted Legacy Park offers a variety of natural settings featuring native and specialty plants, furnishings, and art in multiple-sized arrangements. All offering their contributions to healing and good health.

Our proposal would give our citizens new ways to recreate and gather in a beautiful park; would help our most vulnerable citizens; would take advantage of a city rich in history and meaning. Let us make the north end about a "Frederick Law Olmsted Vision" and not another shopping mall and dedicate it to the 200th birthday (April 26, 2022) of Frederick Law Olmsted, father of American landscape architecture, author, journalist, public official, city planner and creator of one of the U.S.'s most famous parks — Central Park in New York City.

Olmsted and his successor firms designed thousands of landscape projects across the country, transforming American life and culture. His vision of public parks for all people — and their ability to strengthen communities and promote public well-being —make the connection between a Rossman park and liberation from homelessness.

Jim Sitzman helped craft the urban growth boundary for Metro and then worked for many years at Oregon's Land Conservation Development Commission. Gary Spanovich oversaw getting Metro's first Regional Transportation Plan enacted before he completed his career as a public servant at Clackamas County.

You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.