Ride, walk or drive by St. Francis Park on Southeast 12th and Stark and you’ll meet a familiar sight: a stunning creek and waterfall contrasted by overgrown grass, garbage, and more often than not, men and women with no place else to go.

A project in what is now St. Francis Park, owned by St. Francis Parish, would create much-needed low-income housing in Portland’s Southeast industrial neighborhood, but it would mean the end of the iconic one-acre park after 45 years.

A group of people trying to “Save St. Francis Park” held a wake for the park on Wednesday.

The parish has plans to sell the park to faith-based organization Catholic Charities, and affordable housing group Home Forward, which would demolish the park in favor of 102 new apartments with ground level commercial space.

Neighbors push back

Ed Lyle, who has taken care of the park for 18 years and is the spokesperson for Save St. Francis Park, said the neighborhood should be given the opportunity to bid on the lot, valued between $1.6 and $2.0 million.

“How could they even consider tearing this park down?” he asked.

Visitors to Portland, like San Francisco’s Melissa Eakin, admire the park’s beauty. “It’s really pretty,” she said.

Furthermore, many of the homeless people who congregate in the park use it as a respite or oasis. “They use it as an outlet to come here and rest,” said Richard Crumwell.

“It might be good for people who need housing, but the park is beautiful,” said neighbor Ron Thompson.

Maintenance costs

St. Francis Pastoral Administrator Valerie Chapman said the parish is struggling with the cost of maintaining the park.

"The Parish has been around since 1876 and some of our buildings have been here almost that long, so there’s high maintenance needs and costs and things that we would like to do to bring our buildings up to a better state,” she said.

Lyle said rapid development in the Buckman area is hurting the surrounding community.

“It’s becoming an issue for the neighborhood, and generally speaking, this is just one more insult,” he said.

Catholic Charities has asked the City of Portland for $6.5 million in low income housing grants to assist with the project’s projected $20 million cost.

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