Girl Scouts pass 'torch' of Latourette Park stewardship
A formerly languishing Oregon City park has been reconstructed to include play structures, a refurbished basketball court, an upgraded ADA-accessible walking path and additional seating.
Oregon City officials, in partnership with neighbors and community members, cut the ribbon Saturday, June 5, on the revitalized D. C. Latourette Park at 902 11th St. Since the groundbreaking last August, Boring-based Paul Brothers Inc. constructed the $590,000 project in the park named for a prominent banker, attorney and former city councilman (1856-1937).
Fed up with the area's long-term neglect, a group of Girl Scouts spearheaded efforts to do something about it, unofficially adopting the park in 2015. Girl Scout Troop 45064 started advocating for the park at a former outdoor swimming pool decommissioned in 1965 and covered with concrete for a tennis court, which was crumbling into ruins by the 2010s.
Seeing an increasing amount of trash and other disturbing activity at the park, the girls organized regular cleanups and invited all citizens to a March 2016 "Party in the Park" to get feedback about what its 0.8 acres could be, even though city officials at the time said there was no money to invest in it.
Spurred on by various Metro grants, the Girl Scouts hosted a park visioning workshop in 2016 and worked with Portland-based company Depave and neighbors to remove a portion of the park's asphalt in 2018 to boost future installation of a nature play area and resurfacing for a basketball court. In addition to city general funds, the project received grants from Nike, the National Realtors Association, the National Park Service, Providence Willamette Falls and the Portland Garden Club.
Oregon City Mayor Rachel Lyles Smith called the project "the epitome of building community through collaboration and partnerships." She said the city was grateful for the work of the Girl Scouts who originally formed the Latourette Core Team to create "fun, play and recreational opportunities" in a dilapidated park.
"The impressive coalition of partners, including Metro, has allowed the vision of the community to be realized," Lyles Smith said.
Metro Councilor Christine Lewis said the Girl Scouts were "very persuasive" in coming three time before a city-regional governmental committee that doles out enhancement grants from a portion of the South Transfer Station's garbage-tipping fees.
"Places to gather are sorely missed when we don't have them," Lewis said. "It just goes to show you that partnerships matter."
City Commissioner Denyse McGriff represented the neighborhood as a member of the Latourette Park Core Team.
"I've gotten to know all the Girl Scouts, and it's been a pleasure to work with them," McGriff said at the ribbon-cutting event.
Lattourette Core Team and Girl Scout troop co-leader Heidi McKay said "place making, gathering, collaborating and caring for people and place" has always been group's top goal.
"I only hope there's someone out there for us to pass the torch onto, to continue the park beautification and the ongoing intentionality of this new space," McKay said.
Girl Scout Kate Buehrig, at the event, passed a symbolic "torch," in the form of a rolled-up Latourette Park T-shirt, to Oregon City Parks Director Kendall Reid, who said he was immediately impressed by how community members refined the park concept plan and raised funds to implement the vision.
Girls Scouts this summer will repaint the nearby intersection, which in 2017 became the first and so-far only intersection painting project completed in Oregon City.
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