Woodstock Blvd's first 'pocket park' to be at All Saints Church
Almost two years in the making, Woodstock has a brand new park – or rather, a parklet – a "pocket park", on the north side of the boulevard between S.E. 40th and 41st Avenues, next to the sidewalk at the entrance of All Saints Episcopal Church campus. Still under construction at this writing, the small park is expected to be completed by the end of October.
All Saints graciously offered the space for this public use when the Woodstock Community Business Association (WCBA), and Woodstock Stakeholders group, announced they were looking to create some small community spaces to enliven the commercial strip for pedestrians, and put out the call for appropriate sites.
Several other sites were considered, but were ruled out for various reasons. In the end, given the church's community focus and its position at the gateway of the business district, All Saints was deemed to be a great location for one.
The project was funded with a $10,000 matching grant from "Venture Portland". Initially, the completion date was to have been September 30 of last year, but when the parklet committee ran into numerous hurdles getting the project off the ground, they were granted another year to get it done.
And, when the economic hardships of COVID-19 impacted the group's ability to solicit matching funds, Venture Portland became flexible on the match amount as well, assured that the business district would see the parklet to completion.
"It just didn't feel right to be fundraising at a time when so many businesses were struggling just to survive," Stakeholders President Angie Even explained. Woodstock Hardware was originally going to donate plants for the parklet, but the committee decided to purchase plants instead, to help with economic recovery.
At that point, Angie told THE BEE, "the goal became to just complete the project, and do our best." Hard budget numbers were not available as this article was written, but Angie assured that the Stakeholders were prepared to cover any costs above $10,000, if necessary, to complete the project.
Parklet development commenced early this summer with professional site preparation, installation of an accessible paver-lined pathway, and placement of some large rocks and a stone birdbath. Small perennials planted by a team of volunteers in July are well on their way to being established, while mature structural and anchor plants are scheduled to be planted this month, in readiness for winter rains.
Other elements to be added to the site this month include a bench, and signage designed to enlighten and inform passersby and visitors about previous Native American inhabitants of the area, along with historical facts about the neighborhood drawn from the 1995 Woodstock Neighborhood Plan – as well as a note about the historic church bell. The parklet will also feature a wayfinding sign.
All Saints member Laura Axon, who teaches Sunday School at the church, first read about this parklet project in the church e-newsletter. As the Library Media Specialist at Sellwood Middle School, she had studied the history and present realities of Native American peoples of Oregon, in a seminar class with a small group of sixth graders. So when she learned that the park's historical marker would include a land acknowledgment, she suggested her Sunday School students do the research to ascertain what tribal group once called this area home. The students subsequently tapped into a number of maps and historical resources available online, thanks to Portland State University and other institutions. Their careful research determined that this part of Portland was once stewarded by the Clackamas Chinook tribe (Clackamas being the tribal name, and Chinook being the language they spoke).
Laura acknowledges that many Native Americans still live in Portland – and, in fact, the church has three Native American members, though they are not Clackamas Chinook. From studies undertaken with her Middle School students, Axon has learned that the Chinook are still engaged in a struggle for tribal sovereignty; and that there are ongoing efforts – including Oregon legislation – that seek to preserve tribal languages for future generations. She feels that even simple land acknowledgements, such as the one to be included on this Woodstock parklet plaque, are important for raising awareness and regard for Native Americans, both past and present.
All Saints' Reverend Andria Skornik said she hopes the parklet will be recognized and well used by the public as a place to stop and reflect, or to chat, or just to recharge. She stressed that the church sees it as part of the community's "commons" – spaces we all own, and benefit from, and care for together.
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