After 20 years, Gabriel Park is getting a face-lift
The play and picnic areas at Gabriel Park will triple in size and the 20-year-old playground equipment will be replaced as part of a $4 million makeover made possible by Portland voters and developers.
The northeastern segment of the 91-acre park will be upgraded to make it easier to play there and transform Gabriel Park into what's known as an "inclusive destination playground."
The park is located south of Vermont Street between Southwest 37th and 45th avenues. The play and picnic area will be expanded from 3,200 square feet to 10,000 square feet. No decisions have yet been made about what kind of play structures will replace the current ones.
But the rejuvenation will take a while. At a mid-April open house to begin soliciting ideas from neighbors, project manager Gary Datka with Portland Parks and Recreation (PP&R) said construction should start in the summer of 2020 and be completed by the winter of 2021. He said the budget for the construction involved in the Gabriel Park project is currently $2.75 million but it's early yet and the actual cost could end up closer to $2.9 million. The entire project budget is $4.2 million, which includes "hard and soft costs, design, public involvement and communications, project management, construction, permitting, play equipment and materials, and contingencies," according to project liaison Maija Spencer.
Sixty percent of the funding, $2.5 million, wil come from fees paid on new housing construction and major additions known as System Development Charges. Five years ago voters approved Measure 26-159, the 2014 Parks Replacement Bond, which proivdes the remaining $1.7 million, or 40%, of the project budget.
"We're just getting started with a concept design and site analysis to see what opportunities there are on site," Datka said. "This is meant to be an all-inclusive playground bringing in all populations of people with all abilities and challenging them at the highest level so kids of all age ranges and ability ranges can play together, learn from each other and have a good experience."
Besides updated play structures, new picnic spaces will be developed and the wood chip surface throughout that area will be replaced with a rubberized surface. Pathways through the area will be upgraded to comply with standards set by the Americans With Disabilities Act. At least one of the restrooms will be renovated and a new drinking fountain will be added.
"With funding from the Parks Bond (passed by voters in 2014) and systems development charges we're expanding the play area and bringing in a lot of new play opportunities and new site amenities," Datka said.
System Development Charges are fees paid by developers of new homes and apartment houses in Portland.
Portland Parks and Recreation has upgraded four other large city parks to be "inclusive destinations parks." The newest, Couch Park, will officially open at the intersection of Northwest 20th Avenue and Hoyt Street on May 4. The other parks in that category are: Harper's Playground at Arbor Lodge Park, 2525 N.E. Dekum St.; and Gateway Discovery Park, 10520 N.E. Halsey St.
"Gabriel Park is a big opportunity playground for us," said Datka.
Members of the advisory committee that have done preliminary work on plans for the upgrade at Gabriel Park told PP&R staffers about the legacy of the park.
"It's unique because it has a great agriculture and dairy history," Datka said.
The 90 acres in question was first purchased by Ulrig Gabriel, a German immigrant, in 1890. He grew potatoes, wheat, oats, corn and clover and had a herd of about 80 cows. Anna, one of his two daughters, married Johann Fuez, an immigrant from Switzerland, in 1923. Fuez had just bought a meat market on Multnomah Boulevard and called it by the Aerican version of his first name. John's Marketplace isn't a butcher shop any longer but it's still in business.
The City of Portland bought the land in 1950 for $120,000 and named it for the Gabriel family. The first development plan for Gabriel Park called for the inclusion of a sledding and tobogganing hill, an ice rink and a couple of small lakes. Those were never built but two baseball fields, tennis courts and a picnic and play area were.
Gabriel Park is still the go-to spot on snow days.
"The topography out there is fantastic," said Datka of the rolling hills. "So we're really hoping to work some of the natural topography in with some built structures. Kids really like to play on hills with their sliding opportunity and generally just running around."
No changes will be made to the tennis courts, skate park or off-leash dog area, but the parking lot will be upgraded.
"We'll bring in some new trees for urban canopy development," Datka said. "We're really looking at the whole context of where we are in southwest Portland and trying to stay true to that."