Gabriel Park needs more Friends
Seventy years after Portland paid $120,000 for the plot of land now known as Gabriel Park, a new era has arrived and so has the need to get the Friends of Gabriel Park back in action.
The volunteer group has been a "bit dormant" lately, according to longtime Friend Jay Withgott, who is leading the effort to recruit new Friends.
The first reason is kind of a now-that-you've-got-it-what-are-you-going- to-do-with-it situation. Friends of Gabriel Park was instrumental five years ago in getting Portland Parks and Recreation to create a Nature Patch and Pollinator Meadow. Now that those projects have reached fruition, volunteers are needed to help take care of them.
The second reason is the prospect of a major housing development nearby. A developer is in preliminary talks with Portland's Bureau of Development Services to build what's described as "a 76-unit multi-dwelling development."
"With the proposed development at the end of Canby, bordering the southern edge of the park, we wanted to be sure that group members were well-informed and ready to weigh in as needed in any discussions about impacts and options," Withgott wrote in an email. (See related story.)
Then there's doing more with less.
"The city slashed the parks budget this year, and so now there is more need than ever for volunteers to step in and help steward the city's parks," writes Withgott, who has nothing but nice things to say about Parks Bureau staff, calling them " terrific…very communicative, forthcoming, generous with their time."
There are currently 125 people on the FOGP email list. Many of the addresses were gathered at Multnomah Days. There's not a lot of heavy lifting involved in being a Friend. Some heavy gardening, perhaps, but nothing men and women in decent shape can't handle.
Gary Miniszewski started this century's version of FOGP in 2014. Five years later the mission remains the same, "to help maintain and enhance the park's natural and developed areas, its facilities, including the Southwest Community Center... and generate ideas, organize actions, and advocate for strategies to sustain, restore, and enrich the park's natural and social assets."
Here's how Withgott puts it, "Stop and think about how much great stuff is crammed into this park's mere 90 acres—fields and facilities for multiple sports, playgrounds, dog parks, the Orchard, Community Garden, skatepark, sledding hills, picnic areas, trails and forests, now the Pollinator Meadow and Nature Patch, and of course the SW Community Center and everything inside it. It's really quite astounding — Gabriel Park must boast one of the most dense and diverse collection of recreational uses of any park in the whole city. This is wonderful for all of us who live here, and we all value the park for our own different reasons. But it also means that the park is so intensively used that it risks being "loved to death," as our park ecologist sometimes says. By having a Friends group, we aim to hopefully help serve as a common forum for different park users to talk to one another, trade ideas, and help parks staff manage resources amid a complex mix of uses," he wrote.
Withgott, who writes text books about the environment, moved to Multnomah in 2003 because it meant he and his wife, Dr. Susan Masta, a biology professor at PSU, could walk to Gabriel Park. He was a founding member of FOGP 1.0 and is working on FOGP 2.0, he says, because he wants to make sure FOGP survives and thrives and because he wants to know more about that proposed condo development that could be Gabriel Park's southern neighbor someday.
What's a Pollinator Meadow?
Here's the description from Portland Parks and Recreation:
"The pollinator meadow at Gabriel Park contains more than thirty varieties of native forbs (any herb that is not a grass or grasslike), grasses, and wildflowers to support pollinators and other wildlife. The meadow has functioned as intended over the last two years, providing foods and needs for a large variety of native bees (including honeybees) and butterflies which also support the park's popular orchard and community garden. It is located next to the orchard and community garden in Gabriel Park (the parking lot is off SW Canby Street)."
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