Gabriel Park playground area getting an upgrade
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 set to begin any day.
The northeastern segment of the 91-acre park along Southwest Vermont will be upgraded to transform Gabriel Park into what's known as an "inclusive destination playground."
The play and picnic area will be expanded from 3,200-square-feet to 10,000-square-feet.
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.
"Gabriel Park is a big opportunity playground for us," Project Manager Gary Datka with Portland Parks and Recreation (PP&R) told the SW Connection in April. "It's unique because it has a great agriculture and dairy history."
The 90 acres now known as Gabriel Park 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 American 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.
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."
(Portions of this story originally appreared in the April 2019 edition of the SW Community Connection.)
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