In the past nine days, over 200 people have chipped in nearly $60,000 toward to the construction of the “Dirt Lab” at Gateway Green. But as excitement builds for the first new singletrack trails in Portland in what seems like forever, advocates and partners behind the project have come face-to-face with one of Portland’s most vexing issues: homelessness.
Dozens of people who were just moved from the massive homeless camping villages on the Springwater Corridor path have found solace at Gateway Green, the 40-acre parcel of vacant land that sits at the intersection of two freeways in east Portland. That means before any shovels can hit the ground to build the new trails and riding areas, the city must address the land’s current residents.
Portland Parks and Recreation is the owner of the land and they’re spearheading the plan to help the campers. That effort started on Monday when Portland Park Rangers and social service providers from the area began visiting the site to conduct outreach. Below is part of the statement PP&R has issued:
It is heartbreaking, but there are people who are living on the property, as Portland is faced with a crisis around housing and people experiencing homelessness. Camping in parks and on park properties has always been, and continues to be, prohibited. Our parks and natural areas are simply not designed for people to live in them. But Rangers recognize that it is not a crime to simply be homeless. Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz has been clear – and police agree – that enforcement alone does not solve this complex societal issue. So as part of their jobs, Rangers who identify people camping in parks try hard to assist these individuals by forming relationships with them, and connecting them with resources and agencies such as JOIN. If people do not wish to accept such services, Rangers’ options are limited. Also note that we have more than 11,000 acres of parks and natural areas in the Portland Parks & Recreation system.
Other than trying to connect people living there with social services and to get them assistance, the other goal of the outreach is to inform people that Monday, 10/3 is the start of cleanup of any debris or structures at the Gateway Green site. Site cleanup will be done by the City’s contractor and is expected to take one or two weeks.
After cleanup, long-planned construction for the park site will soon be underway and a fence is going up shortly.
Parks says they’ll begin staging construction materials and equipment on October 10-12 and a fence will be erected around the project site by October 14th.
While some off-road cycling advocates have their issues with how Portland Parks has managed the singletrack issue in places like Forest Park and River View Natural Area, the agency is in full support of trails at Gateway Green. “Portland Parks & Recreation feels that Gateway Green will be an outstanding site for off-road cycling,” said a statement issued by their spokesperson Mark Ross. “The site’s topography, it’s existing tree coverage and convenient location are sure to make it a coveted destination… Our Commissioner-in-Charge of Parks, Amanda Fritz, has said that Gateway Green could be a key connection point for cycling within the city. It lies not only at the confluence of two major freeways, but at the intersection of the I-205 regional trail and the future Sullivan’s Gulch Trail. So there are a wide range of possibilities, and many reasons to be excited about Gateway Green right now.”
Once construction of the Dirt Lab begins on October 19th it’s expected to be completed and ready to ride by this coming spring (not six weeks like we previously reported).
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – email@example.com
Edit- September 24: added some photos of the larger camps at Gateway Green. There are 2-3 camps with about a dozen tents each; there are many more camps with 1-3 tents/living units scattered around this large space. (Ted)
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