A little more than three years ago, members of the Foster Green EcoDistrict led a group discussion about the merits of improving and redesigning Laurelwood Park. The goal was not so much based in the idea that something was wrong with the park, rather it could serve as a centerpiece to a growing and evolving Foster corridor. Currently the park is mostly used by folks waiting for the bus (the 14-Hawthorne or 17-Holgate); students from Mt. Scott Learning Center after school; or employees from SEIU on their smoke break.
That’s not bad. And you almost have to ask what more could one expect in a park that is surrounded by a steady flow of traffic, constant hum of cars and city noise, and a green space with few sitting areas or visual appeal. It does serve a purpose, though. And it was Foster Green that sought to expand upon that purpose and see it evolve with the coming streetscape improvements, growing business district, and increasing neighborhood vibrancy.
When it was decided to turn the discussion into action, a committee (of sorts) was formed to envision the future of Laurelwood Park and what a redesign should look like if the park were to attract more people; integrate more with the surrounding commercial district; provide leisure, botanical interest, and perhaps host the occasional event.
The result was the creation of the Laurelwood Park Vision and Master Plan.
Three years later, there’s been no mention of Laurelwood Park’s future. And it’s hard to tell if Foster Green is still active. Nor is there any record of the PDC-driven Foster-Lents Integrated Partnership (FLIP) that jumpstarted Foster Green’s existence and proposed theoretical development plans for the entirety of the Foster corridor. While it’s unclear what happened to Foster Green and FLIP, it’s quite possible the plans for a Laurelwood Park upgrade have quietly survived, even if in some existence at the bottom of a Portland Parks and Recreation to-do list.
Count us in the camp that presumed the Laurelwood Park plan was simply an exercise in community engagement, with little or no expectation of tangible results. After all, there was no funding in place when the re-visioning started. And there was no guarantee that the city (Parks) would even adopt the plan.
That may still end up being the case, but the Oregonian ran an interesting article last week, in which they looked at Portland Parks and Recreation’s 20-year spending plan. In that article, they linked to a list of all potential projects, how much their estimated costs are, and what a theoretical timeline would be for completion. We were surprised to see the Laurelwood Park Master Plan in that list. What’s more, Portland Parks and Rec does, indeed, include this plan as part of their Project Plans and Studies, which does show some consideration for the proposal as developed by Foster Green. The PPR website does not list a timeline, but the project list, budget, and timeline that the Oregonian published does. In that, it categorizes Laurelwood Park in the “6-10 year” projects. In other words, there’s consideration for the plan, and if the budgeted $405,000 for it actually gets allocated, we could theoretically see some major improvements to Laurelwood Park within just a handful of years after the completion of the Foster Transportation and Streetscape Plan.
What would those improvements look like?
Most of the trees would remain, save for one or two unhealthy ones that could give way to an open plaza lining Holgate, which would serve as public gathering and event space. There would be more and paved walkways through the park, too, with the addition of three landscaped areas that would incorporate native and ornamental plants and shrubs. An arbor could be included to provide some shading, as well as a seat wall that would possibly line the perimeter of the park. And with the addition of electrical utilities, there would be lights in the park, too, as well as more seating and some benches.
All this sounds nice, yeah? Especially when you consider a more appealing Foster on one side, and more bikes and pedestrians making use of new streetscape elements. To be sure, there’s nothing that states this project will get built. It’s a big “if.”And a 6-10 year timeline is somewhat lofty when you consider, too, that funding comes and goes while priorities change at the city level and in its bureaus.
It’s nice to hope, though. Fingers crossed. (We’ll get back to you in 6-10 years.)