By Vanessa Miali | CNA Media Team
Cully Park is not your ordinary park or location. It’s a $14 million dollar, 25-acre outdoor destination for people of all ages.
The neighborhood, at 72nd Avenue and Killingsworth Street, is one of Oregon’s most ethnically and racially diverse, according to Portland Parks & Recreation.
It is also one of the most park deprived in the state. Its history goes back almost two decades. The city purchased the lot in 2000, in hopes of turning it into a park. But lack of funds put the project on hold until 2008, when nonprofit Verde, a Cully-based outreach and advocacy group, created the Let Us Build Cully Park coalition.
Funding for the park came from public and private partnerships. Verde raised more than $7 million in donations from a combination of 50 donors, partners and grants. Portland Parks & Recreation devoted $6 million in system development charge revenues for the park’s construction.
More than just fundraising involvement, Verde took a community-based approach to the park’s research and development process. That allowed it to meet ambitious contracting and workforce diversity goals. This generated income for low-income people and people of color, as well as the businesses they work for or own.
“We’ve devoted a lot of energy to working with the community on this project and are most excited about how in-depth it has been,” said Tony DeFalco, Verde executive director.
“We had existing relationships in the Cully neighborhood, and we developed a bilingual survey to expand our reach to over 1,000 people. Their feedback was incorporated into the design process, construction and workforce,” he added.
Verde also worked with 191 neighborhood students to design the play area. That involved teaching them basic design concepts, map reading and calculating scale using an architect ruler.
In addition to a youth soccer field and huge play area that includes a wheelchair-accessible sensory wall, Cully Park has a community garden, an off-leash dog area, parking lot, trails, fitness course, overlooks, habitat restoration and picnic areas.
Another unique element is the Native Gathering garden, which is the highest point in Cully Park and provides visitors views of Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood. Verde also turned undeveloped 72nd Avenue into a modern green street with flush curbs and an extra wide sidewalk.
“This alternative street design delivers environmental benefits such as storm water handling and tree canopy cover,” Tony pointed out. “The community has been asking for this park for 20 years, and we are thrilled to have made their vision a reality.”
Vanessa Miali has lived in Concordia for 18 years. She is a former public relations professional with two kids who cooks every day and gardens occasionally.