Mt. Tabor Park access plan stirs neighborhood
Walking path or new road? Answer to that question is still being discussed
Changes are afoot at the southern edge of Mt. Tabor Park, but this time Portland Parks and Recreation is bending over backwards to accommodate nearby residents.
Two years ago, Mount Tabor residents foiled the parks bureau's plan to sell off its central parks maintenance yard on Southeast Division Street to neighboring Warner Pacific College, which wanted the land for athletic fields.
After the neighbors mobilized, the bureau backed down and agreed to renovate its antiquated maintenance yard and adjoining nursery at their locations in the park's southwest corner.
Under a 2007 agreement reached via mediation with the Mount Tabor and South Tabor neighborhood associations, the city created a 34-member committee to plan the project.
One of the city's biggest issues is improving worker safety and productivity at the maintenance yard, where more than 100 workers report for duty each day, said Maija Spencer, public involvement coordinator for the project. One of residents' concerns is how to improve access to the park from the south, perhaps by extending 64th Avenue from Division Street north a couple blocks to Sherman Street.
On Saturday, the parks department is opening up the 13-acre site for public tours, hoping to brief neighbors on plans and get feedback on various designs. Open Yard Day is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the south entrance to Mt. Tabor Park, near Southeast 64th Avenue and Lincoln Street.
Poorly maintained buildings
The maintenance yard and nurseries are used to support all Portland city parks, but some of the facilities date back nearly a century.
'Some of these buildings were built to house horses,' Spencer said.
As Mayor Tom Potter observed months ago, the parks maintenance yard appears to be one of the city's most poorly maintained facilities. Some of the buildings lack proper heating and air conditioning. Some of the roofs leak. There's inadequate parking and traffic circulation for heavy equipment.
Workers at the maintenance yard fan out to do lawn mowing, carpentry, welding, repairs, ballfield striping, graffiti removal and other duties at various parks.
The nursery, which includes a greenhouse, is used to grow plants and trees for all city parks.
Neighbors: No need for road
One idea being discussed is creating a foot and bike path from Division along 64th, creating better access to Mount Tabor for residents in the South Tabor neighborhood, Spencer said. A 1999 master plan for Mt. Tabor Park called for better access from the south. And some residents don't like entering the park through the leash-free dog-walking zone north of Division, she said.
Extending 64th north as a paved street would improve circulation in the area for fire trucks and ambulances. It also could reduce park traffic entering on 60th Avenue, said John Laursen, a Mount Tabor Neighborhood Association leader and member of the 34-person Mt. Tabor Central Yard and Nursery Planning Group.
Some residents oppose a new paved stretch of 64th Avenue, fearing it will worsen traffic in the South Tabor neighborhood and make it more tempting for the city to sell the site in the future for a housing development.
'I think the sentiment of the group would be not to put a road in there, if you don't need it,' Laursen said.
But the maintenance and nursery facilities serve all Portland parks, and Mt. Tabor draws visitors from throughout the city and beyond.
'This is not just a neighborhood issue; It's a city-wide issue,' Laursen said.
Draft designs for the project are slated for release in September, Spencer said. Then the City Council could adopt a design in December.
Funding for the project could be packaged into a parks bond to go before voters in 2010.
For more information on plans to improve Mt. Tabor Park, visit the Web site: www.portlandonline.com/parks/index.cfm? and c=43976