I was slightly intrigued by George and Christian’s decision to have us start the first Friday of our program at a Plaid Pantry on 72nd and Killingsworth in NE Portland. I think my parents were also a bit thrown off, as evidenced by my mom telling me to “pay attention to my surroundings out there”. Alas, I arrived at 9:42 am at that Plaid Pantry as ready and excited as one could reasonably expect to be at a Plaid Pantry. We waited as group for all of our members to arrive, and for our “tour guide”, Jason King, who would be giving us a tour of a park he had designed. When he arrived, he explained what exactly he did, told us a little about himself, and what the purpose of the park he had designed was over a soundtrack of unmuffled engine braking. We set off towards the park, which was nestled between a trailer park and a light industrial area. When we arrived, Jason told us more about the park itself. It was formerly a landfill for construction waste, which had been covered in a plastic tarp and three feet of soil, then turned into a park. The park was created with the idea of “social equity” in mind, giving members of the Cully neighborhood, one of Portland’s most diverse but poorer neighborhoods, access to the same type of park facilities afforded to those in more affluent areas. The park only has a communal garden at this point, but it will eventually have a paved path around its perimeter, along with baseball fields and a playground. We took in the park for a little while longer, then headed to the bus stop on Killingsworth to head back to home base.
I was, once again, intrigued, as I had never rode a public bus before. Friday would turn out to be a day of firsts for me, with me tackling the creation of homemade macaroni and cheese later that evening, along with me venturing to the Cully neighborhood for the first time. To my surprise, the bus far exceeded my expectations, being much more comforable, quieter, and better-smelling than any sort of school bus provided by the Beaverton School District. We then rode the MAX back into downtown, and broke for lunch. After a satisfying and well-priced Big Mac, I returned to home base, ready to take the chicken paste of ideas we had created for our mission statement the previous day and turn them into McNuggets.
We began by breaking into groups of four to come up with “rough drafts” for our mission statements. My group quickly arrived at one, and before I knew it, four mission statements had been placed onto a word processing document. After a short while, it was decided that the Group 4’s mission statement was head-and-shoulders above the rest, and that it was the rough diamond which we would polish. After a great deal of wordsmithing and me policing the statement for correct comma usage, we arrived at a statement which would both guide us in our creation and impress all of those who heard it with its prose. Had I been particularly inspired, I would have written it down and shared it, but my word will have to be all the good faith it can get for now. We reflected on the day for a few minutes, then were dismissed with the promise of the upcoming Monday seeing us learn more about social equity and Portland’s Albina neighborhood.
Friday left me with a lot to think about. I liked Jason and his ideas for Cully Park. He seemed genuinely invested in the causes he talked about, like social equity. He also appeared to enjoy landscape architecture. I’m not sure whether the idea of social equity needs to be mentioned when creating plans for a neighborhood greenway in the Pearl District, but I think that it is something which should try to be implemented in Portland’s policies. I am excited for Monday and for us to explore the idea of social equity within the context of a poor neighborhood in North Portland, along with the future planning of our greenway in the Pearl.