KIDZ Outside: New lighting, playground, and hope for George Park (Jan. 2024)

Two-acre George Park in St. Johns is as peaceful and picturesque as a park can be, but is seldom used because of poor lighting and neglected facilities. That is about to change. 

KIDZ Outside children at George Park
KIDZ Outside children at George Park.
Photo by Sara Ryan.

George Park advocate Donovan Scribes has been a spark plug to upgrade the park and laid out some key facts. “We surveyed neighbors asking what five things they’d like improved at the park and answers were: improved lighting, improved lighting, improved lighting, a new playground and a basketball court,” said Scribes, founder of the KIDZ Outside non-profit, instrumental in mobilizing support for the improvements at the park, located beneath a canopy of fir trees at the corner of N. Fessenden St. and N. Calhoun Ave. 

KIDZ Outside organizers at George Park
Far Left: LaQuisha Minnieweather, co-lead organizer The KIDZ Outside; Second from Left: Donovan Scribes, project director The KIDZ Outside; Second from Right: Former Mult. Co. Comissioner Susheela Jayapal, Far Right: co-lead organizer Mat Randol, The KIDZ Outside. Photo by Sara Ryan.

Portland City Commissioner Dan Ryan, who oversees the city’s Bureau of Parks & Recreation, sentimentally speaks of his own childhood memories enjoying the park. He pledged to mobilize PP&R resources and work with the city Bureau of Transportation to install street lighting on the Fessenden side of George Park. That should make a metaphorical night and day difference. “It’s a matter of when not if the improvements come,” Ryan said.

George Middle School teacher Daniel Rodriguez brought three of his top leadership students, Zie Russell, Tyleigha Pannell and Evelyn Riley to a recent kick off event. “When it starts getting dark around 5:30pm, the park now is not one of the safest places to be,” Russell said. Scribes added, “No lights on Fessenden Street means the park just gets drenched in darkness.” He said that Parks officials have agreed to include George Middle School students on the advisory committee for the next planning steps.

Rodriguez similarly endorsed expanding the current postage-stamp size playground area. He described bringing younger students to the park on sunny days “who have to bring their own toys because there’s not much to do here.” To that point, Erica Green, Portland Parks Foundation interim executive director, delivered a ringing endorsement for improving George Park. She announced that the foundation would help raise the estimated $300,000 to greatly expand the playground area and equipment.

Laura Streib, a neighbor and St. Johns Boosters board member, pointed out the rebirth that’s happening on Fessenden Street and how a new George Park will become a focal point of that. Several supporters suggested that the George Park renewal could be a template for other small North Portland parks such as Gammans in Arbor Lodge, Trenton in Kenton and McKenna and Hodge in University Park.

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