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Portland Parks & Recreation

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Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz, Portland Parks & Recreation Announce Dawson Park Improvement Milestone


Upgraded Playground Equipment and Surfacing Assured, Will Benefit Children of All Abilities

(Portland, OR) –

Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz announces that Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) has identified added funding to upgrade the new playground surfacing and equipment at the soon-to-be revitalized Dawson Park, at N. Stanton St & Williams Ave. Fritz delivered the news first to the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods (NECN).  In addition to a playground surface designed to be universally accessible, several pieces of play equipment were specifically chosen for their ability to be enjoyed by children of all abilities.

“These are exciting changes to a park that is widely treasured and has a significant history,” says Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “I am thrilled that Dawson Park is being re-energized, and proud to see our City working with neighbors to make it a vibrant part of the community once again.”

“It is important that the playground will accommodate children and adults of all abilities,” she adds, noting that Dawson Park is located directly across from the Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel. Several other organizations that serve and mentor children are also located near the park.

The new type of play surfacing is a sustainable and permeable system that utilizes shredded vehicle tires (one recycled tire for each square foot of play surface). This type of surfacing allows greater accessibility for people with disabilities, as compared to the typical "engineered wood fiber" play surfacing found in most of Portland's playgrounds.

The enhanced turf and playground equipment are part of the larger Portland Development Commission (PDC) /PP&R construction effort to restore the park as a key community gathering space while honoring its rich African-American history. The $2.7 million renovation project will make the park more welcoming and attractive, with a central lawn, an improved playground, interactive water play feature, barbeques, flowering plants, bike racks, picnic tables and benches, and lighted pathways and better accessibility. Construction began in October of 2013 and is expected to be completed in June of 2014. PDC’s Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area is providing $2.3 million to fund the park improvements.

“Dawson Park is more than just a park—it’s a symbol of this neighborhood, North-Northeast Portland and our constant vision for a better city,” says PDC Executive Director Patrick Quinton. “These improvements are truly community-driven and we are honored to play a role in the revitalization of this community asset.”

“The redesigned Dawson Park stands as a testament to Portland’s commitment to a community open and available to everyone and to a better and brighter future for all its children,” says Paul Anthony, Parks Budget Advisory Committee liaison and NECN Parks Subcommittee member.

The park will also benefit from a $200,000 Legacy Emanuel Medical Center donation via the non-profit Portland Parks Foundation. The funds are dedicated to a new water feature at the soon-to-be-renovated park, which encompasses just over two acres. Legacy Emanuel Medical Center’s generous contribution provides two-thirds of the needed funding for this exciting park element.

The water feature is one of several opportunities offered in Dawson Park’s upcoming redesign, which was shaped through extensive community input and aims to celebrate the park’s history. The multimillion dollar makeover will encompass numerous improvements, including interpretive panels which tell the history of the neighborhood and the park, important centers of Portland’s African-American community. The interactive water feature is seen as a vital and unique play element for the community. It was originally suggested by neighbors during extensive public involvement, and heavily supported.

“It is gratifying to see these dramatic and tangible park improvements,” says Michael Alexander, president and CEO of the Urban League of Portland and longtime Portland Parks Board member. “It is important to deeply understand the history here, while still focusing on the future. We look forward to a tremendous new park and appreciate the commitment by the City and its partners to increase the quality of life for all here.”

Historic Dawson Park has served as an integral social, political and economic center for many communities – most notably, Portland’s African-American community. The neighborhood around Dawson once was the heart of Portland’s African-American population, and the new park design will recognize that heritage with double-sided cast-stone medallions designed by artist Isaka Shamsud-Din to be placed in a decorative fence surrounding the playground. One side will be inspired by traditional African Ndebele patterns; the other side will contain historic neighborhood remembrances.

The project is a partnership between the Portland Development Commission (PDC) and Portland Parks & Recreation. The Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area will provide $2.3 million in funding, with remaining support for the water play feature from Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, Portland Parks Foundation and Portland Parks & Recreation. Support for the public artwork comes from the Regional Arts & Culture Council. R&R General Contractors has been selected to construct the park improvements; 87% of the construction work will be performed by MWDESB-certified contractors.

Construction began in October of 2013 and is expected to be completed in June of 2014. For current project information, visit