Avenue recognized for tenting in Laurelhurst Park to get facilities

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PP&R will add pickleball courts, a bike skill area and a skateboard halfpipe on a now permanently closed section of Southeast Oak Street.

PORTLAND, Ore. – A stretch of road through Portland’s Laurelhurst Park is about to see some big changes. The city’s Parks & Recreation is taking over management of two blocks of Southeast Oak Street and plans to add amenities like pickleball courts and a skateboard half-pipe.

At the direction of Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office, Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) and the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) agreed to convert the route into more parking space. The section bounded by the park on either side is known for street camping and has seen some challenges in recent years.

Barriers and signs indicate that vehicular traffic is prohibited. PP&R confirmed that the change went into effect on October 31st. Existing camps were deleted in the last week.

“I think this place is particularly symbolic of what the city is like and how people in the city of Portland are feeling about homelessness right now,” said Daniel Lyman, who lives nearby and walks through the park daily.

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He’s excited about the extra parking space, but hopes the people who previously lived in this location can get the help they need.

“I don’t think sweeps usually fix these problems,” Lyman said. “However, I know that this neighborhood in particular is very tired, I would say, just from the last few years, as is everyone.”

Others firmly reject the city’s plan, calling it a new twist on the enemy’s architecture.

“People have camped here sporadically for years and they’ve been cleared for years and there’s no other place to go,” Bob said. “It actually has a funny, youth-friendly tone, but it’s extremely cruel and the normalization of this type of cruelty to the homeless is unconscionable.”

A rendering from the mayor’s office shows upcoming construction plans.

PP&R will add amenities to the park including benches, trash cans and bike racks, as well as a bike area, skateboard halfpipe and pickleball courts. A spokesperson told KGW that these new features were determined based on the lack of such amenities in Portland’s parking system.

According to the PDX Pickleball Club, there are few public areas where the sport can be practiced within city limits. In early October, the club installed and opened its own courts at Sellwood Park, which are free and open to everyone.

“I think Sellwood has shown the park a desire for people to come and play and it’s been tremendously successful,” said co-founder Cathy Owen. “The response – at least in terms of what we’ve heard and the people we see showing up and networking to come and play every day – has been huge. These places are busy throughout the day.”

Owen believes the new spaces at Laurelhurst Park will only expand opportunities within the city.

“I thought it was a great idea. If they build it, the pickleballers will come,” Owens said. “We have a lot of club members that live in this area, and the whole Portland subway will go there just as an option.”

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