Portland Turns a Pit into a Park

Image: Site grading at Cully Park, photo courtesy of Alan Hipolito

Image: Site grading at Cully Park, photo courtesy of Alan Hipolito

In a turn of events that would make Leslie Knope proud, a coalition of nonprofits in Portland is turning an old construction pit into a park. The Let Us Build Cully Park project is a coalition of 16 nonprofits working with the city. The park will be in the Cully neighborhood, which is one of the most diverse in Portland, and the nonprofits that are building it are set on engaging the community.

The neighborhood is about half a mile from the nearest park or naturalized space, and Verde, one of the nonprofits taking the lead, is going to use its own contract company to hire low-income workers to build the park. Another organization, TERRA.fluxus is working with local school children to create gardens, and there are plans for cultural displays to celebrate the Latino and Native American heritage of many of the locals.

This isn’t a story of fighting against the government, but of helping them out. The city took over the land in 2000, with the intention of building a park, but by 2007, budgetary issues kept it from ever materializing. That’s when nonprofits took over fundraising, and the city has given them the go-ahead to plan and build the first part of the park. So far they’ve raised about $6 million of a projected $9 million for the project, with an expected grant of $1.25 million from the parks and recreation department. Half a million came from a National Park Service grant as well.

It’s a great example of how nonprofits are supposed to work: teaming up to accomplish great things on behalf of civil society that the government can’t take care of. The park sounds like it’s going to be a great addition to the neighborhood, and should help bolster the economy there as well.

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