By Michelle Frost
Avalon Sanctuary is a very small ‘pocket park’ nestled between The Hope Center/Cascadia and St. Philip Neri Convent along SE Division. Nearly hidden in the throughway that is officially 19th Avenue, this park was created by many hands and a labor of love.
Hosford-Abernethy Neighborhood District Association (H.A.N.D.) oversees all matters relating to Avalon Sanctuary and SE Uplift is the fiscal sponsor. Neighbors work to create the garden space and one woman, Cherie, is the current on-site volunteer coordinator and the gardener at New Day School, which shares a fence on the south end of the park.
“It’s a collaboration,” says Cherie, “between our neighbors Cascadia Hope Center, New Seasons and New Day School. New Seasons hosted a fundraiser about two or three years ago to help us raise money for the space.”
Two barrels for rain collection have been constructed on either side of the site to help neighbors who plant in the gardens. “Cascadia uses these garden boxes to help patients with skills training.” The space is green and lush today as a result of the many hands working to sustain it.
Community clean-ups of the public open space/dead end street have called on neighbors to join in making it a place where they would like to picnic and play, enlisting helpers for a few hours of digging in the dirt, raking rocks and sorting out weeds from flowers, creating a few places to sit, and painting over graffiti on the back fence.
At the turn of the last century in 1902, the City of Portland purchased this parcel of land from the estate of Oregon Trail pioneer Mary Fox Tibbetts for $1, to be used as “a street called Avalon”. More than a hundred years later, it had become a dead-end stretch of public land, littered with garbage in the middle of a park-deprived, quickly growing inner-city neighborhood.
Efforts have been made for the last 7-8 years by neighborhood volunteers to create a space that invites people in to rest. HAND hopes a renewed public interest will inspire City officials to consider adopting a formal plan for this public space so that it can be better utilized.
Since the City owns this property, the space is kept open and accessible, “not planting anything directly in the roadway,” Cherie explains. “Rick Eisenhauer with PBOT (Portland Bureau of Transportation) is working to draft a permit for an Alternate Use for Right-of-way.”
A gigantic fig tree blooming with new figs looms at the center of the park. Beneath its broad canopy is a circle of wood benches, tree stumps, and logs for gathering to rest in its shade.
“I have a vision,” Cherie smiles, explaining what she imagines for the green space. “This could be a summer story space, and the neighbor who maintains the grassy area would like to have a play space for children, like a mini soccer field,” she points at the lawn which is being seeded and groomed weekly by the volunteer she mentions.
“He is in the martial arts and could use this space to give demonstrations of kung fu and qigong.”
Cherie’s dream is to introduce display cases for local art, to see a curator be hired who would “organize art shows and turn the space into an outdoor gallery for art installations including a sculpture garden to showcase local artists”.
A fundraiser event will be held August 27, from 4 – 8 pm at the park. Plans are still in the works, but she hopes to include an open bluegrass jam, public speakers, storytellers and local poets.
Everyone is welcome to this free celebration especially neighbors who would like to share their experiences and memories of living in the neighborhood.
For information or to volunteer, contact HAND online at handpdx.org