A Space to Get to Know Each Other
Thanks to funds from the Parks Replacement Bond and System Development Charges, Gabriel Park now has a more inclusive and accessible play area that is about three times the size of the original play area. With more space for play, there are many more play opportunities for park visitors of all abilities.
Linda Akagi and Dr. Aisha Y. Musa were both born with disabilities and raised in Portland. Despite growing up in a city of beautiful parks, their recreational opportunities were limited, as Portland’s playgrounds were not designed at that time with inclusion and accessibility in mind.
When Linda went to playgrounds as a kid, she says “I could not do anything, but I would sit with my feet in the wading pool.”
Aisha’s recollections are similar. She says, “I used the swings if they were at a height I could easily get into. I would watch other children on the monkey bars and think it looked like fun but getting on and off them was not a possibility. I spent a lot of time playing in the grass in parks, as it was easier and safer to crawl or walk on.”
Today, both play roles in advocating for people with disabilities to have more opportunities. Linda served on the Gabriel Park Playground Advisory Committee, and Aisha contributed feedback through her role as an advisor on the Parks Accessibility Advisory Committee. Their perspectives ensured the new inclusive playground at Gabriel Park was designed with input from community members with lived experience.
The renovations included smooth rubber surfacing and paved pathways at appropriate slopes, so visitors using wheels can navigate throughout the entire area. The many unique play pieces include a huge tower that offers expansive views of Gabriel Park, a friendship swing where users can swing facing each other, and an inclusive rocker with high backed seats for those who need extra support. A quieter area allows for space when kids need a break from the action, and a fence surrounds the entire play area to keep kids safe, especially those that experience a “fight or flight” feeling when overwhelmed.
Linda and Aisha agree that an inclusive playground “gives disabled and non-disabled parents and children a space where they can get to know and see each other as people doing ordinary things together.” They believe this will help change many of the stereotypes around people with disabilities.
While they both wish inclusive playgrounds existed when they were kids, they emphasized it is better late than never!
Peninsula Pool Now Serves the Community Better Than Ever
More than just a fun summer hangout, pools enhance our community’s health and wellbeing. With increasingly hotter summers, PP&R pools are a place that everyone in the community can access to cool off. Steve Kavanaugh, a PP&R Recreation Coordinator who oversees Peninsula Outdoor Pool, views swimming as a lifelong skill – something that “people can have forever.” At Portland’s pools, youth learn skills that could save their life or someone else’s life through swim lessons and lifeguarding training. For adults, especially seniors, swimming is an enjoyable form of exercise that is gentle on aging joints.
Thanks to the Parks Replacement Bond, Peninsula Outdoor Pool is now able to serve the community better than ever. After over a hundred years of use by people (and briefly penguins in 1957 while they waited for their zoo enclosure to be completed), the old Peninsula Outdoor Pool’s shell was demolished, and a completely new pool was built. The heavy equipment operators demonstrated their technical expertise as they worked within the tight footprint created by the horseshoe shape of the community center and historic fence wall which surrounds the pool.
When the pool reopened for the 2019 season, its capacity expanded from 188 to 296 swimmers, thanks to a larger shallow area separated by a wall from the deeper part of the pool. This expansion has benefitted everyone who uses the pool. Steve commented “the dividing wall has been a huge improvement for the pool” as he’s noticed kids feel more comfortable in the shallow area. It creates a great area to provide swim lessons for young children, including toddler/parent classes. The divided spaces also allow more activities to happen at once. Open swim and lane swimming can happen at the same time without awkward overlap.
Accessibility was also improved with the addition of a mechanical lift with straps to assist users with disabilities in and out of the pool. The wider steps into the water are easier for folks of all ages to use, and the water level is now level with the deck, which makes entering and exiting the water easier.
While community members most noticed the physical changes to the pool upon reopening, Steve’s favorite part of the renovation is the new boiler and other mechanical equipment that replaced equipment that was about sixty years old and in serious need of modernization. From staff to community members, everyone appreciates the many benefits of a pool that can remain open thanks to this investment from the Parks Replacement Bond.