Opinion

Building An Inclusive Neighborhood Starts With Antiracism

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Building An Inclusive Neighborhood Starts With Antiracism

Sarah Jacobson, Board member

The recent deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Arbery and George Floyd, along with weeks of subsequent protests, have shined a national spotlight on racism in America. It has left a lot of us wondering “What is my role and responsibility in perpetuating or dismantling racism? How can I help? How can I reduce harm?”

If you are asking yourself these questions, you are not alone. Acknowledging racism exists is easy, but dismantling it is hard. Racism is more than individual prejudices but a society wide dynamic that occurs, often unintentionally, at a group level. There is no easy or quick fix here. It will take a lot of work to remove the systems of oppression that we have created over centuries and be able to heal and move forward as a country. This work begins at home.

Whether you are an activist with a robust plan to address racial equity or someone who is just coming to terms with the true extent of racism in our country, there is an opportunity to create a more inclusive neighborhood right here. Everyone deserves the right to feel safe in their home and their community, but the reality is, not everyone does. So, what can we do to change that? Below are three suggestions to start creating a more inclusive neighborhood.

Know Your Neighbor
If you have attended a local Race Talks, led by retired PPS teacher and administrator Donna Maxey, you already know one of the best ways to create inclusion in your neighborhood is to know your neighbors. Not just know their name but KNOW them. Maxey recommends starting with the three neighbors on either side of you and on both sides of the street. That is approximately 12 neighbors!

While I talk to my neighbors pretty regularly, the recent COVID-19 lockdown made me realize I had very few of their phone numbers. This was a wake-up call for me that I didn’t know my neighbors as well as I would like. Of course, we are currently facing the added challenge of ongoing social distancing, but try to get out and connect with neighbors while maintaining healthy boundaries.

Avoid Assumptions
We are all influenced by our life experiences and our world at large. We have all received subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, messages about what skin color means in our society. Because this messaging is constantly being thrown at us through the media, it takes a lot of work to mitigate the effect and undo negative thought patterns. It is important to actively avoid assumptions about other people because they are based on preconceived notions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class, religion and other layers of identity rather than facts. If you see someone in the neighborhood you don’t recognize, avoid making assumptions about who they are and why they are there. Remember that a stranger is only a stranger until you get to know them.

Connect Across Differences
We are naturally attracted to people with whom we share similarities. Similar age, family structure and outdoor hobbies can be a simple way to form a connection with a neighbor. These are all examples of surface level traits- things we can visually see about someone before we even get to know them. You have a boat, me too- let’s be friends! It is normal to connect based on surface level commonalities, however, creating an inclusive neighborhood means also intentionally connecting across differences. There are so many factors that make each of us the unique person we are and that is a beautiful part of the diverse community we live in. The more we learn about someone else below the surface, things we wouldn’t know just from appearances, the more we might find that we have in common. Don’t let surface level differences deter you from connecting with your neighbor.

Connection, community and sense of belonging are all important aspects of human nature. When we are able push our comfort zones just a little to create that new connection, we all benefit. Building an inclusive community isn’t about being a perfect neighbor, nobody is perfect. It is about accepting that nobody is perfect but everyone is worthy. As Dr. A. Katrise Perera, Gresham-Barlow Superintendent, recently said during Gresham’s Conversation on Race and Reconciliation, until we can say Black lives matter, we can’t say all lives matter. The more we can set aside our own unique story and understand our community at large, the better we can work towards equity and justice.

Nature-Deficit Disorder

Heather Newcomb, Neighbor

I visit Columbia View Park every day. I walk the four blocks with my two toddlers and large dog to the park for our daily dose of nature. Every few months, we visit the closer Pat Pfeifer for the playground or go to Nadaka to play in the sand, but Columbia View offers a unique setting that I choose over the others. This park is more special because it provides an immersive nature experience. With Columbia View’s expansive sight lines, my neighbors and I are able to enjoy the park simultaneously whilst keeping quietly to ourselves as we wish. Here we calm our minds, explore the trees that look like forts to my children, listen to the birds, and pick flowers. We walk large loops and rest under the trees. The thick canopy provides shade from the sun in the summer and a dry area from the rain in the winter. This park is our third place — our second home.

(Read more below the break)

Two hours a week — In a 2019 study of 20,000 people, the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter found that those who spent two hours a week in nature were substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well being. Those two hours could come in one dose or over several, but there were no benefits to the participants who did not meet the minimum of two hours.

Spending time in untampered green space has also proven to decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression, ADHD, and other conditions. I myself use the park each day to ease anxiety symptoms. With our filled schedules, it is critical to have this advantage of untouched green space nearby our homes. People do not have time to drive out to the Gorge regularly, which is also becoming increasingly crowded on weekends. As a mom, I find it is prohibitive to load the kids into the car every time we want to venture out.

Currently, the city of Gresham seeks to develop more amenities within Columbia View Park. They have reached out four times to seek feedback from the community. At each instance, I personally have heard an outcry from our neighborhood. Many ask to let this unique and special landscape remain an untouched green space. At each subsequent step, however unfortunately, more and more elements have been added to the city's plan.

The current proposed design includes a cement walkway, a fenced dog park, cement courts, picnic shelters, and a community garden. This is far too many things for such a small space and apparently a cookie cutter design reiterated for several parks in the city. The plan did not take into consideration police sight lines to the picnic shelter, unrealistic secondary access points through neighbors’ property, the grade of the land, or the expanse of ground people would have to traverse carrying gardening tools. Further, it will destroy Columbia View’s unique natural landscape and green feeling, and raise the risk of overnight trespassing, drug use, and drinking directly next to HB Lee Middle School.

Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, who have been studying the effects of nature on the brain since the 1970s, say that in city environments, neighborhood streets, the classroom, and at work, people strain to use more of the brain. In nature, people relax their minds, pay attention more broadly, and exert less mental effort. This leads to an overall healthier body and mind. The amenities the city plans will diminish the unique restorative qualities of our neighborhood green space at Columbia View Park. It will make the neighborhood less desirable. It will make the park a destination for those who live outside the neighborhood, increasing vehicular traffic and congestion.

If you value the irreplaceable dose of restorative nature in our neighborhood park, I urge you to reach out to Tina Osterink from the City of Gresham (tina.osterink@greshamoregon.gov), our city council members (greshamoregon.gov/Meet-the-Council), and attend our August 10th Wilkes East Neighborhood Association meeting to insist our feedback is heard!

The neighborhood association is interested in your feedback and your continued support on the Columbia View Park development plan. Please follow this link tinyurl.com/wenasurvey to provide us with an email to receive updates and let us know your own thoughts on what the park might look like.

Now, more than ever, wisely enjoy and invest in Gresham's parks

Metro-approved parks funding should not be used as an excuse by the city of Gresham to reduce parks funding. Info here!
Lee Dayfield

Lee Dayfield says Metro-approved parks funding should not be used as an excuse by the city of Gresham to reduce parks funding.

Meanwhile, stay-at-home orders ask that you only venture out for essential needs. Notably, access to public parks for exercise and fresh air while still practicing social distancing is among those allowed needs, and for good reasons.

Source: Pamplin Media Group
Thursday, April 16, 2020

If you have been out and about in our local parks and trails this past week you might have noticed how many of your neighbors are doing the same. It is not just the improving weather.

The pandemic has put a renewed premium on proximity to parks and nature. For those of us fortunate enough to have high quality public greenspace nearby, the value is especially self-evident. But long before this pandemic, research has demonstrated what people know intuitively: access to parks and nature is no simple frill or amenity, but an essential determinant of individual and community health.

Unfortunately, Gresham's City budget has made parks a low priority in recent years. Park investments made by Gresham voters a generation ago have not kept pace. To be sure, our community has many volunteers and private donors who make some parks shine.

Friends of Nadaka and the Gresham Japanese Garden are effectively harnessing volunteers and private donations; Ricki Ruiz continues to secure grants to develop futsal courts; and North Gresham Neighborhood Association is poised to build a playground at Kirk Park funded primarily through private donations.

However significant, these isolated projects belie systemic divestment. In recent years, fewer and fewer general fund dollars have gone to parks and recreation. Gresham's almost non-existent recreation programming leaves vital services to underfunded nonprofit organization like Gresham-based Play Grow Learn, which mentors at-risk adolescents using nature-play, urban gardening and athletics in our parks. Relying on nonprofits, grants, private donations, and the generosity of volunteers is not a sustainable path to a vibrant thriving parks and recreation system that bolsters our health and prosperity.

We can do a lot better.
Today, as the fourth largest city in Oregon, Gresham has the lowest per-capita investment in local parks and recreation in the Metro region.

In a hopeful turn, the majority of Gresham voters passed Metro's regional parks and nature funding measure in November 2019. The measure will infuse some additional capital funds into Gresham's local parks system. Public officials should not use that as an excuse to backfill further cuts to parks. Now is the time to launch a parks feasibility study of new local investment options and to give the community greater voice and vote in decisions with innovative tools like participatory budgeting.

As federal stimulus funds become available, Gresham would be wise to creatively invest in the city's backlog in park stewardship and deficient parks programming while putting people to work. The Nadaka Ambassador Program, which employs Rockwood residents to steward the park and garden, is a great model.

In these difficult and uneasy times, we must not lose sight of the value of stewarding our parks and nature which, now more than ever, are helping keep us healthy and connected.

Lee Dayfield is a parks advocate. In 2009, Friends of Nadaka, with Dayfield at the helm, organized the purchase and development of Nadaka Nature Park.

Nadaka Nature Park, lifting spirits with its peace and beauty. A letter of appreciation.

"A tranquil place in the heart of the suburbs"

Nadaka Nature Park, lifting spirits with its peace and beauty. A tranquil place in the heart of the suburbs, this lovely little park feels so 'Oregon'.
Nadaka Nature Park, Gresham OR
Click to enlarge

This lovely little park feels so Oregon

We received this letter from a Gresham resident expressing the uplifting effect Nadaka Nature Park has on their life and the lives of others, and we though we'd share it with you...

June 17, 2011
To whom it may concern:

I am a person who appreciates and uses Nadaka park. I remember when the Camp Fire girls enjoyed day camp there and was pleased when the the park became available for public use.

My husband and I have walked the loop with our dog. What a tranquil place in the heart of the suburbs.

The park is close to my mother's Alzheimer's home, Pacific Gardens. I have noticed employees from P.G. taking their lunch breaks there. Their job is anything but peaceful. The proximity of the south gate of the park really helps them regenerate their positive spirit quickly so they can do the second half of their shifts.

The Gresham Outlook Newspaper Celebrate Its 100th Birthday

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The Gresham Outlook Newspaper, Celebrating 100 Years of Excellence; March 3, 1911-2011

Local newspaper holds
Open House, celebrates 100 years as the source for
East County news

By Paul Glenn, Capri Terrace resident

Our local community newspaper held an Open House on March 11, 2011 celebrating 100 years as a twice weekly publication; reporting news and events which effect and are of interest to the folks who live in our town.

Reynolds Tomorrow 2011-12 Budget Survey Now Open For A Limited Time

Reynolds Tomorrow Survey Now Available For A Limited Time. Info here!

Already signed-up?
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Next year's budget cuts estimated at $6 to $8.2 million

District wants your online survey feedback for proposed 2011-12 budget

The Reynolds Tomorrow survey is now open for a limited time.
Don't miss this opportunity to let the school district know your opinion on these important budget issues.

Come On People, Do Your Part. So far only a couple hundred of you have signed up. To those who have - thank you for participating. To those who haven't - what are you waiting for? We can and must do better than this people. The school board is asking for our help. Take the survey today. Help your school board make the best budget decisions possible. Tell the board what's important to you. If you don't take the survey, don't complain when you disagree with the tough choices that will be made. ED

Haven't received your invitation yet?
If you signed-up to participate and have not yet received an email inviting you to take the survey you can click here to signed up again. It appears there may have been a problem with some registrations. ED

The survey is part of a program called “Reynolds Tomorrow: Tough Choices – Smart Decisions,” information about which can be found on the ReynoldsTomorrow.com website. Individual responses are confidential. Survey results will be combined and shared with you and other members of our community.

Based on the latest estimates the Reynolds School District expects to face budget cuts of $6 to $8.2 million for the next school year.

Measure 49: Our chance to fix 37's flaws


Yes on 49


Measure 49:
Our one chance to protect what's special about Oregon

Dear Fellow Oregonian:

When you think of Oregon, what comes to mind?

  • Is it rolling farmland that supports an astonishing array of agricultural products?
  • Is it our majestic forests and clear, clean water?
  • Is it our spectacular coastline, with beaches that belong to all of us?
  • Or is it the fact that all these things combine to give us a quality of life that has disappeared from so many other places?

If these things are as important to you as they are to us, we invite you to visit the "Yes on 49" website.

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