every park in portland race reports running

Parks & Rec/EPIP: Fernhill

NE 37th Avenue and Ainsworth Street
Neighborhood: Concordia
Portland Parks & Rec Page

Ladies & gentlemen & everyone in between, we’ve got a rare crossover episode, a mashup of Every Park in Portland and a running recap! (Sort of.)

In researching new potential 5k races to sign up for recently, I discovered that Portland Parks & Recreation hosts five 5k races over the spring and summer, from May until September. They only cost $5 per event and you can buy a t-shirt for the season for only $8. So, for the cost of less than one 5k event, you can run five and get a t-shirt! Sign me up! (I did. I signed up for all of them.)

The first of these five events took place in Fernhill Park, way up in Northeast Portland, a couple of blocks north of the Kennedy School McMenamins. (Which is famous for being a school that was turned into a restaurant/hotel campus that also has lounging pools because why not.) I ended up walking this 5k because of tendonitis in my achilles that I absolutely did not want to aggravate. Hence, no time listed. But even if it was timed, I probably wouldn’t list it for reasons I’ll get to in a second.

It was a fun little event, extremely casual and family friendly. They had a timing clock (no chips or anything though), but the clock itself wasn’t working, so you had to rely on your watch, or on the host guy who hyped everyone up and was very exuberant about it, which I appreciated. He also called out your time when you crossed the finish line, which was nice! They gave out ribbons instead of medals, a first for my running career.

After and during the race there were a couple of booths, one for raffles and one for general Parks & Rec info. Foot Traffic was surprisingly there as well, though I never got close enough to that booth to figure out if they were giving stuff away. Apparently there were bananas for finishers but by the time I finished, there were no bananas. I’m find with this, we all know I hate Post-Race Bananas.

The park itself is gorgeous. Huge and picturesque, with a track, two baseball diamonds (baseball and softball), a tennis court, soccer field horseshoe pit, and huge open fields for running your dogs around. There’s even a little Nature Patch garden among the park itself, a lovely addition. There’s even a splash pad for splashing around! I don’t think that section in the south of the map is part of the park, and it looked like they might be building something there. There were Portland Community College buildings being built across the street, so who knows.

The whole neighborhood reeks of “There is a Catholic high school nearby,” which is so say: wealthy. But unlike other wealthy parts of Portland, this place felt a lot more “within our means” wealthy, if that makes sense. Narrower streets than Irvington, a little more salt of the earth-y rather than trust fund/stock trader-y, if you get my drift. Apparently the park used to be an old stripping parts spot for car thieves back in the day.

Aesthetics: Beautiful, open, very nice. 10/10

Function: Sports haven. Track! I wish Buckman Field’s track was like this track. Plus you can run your dog around and get a decent run around the park itself. I’m really not sure what else you would want. 10/10

Sketchiness: There were a couple of tent homes or maybe storage at the fringes of the park, but I didn’t see any sketchy behavior at all and this just doesn’t seem like the spot to engage in that kind of behavior. It’s close to Killingsworth, which can feel a little sketchy in parts, but honestly, I’d be surprised if stuff went down in this park. 10/10

(Also, I’m changing my Sketchiness rating so that lower sketchiness results in a higher score.)

Lovely park and lovely little 5k race! Check it out if you get the chance.

every park in portland

EPIP: Sewallcrest Park

SE 31st Avenue and Market Street
Neighborhood: Richmond

A nice little dog park in a nice little part of town. Comes with a community garden, a playground for the kids, and a large flat off-leash area to let your dog run around in. The area is also a baseball diamond but I suspect people probably play kickball there more than baseball, considering the prices of some of these houses. It is surrounded by a lovely neighborhood that I would personally love to live in. If anyone wants to give me around $750-850,000 dollars to help me move in, that would be great.

Aesthetics: It’s fairly basic, but the surrounding neighborhood is nice, so that helps. 7/10

Function: If you have a dog, 10/10. If you don’t have a dog, it’s standard fare. 5/10

Sketchiness: I cannot imagine anything sketchy happening in this park. Too surrounded by residential homes full of people with money. 1/10

every park in portland

EPIP: Oregon Park

NE 30th Avenue and Oregon Street
Neighborhood: Kerns

I didn’t even know this park existed until I drove by it one day on my way to getting a slow leak in one of my tires patched at a Les Schwab nearby. It’s a nice little residential park, a perfect place to bring the kids and let them tire themselves out. It has some amenities like a basketball court and a playground, and the tall trees all around are a welcome reminder that this entire area used to be forest. A good place to get away from the urban life for a moment and enjoy nature.

Aesthetics: The trees add a point onto what would otherwise be an average looking park. (You’ll see what I mean when we get into east Portland parks.) 5/10

Function: It’s got stuff to do and play on! 5/10

Sketchiness: I honestly don’t know how sketchy this place is since I’ve barely ever been here. It doesn’t looks sketchy at all but when I arrived there was a man resting on top of a picnic table, so …? 4/10

every park in portland

EPIP: Lone Fir Cemetery

SE 26th Avenue & SE Washington Street
Neighborhood: Buckman

Lone Fir isn’t run by Portland Parks & Rec, but I’m adding it because it’s one of my favorite places to wander through. The cemetery was officially incorporated in 1866, though people were buried in the area a couple decades before then, including the very first person to be buried in the area, Emmor Stephens, in 1846, back when the area was just farmland.

Emmor Stephens’ gravestone. Look at that left slanting italics!

I’ve walked through this cemetery so many times. When I walked through a couple of days ago, there was a funeral happening, and my first thought was “It’ll be nice to meet them [the dead person] after the funeral is over.” That’s how often I go to this cemetery. (I also noticed that they are doing work on the memorial garden/thing for the Chinese immigrants and asylum patients who were unceremoniously buried in the southwest corner of the cemetery, which is great.)

Beautiful place to stroll through and remind yourself that you’ve only got a set amount of time on this Earth.

Aesthetics: I think it’s beautiful. Cemeteries might not be your cup of tea, but I still think the area in general is lovely. 9/10

Function: It’s a place to put dead people. Let’s be honest, burial doesn’t really make a lot of sense in modern times, so I’m giving this a low score, but then adding some points for walkability. 4/10

Sketchiness: The sketch factor of this cemetery is generally low, but I’ve definitely seen some weirdos wandering around. Nothing like drug deals or criminal activity, but, you know, people who like to hang around in cemeteries. 3/10

every park in portland

EPIP: South Waterfront Park

S River Dr. and S Montgomery St.
Neighborhood: South Portland

This is a little park nestled near the river, in what is a kind of rich portion of the city. I hesitate to call it “chic.” I’m not sure what to call this section of Portland, to be honest. Ritzy? It’s like a small residential spot for people who have money, you know what I mean? I think there are condos here for people who have a condo as an extra home away from home. That kind of vibe.

The park itself is fine, though nothing much to look at. It honestly feels like a place rich people would build to take their dogs to pee. That plus older Asian people sitting on the benches are the only things I see when I pass by this park. Women in brilliantly white pants walking tiny dogs, and old Asian men and women sitting on the benches. That’s the vibe of this park.

Aesthetics: Eh. It’s alright. 4/10

Function: Eh. 2/10

Sketchiness: A homeless person daren’t tread these brick pathways, lest a furious Karen call the security guards on them. 1/10

every park in portland

EPIP: Tom McCall Waterfront Park

Naito Parkway between SW Harrison Street and NW Glisan Street
Neighborhoods: Oldtown-Chinatown, Downtown, South Portland

I absolutely chose the worst time of year to visit this park. Obviously, the best time is when the cherry trees blossom. What can you do.

Tom McCall was the governor and Secretary of State of Oregon back in the 60s and 70s. Waterfront Park is a staple to people working in downtown Portland. It is a place where you can escape the rat race and walk for your mental health. It’s a long strip along the Willamette and it’s often used for hosting big events in the spring and summer, much to the chagrin of the grass there. Also, I’m just now noticing how much the Morrison Bridge on and off ramps make it look like a cock and balls.

This park is one of those places that everyone congregates to, including Canada geese. It’s nice, because the lowliest bum and the top paid lawyer both walk this path often. The great leveler, in a way.

Aesthetics: Honestly, it varies. Like I said, the cherry blossoms are lovely and the park looks good when it’s not hosting an event. After events, the ground is muddy and gross. 6/10

Function: This space has been “macro” function. No basketball hoops, but you can host biiiiig events here. The South Waterfront Park hosts a huge jazz festival, for instance, and the Shamrock Run is hosted here as well. 9/10

Sketchiness: Parts of the park, especially in notoriously sketchy Oldtown-Chinatown, are not great to walk through. I’ve never felt completely unsafe at this park but I’ve definitely walked by people having mental health crises to varying degrees, a couple of whom were violent. It’s really more of a “downtown part of a city” than anything else though. Don’t let it stop you from taking a walk here! 5/10

every park in portland

EPIP: Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade

SE Water Avenue and Hawthorne Blvd
Neighborhoods: Buckman, Hosford-Abernethy, Kerns

Across the river from downtown lies the Eastbank Esplanade, named the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade after the city’s 49th mayor. Vera was mayor for over a decade, from 93 to 05. Not a bad tenure.

The esplanade runs about 1.5 miles from OMSI to the Steel Bridge. It is the epitome of the definition of esplanade: “a long, open, level area, typically beside the sea, along which people may walk for pleasure.” Part of the esplanade is right on the river, which is cool. Plus, you can use it as part of a long loop around to the west side of the river (and the Tom McCall Esplanade, which I will review later). In my above picture is a fence where people put locks because people love symbolism.

Aesthetics: Of the two esplanades, I think the general view from this one is worse. Both are near roads, but the Eastbank is near a freeway, which is loud and obnoxious. Also, there is a ton of graffiti on the walls, which are an eyesore. Looking westward at the city is nice though. 5/10

Function: It is a place to walk, or run, or cycle. Not much else! 5/10

Sketchiness: The Eastbank is up there on the sketch level, mainly from the deluge of tents and RVs that are parked nearby. There used to be a single-room portable shelter thing set up for the homeless, but it was moved somewhere that I guess was out of sight of President Biden or whomever else decided to move them. Certainly isn’t the sketchiest part of town but you can certainly run into some nefarious looking types occasionally. 6/10

every park in portland

EPIP: Laurelhurst Park

SE Cesar E Chavez Blvd and Stark Street
Neighborhood: Laurelhurst

Nestled in arguably one of the most expensive residential areas of Portland, Laurelhurst Park is, to me, the closest thing we have to a Central Park. It’s a diverse park, gorgeous with lots of tree cover and winding pathways, and with a nice lake on the eastern side. An annex to the south has a playground and basketball court, but if you want a park where you can just stroll and enjoy the scenery, Laurelhurst is where it’s at.

You’ll notice on the upper left of the park there’s a big house. That’s a big house. You can read more about it here: The Bitar Mansion. It seems that there’s not much info about it post-2011. I’ve walked by that house many times, and I learned during its renovation that they cut down a bunch of old rhododendron bushes. Some guy told me that while I was walking by one day. He said that the (new?) owner was crazy. I dunno, folks.

Aesthetic: Beautiful park. Even the playground side of it is beautiful. Currently it does have some fencing up because of “fragile plants” (which I think is just a front to keep homeless away), which diminishes the beauty a bit. But in spring and summertime, this place is king. 9/10

Function: It’s more of a stroll/jogging park but the annex has stuff to do if you’re into that, but then you’re closer to busy streets and a gas station across the street. Literally function over form, I guess. 7/10

Sketchiness: I personally don’t think Laurelhurst is that sketchy at all, but I’m sure a lot of the NIMBYs who live in their expensive houses would disagree. Yes, homeless people live around the park, but I’ve found the park itself to be relatively sketch-free. YMMV. 3/10

every park in portland

EPIP: Buckman Field Park

NE 12th Avenue and Everett Street
Neighborhood: Kerns

Buckman Field is one of those parks that you’ll miss if you don’t live nearby. For instance: I have walked on NE 12th Ave (the road on the far left of the map) a ridiculous number of times. When I used to work at a medical marijuana clinic, I would have take my check up to the Wells Fargo near Lloyd’s Center. Every time I would pass by two things: the Franz bakery building, which always smelled amazing, and those tennis courts you see in the upper left. I didn’t even realize they were part of a park. (They might not be, either.)

This morning, in searching for parks to walk to, I noticed the track and the soccer fields of Buckman Field and decided to head there. It is what you see: a track, two fields (with the upper one being a soccer and football field), and the upper right part of the field can be a baseball diamond as well. So, it’s far more of an amateur and professional activity park than it is a “take your kids and dog” park. I did see people practicing soccer and there were dogs hanging out on the sidelines though, so who knows.

The lower right section has some playground equipment, though, but it, as you can see, is a small portion. This is also one of those parks that doesn’t have an open entrance; by that I mean, you have to enter through a couple of narrow sidewalks, you can’t just walk straight into the park. Makes it feel more seeecret.

Aesthetic: Not much to look at. It’s fields. 3/10

Function: You can play soccer and then eat donuts at Voodoo! 9/10

Sketchiness: Didn’t seem sketchy at all. The surrounding area is a little sketch, more rundown than illicit activities though. For some reason, Sandy Blvd is just one of those more run down streets overall. 3/10

every park in portland

EPIP: Ladd’s Circle (& Rose Gardens)

This is a continuing quest to visit and rate every park in Portland.

SE 16th Avenue and Harrison Street
Neighborhood: Hosford-Abernethy

In 1891, William Sargent Ladd decided to subdivide his east Portland 126-acre farm into the very unique and confusing diagonal streets we know as Ladd’s Addition. He then died two years later. Ladd’s is arguably the most unique and iconic street layout in Portland, right up there with that Lombard Street in San Francisco, or Bourbon Street in New Orleans. But those are just streets; Ladd’s Addition is a whole street structure. It’s a richer part of Portland, and in the center is Ladd’s Circle, which is just that, a circular park with some benches. There are also four rose gardens in the cardinal directions.

People often gather at Ladd’s Addition to start something else, like runs and stuff. I often run around Ladd’s Addition myself, because it’s level and interesting and a lovely part of town. It’s also fun to get lost in, and it’s one of the few bits in Portland with alleyways! I’d love to live there, if someone would just give me a million dollars to afford a house.

But this is a review of the circle! And the rose gardens, I guess.

Aesthetic: Roses are pretty, can’t lie about that. But the actual gardens aren’t, to me, very aesthetically pleasing. In fact they kind of stick out and are virtually unusable as the roses are packed in each diamond. The circle is more open and is a nice centerpiece to the street structure, but other than that it’s not especially gorgeous. 6/10

Function: The gardens grow roses. The end. The circle has some benches to sit on and contemplate life, but that’s about it. There’s some space to lay down for a picnic if you want. 4/10

Sketchiness: Ladd’s is pretty bougie so there’s not a lot of homeless wandering through. I do see a few pseudo-sketch people lying in the grass in the warmer months. (When I say “pseudo-sketch,” that falls into a territory where I’m unsure if the person is homeless, or just a grungy Portlander.) 8/10