Sunny Side of Portland

The Renewal of Blair Community Garden

As the leaves change and the weather turns cold, I can’t help but think of renewal, about how this is the time for reflection and pause. A story right here in Sunnyside reflects this seasonal pattern, of activity alternating with rest. Blair Community Garden, off of SE 33rd and Stark, is to be reopened after a break of some years.

The story of Blair garden spans public and private spheres. For years, the garden was an informal affair. People gardened there under the benevolent eye of the Mt. St. Joseph assisted living center. Then, in January 2004 Mt. St. Joseph announced it was working with its parent organization, Catholic Health Initiatives, to find a new buyer for the facility. Farmington Centers bought it in fall of 2004, and christened it Laurelhurst Village.

The change in ownership also meant that Farmington had to work out a land use agreement with the Sunnyside Neighborhood Association. One of the 20 points in this agreement was that the Blair Community Gardens space would be preserved and formalized with the city. The Conditional Land Use Hearing that sealed the land use agreement stipulated that both neighbors and residents of Laurelhurst Village would be able to have plots in the garden.

Dane Jensen, Director of Operations at Laurelhurst Village, says that he sees the garden as being primarily for Sunnyside neighbors, with a bed or plot set aside for therapeutic use with Laurelhurst residents. He adds, “Just having the garden on site will likely be a benefit to those that live here at Laurelhurst Village as it will provide curb appeal and the energy/activity associated with a big garden.”

Old Blair Community Gardens sign in Sunnyside Neighborhood, PortlandOld Blair Community Gardens sign

The garden’s funding stems from several public and private sources: The SunnysideNeighborhood Association gave $2000, the Friends of Community Gardens kicked in $2000, and Laurelhurst Village added another $2000. Mr. Jensen notes that $1000 of the Laurelhurst portion was donated by Portland Fire and Rescue, whose partnership with Laurelhurst Village allows PFS to train on an unused portion of the Laurelhurst Village campus.

In the first phase of the Blair gardens’ renewal, volunteers are putting down cardboard and mulch to choke out the grass. Dan Franek, Botanical Specialist with Portland Community Gardens, has been organizing volunteer parties. All neighbors are encouraged to get out in the brisk fall air and help revitalize the garden. The volunteer parties will be held as follows:

Saturday October 30 from 1pm – 3pm
Saturday November 13  from 9:30- 11:30 am
Location: Corner of 33rd ave and Stark, Laurelhurst Village

Mr. Franek added that Portland Community Gardens will post a sign-up for plots in Blair Community Garden; this sign-up should be posted by January 1st 2011, at the latest. Portland Community Gardens hopes to reopen the Blair garden sometime in the spring.

If, as they say, it takes a village to raise a child, the story of Blair Community Gardens shows it takes a whole neighborhood to protect cherished neighborhood resources. I am proud to live in Sunnyside, where neighbors and businesses can come together for such a worthy cause.

[photos: Trevor Blake]

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