Colonel Summers Park

Dear Liza,

In our neighborhood there is a park I haven’t told you about yet. It is called Colonel Summers Park.

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Himself

When it was developed as a park in 1921, it was called Belmont Park, because it was on Belmont Street. But in 1938 the name was changed to honor Colonel Owen Summers.

Colonel Summers was a Civil War veteran who, in 1883, combined all the local militias in Oregon (volunteer soldiers) into one group that was The Oregon National Guard. At the beginning of the Spanish American war in 1898, Colonel Summers organized this group into the 2nd Oregon Volunteer Infantry Regiment, with himself in command. They were the first American soldiers to sail to the Philippines in that war. After many engagements, Colonel Summers and his men accepted the surrender of 15,000 Spanish soldiers.

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Bioswale and paved area

The soldiers who fought under Colonel Summers’s command remained loyal to him even after the war. In 1903, General Beebe, another famous military man, was chosen to be the Grand Marshall of a parade honoring President Teddy Roosevelt to Portland.

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Community Garden

The Spanish American War veterans saw this as an insult to their beloved commander and at first refused to be in the parade if Colonel Summers wasn’t the Grand Marshall. But Colonel Summers refused the post, asking General Beebe to remain. The veterans, following their commander’s order, marched in the parade without him.

The park named after Colonel Summers had been getting a little worn in recent years. The huge boulder from Kelly Butte with a plaque of himself had been spray painted. The grassy area had been flooded and was muddy or dusty, depending on the season. But a new makeover has made it lovely again. The boulder has been cleaned, and the flood-prone grassy area has been outfitted with a bioswale to collect rain and a paved bike and skateboard area. There is a basketball court and a fenced community garden where people can grow flowers, fruits, or vegetables. There is even a public toilet that cleans itself after every use! img_6991.jpg

I am happy to see that the city is working to make sure all the parks in Portland are safe and welcoming places to play, read, work, and just enjoy this wonderful area.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Bioswales

Dear Liza,

Portland is known for getting a lot of rain. Not now, of course, it has been dry and in the 80s! Most years, in fall, winter and spring, we get about 36 inches, or three times as much as you do in Salinas. Building a city where there is that much rain has its own problems.

You want to make sure the streets drain nicely so houses don’t flood. You want to make sure soil doesn’t erode and turn hills into mud slides. And you want to make sure that pollution and trash from city streets don’t end up in the Willamette River.

City engineers work hard at making sure the first two problems are solved. Storm drains are kept clear and streets are graded so they carry water away quickly. But keeping trash and pollution out of the river has become something a lot of homeowners are helping with.

Bioswales are part of this solution. They are a sunken part in a garden, designed to catch rainfall from the roof of buildings. The water flows into the bioswale and slowly soaks into the ground water, or aquifer. This keeps it from running along the street picking up oil and trash, and also helps clean it before it goes back into the water cycle.

I am noticing small bioswales in front yards all over our neighborhood. They are all set up with conduits from the downspouts to direct rainwater into them. They are lined with rocks and gravel to resist erosion, some lined with plastic except at the bottom. The prettiest ones are landscaped with plants that are comfortable being very wet (even underwater) for part of the year.

I love that people here are taking responsibility for helping keep our beautiful Willamette River clean. For many years, factories along the river dumped all sorts of nasty chemicals into the river, hoping they would just wash away. Now there are companies helping clean the river, and people want to help, too.

Yay Portlanders! Yay bioswales!

Love,

Grandma Judy