Let Forest Park remain Portland’s sanctuary: Guest opinion

A section of the Wild Cherry Trail in Forest Park. (

BY MIKE LINDBERG

During my 24 years working for the city and its citizens, I hiked Forest Park for exercise. It was also my refuge for quiet and contemplation.

As Parks Commissioner for many years, I was able to protect and even expand Forest Park. Despite budget cuts nearly every year due to Ballot Measure 5 and a recession, we worked to keep this sacred place ecologically healthy. Once I left the council, I became involved with Friends of Forest Park and assisted with the 60th anniversary of the park as well as the group’s transition to the Forest Park Conservancy.

Little did I know that proposals to expand mountain biking in the park would gain traction, so to speak. During my hundreds of hikes in the park, I have nearly been run over by mountain bikes speeding downhill. Many others I know have experienced similar near-accidents and some people have been hit by bikes. User safety is a real concern. In addition, I could see the negative impact of bikes on the trails.

I know the lobbying by mountain bikers has been intense. Since hiking is primarily a solitary activity, I doubt that hikers band together in clubs or association to make their voices heard. I write today to plead with the City Council to leave us this precious place for solitude into the city.

I urge the City Council to slow down, smell the roses, listen to the myriad voices and look closely at the various master plans for the park, some of which are actual ordinances and land-use law. They were written to protect those natural features that make Forest Park unique among all city parks in the nation. With all of the growth, density and increasing traffic and noise in my neighborhood, I am hopeful that the council in its wisdom might see that this refuge should remain as envisioned.

I close with two quotes. Frederick Olmsted, who envisioned Forest Park in 1903 said, "This place of wild woodland characters should be intended only for passive recreation, for mental refreshment, which can only be derived from the quiet contemplation of natural scenery."

And the second, from Thornton Munger, the first chair of the Committee of Fifty, appointed by the City Club to create Forest Park: "The wilderness within a city is not a place for speeding; there should be no need for haste…it is hoped that the feeling of an extensive, uninterrupted forest sanctuary may be preserved."

Others may say that with enough rules, signs and enforcement, we can increase mechanized activities in Forest Park and everyone can co-exist. But once you’ve taken this step, you can never go back. I’m hopeful you will leave us this sanctuary, this unique place within a major urban area in the United States. It’s one of the things Portland is praised for. Let’s not take that away.

Mike Lindberg is a former Portland City Commissioner. He lives in Southeast Portland.

Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle and Portland mayor-elect Ted Wheeler celebrated the sports apparel giant’s decision to move its Sorel brand headquarters to downtown Portland last year. (Andrew Theen/Staff)

BY ALEX DiBLASI

Tim Boyle, I am writing to you as a fellow Portland resident, an ally, an advocate of the homeless community, and as an ordained minister to address your recent opinion piece published Sunday in The Oregonian/OregonianLive.

First, my heart goes out to your employees who have experienced the trauma of harassment and of receiving threats from people on the street. I urge them to seek the help they need, but I urge them to not let those ugly encounters shape their opinions of all homeless people.

Concerning your company’s so-called "laptop donation program," did those employees leave their laptops in their car when they lived in New York City or San Francisco? Downtown Portland is a busy, bustling American city with all the side effects of a life in the concrete jungle. A laptop in a locked car is as much an invitation for theft as it is to loudly count your cash in public.

Second, I ask that you reconsider your position on how the city should address these safety issues. More policing, as you propose, is a blanket solution that could end with violence. You and Mayor Ted Wheeler want dozens of more badges on the streets sooner rather than later. But hasty hiring leads to hasty training, which leads to more bad policing.

I don’t think the Portland Police Bureau is currently equipped to be the agency responsible for addressing the homeless crisis. In the early days of Wheeler’s tenure, five people — one of them a baby — froze to death on our streets. How could the police have prevented that?

This spring, a transit officer shot and killed Terrell Johnson, a 24-year-old homeless man who was in mental crisis. Johnson was fleeing on foot from armed officers. We’ll never know why he changed course with a knife drawn towards the officers, as the official report states – but that we cannot ascertain as no body camera was in use. We can’t ask Terrell Johnson. But we can ask why Officer Samuel Ajir’s response was considered acceptable on legal or humane grounds.

I work at Transition Projects and can tell you that it’s our friends, neighbors and fellow Portlanders living on the streets whose safety is in greater jeopardy. When wealthy leaders in the local business community write opinion pieces demonizing an entire population as wild thieves lacking in even potty training, they sway public opinion. They dissuade the public from listening to these people’s stories.

Tim Boyle, I invite you to spend time at the Bud Clark Commons to hear about life on the streets. You’ll hear from a population more prone than any other to become victims of violent crime, sexual assault, theft and police violence. You’ll also hear the human side of homeless life that is perennially ignored. You will come to know them as neither as victim nor villain, but as people. As souls. You will find yourself wanting more for them than a greater police presence. You may even see greater unaddressed needs in our community. Some people make bad choices, but others experience misfortune beyond their control. You are a man of immense financial wealth, but most Americans live in a reality where missing their regular paycheck twice could result in homelessness.

Showing compassion and mercy to all is an edict put forth in every major faith tradition. How can you have such a myopic perspective? I urge you to see homelessness not as a menace or nuisance to your employees, but as a greater humanitarian matter.

My hope is that your heart opens, or at the very least your wallet. If neither can happen, perhaps your mouth can remain closed. All you are doing is creating noise that’s neither helpful nor welcome. What would be very helpful and welcome in the future would be donations to help keep our neighbors on the streets warm, dry and safe as we face more rain and anticipate a harsh winter.

Alex DiBlasi lives in Northeast Portland

Submit your letters to the editor to letters@oregonian.com. Please include your full name, hometown and a phone number for verification.

Source Article