New Columbia’s new skills park opens to the public

The New Columbia skills park directly serves
the development’s 2500 residents.
(Photo: Community Cycling Center)

The residents of North Portland’s public, mixed-income housing development New Columbia now have one of the city’s handful of bike skills parks in their backyard.

Enhanced with paths, wood ramps, a berm and a bicycle teeter-totter, the park at the corner of North Wolsey and Trenton got an official opening ceremony Wednesday from its creators at the Community Cycling Center, the nonprofit Northeast Portland bike shop with a mission to make bicycles “a tool for empowerment and a vehicle for change.”

Thousands of Portlanders will get a chance to check out the result two weeks from now: It’s right on the route for North Portland Sunday Parkways on July 28. The $15,500 park, funded by a mix of private and public sources, is now open to the public during daylight hours.

The CCC began working with the New Columbia community in 2009 as part of a Metro-funded project that assessed the barriers to biking among low-income people of color at New Columbia and Hacienda CDC. New Columbia is owned by Home Forward, Portland’s public housing agency.

Continuing discussions with families in New Columbia led the CCC to settle on the need for a bike park that could connect children with riding skills.

Anne Lee, interim executive director
of the Community Cycling Center.

“A skills park is really the answer to the things that need to happen: safety and confidence and learning,” Anne Lee, CCC’s interim executive director, said Thursday. “Healthy activities for the kids that wouldn’t have to be organized, that they would be able to do on their own.”

As for those kids: unlike so many Portland neighborhoods, New Columbia has plenty.

“Fifty percent of the people who come to New Columbia are kids,” Lee said. “And that is just an amazing thing to see.”

The park is built on half of an undeveloped lot owned by Home Forward, which has plans to eventually develop it for commercial use. Lee said she expects that won’t happen for at least five years, probably longer. The other half of the field is expected to become a soccer pitch, developed in partnership with the Portland Timbers.

We covered the opening of last fall of New Columbia’s bike repair shop and the construction of the skills park last month. Here’s a concept plan of the finished park:

And here are examples of its features:

Lee presented her account of the funding and construction of the park at the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s regular “bicycle brown bag” series of speakers. Bicycle Transportation Alliance staffer Aaron Brown, who came to hear Lee’s speech, was full of praise for CCC’s work at New Columbia.

Though all sorts of Portland bike users need the chance to advocate for themselves as well as getting the chance to have fun, Brown said, he thinks projects like the New Columbia skills park will be necessary to make that happen.

“It’ll be fun to see who’s on these pump tracks now that are in 10 years working for the BTA,” Brown said.

“Absolutely,” Lee said. “Or some other new great organization.”

About a dozen young New Columbia residents were loyal
volunteers during the park’s construction.
(Photo: CCC)

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