Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 8th, 2017 at 4:28 pm
Here’s a sign that support for carfree urban spaces is growing: The main organizer of Gresham’s first-ever open streets event is its chamber of commerce.
Gresham is Portland’s eastern neighbor. On Sunday June 18th, from 10am to 2pm, the city will host what they hope becomes an annual Father’s Day tradition: an event they call Sunday Parkway. Inspired by Portland’s similarly named events that began nine years ago, the Gresham version will offer a relatively carfree, 8-mile loop with three “pit stops” where people can enjoy food, live entertainment, activities and more.
Here’s how they describe it:
Feel comfortable, safe and enjoy walking, strolling, bicycling and rolling along the city’s beautiful trail system and historic downtown… Slow down, play on our trails, connect with your neighbors, meet new friends and have fun on the trail…
Gresham Chamber of Commerce CEO Lynn Snodgrass told us she thinks it’s completely natural for her group to spearhead this event. She sees it simply as a way to have fun and promote the beauty of her city.
“By organizing this event we are advocating on behalf of the great city, businesses, and all chamber members we have encouraging all to get out and use a method of movement that allows for talking, healthy exercise, and ‘smelling the roses’ so to speak,”
Project Coordinator Matthew Barney said the inspiration for the event came from the 2016 International Open Streets Summit held last summer at Portland State University. Barney saw a presentation by Walk Oakland Bike Oakland and “It just spoke to me, the light bulb went off. I knew I wanted to do it in Gresham.”
Asked about their goals, Barney stressed that they see it as a regional event that aims to “introduce, entice, and activate” their neighbors.
The Chamber’s sponsorship materials say they expect about 500 to 1,000 participants. That might sound small (for comparison, Portland has five open streets events per year that average about 24,000 people each), but it would be a promising start of a new era in Gresham. If there’s one thing we know about open streets events it’s this: When planned well, they plant seeds that can bloom into all types of street-related activism and a shift in perspective about what streets can be.
Congratulations Gresham! And good luck. Maybe next year we can join forces and connect our loops!