Lents Park on a late spring evening: beautiful
We've written quite a bit lately about what a stinker the Paulson stadiums deal is from a Portland taxpayer's financial point of view. What we haven't said too much about is how the proposal shapes up from a non-monetary perspective. And so on the way home from the mechanic today, we took a little detour by Lents Park, site of the proposed new minor league baseball stadium, to see what was going on there. It turns out, there was quite a bit.
Although it was dinner hour when we arrived, there were hundreds of everyday people of all ages, and a few dogs, taking advantage of the park. Pickup basketball was in full effect. The playing fields looked great. We saw one Little League game, and another Little League practice, in progress. Over in Walker Stadium, on the east side of the park, Gresham and Reynolds were going at it in what was not shaping up as a pitchers' duel. The concession stand was open for business. The parents and coaches of the players were urging them on, the way elders do. The electric scoreboard was functioning fine.
Contrary to what Dwight Jaynes will tell you, Lents Park is not a rundown place full of crime and discarded hypodermic needles. And contrary to what Cora Potter will tell you, Walker Stadium is not a condemned wreck. There are some wooden bleachers that need replacement behind home plate, and I'm sure there are some other deferred maintenance items courtesy of the Portland parks bureau. But on the first and third base sides are nice, fairly new aluminum stands that are holding up extremely well. Overall, the stadium is quite good for what it is. And for just a fraction of the tens of millions that are being earmarked for minor league sports, it could be polished into a real gem.
One nice feature of the stadium is a row of mature trees that curves around just outside the length of the outfield fence. Now, there's a signature feature of a Portland park -- an aesthetically pleasing, green touch, far beyond the ordinary. It was planned, built, and maintained with care, for everyone to enjoy. Those were the days.
To rip out those trees, Walker Stadium, and a goodly portion of this park; to replace them with a glaring, loud professional minor league baseball stadium, with a large parking lot; to do so at breathtaking public expense and at the behest of some rich guy Republican who just moved in from New York (to Lake Oswego) -- well, that's a real sacrilege. It goes against all the progressivity and livability that Portland supposedly stands for. To bring in thousands of outsiders and their cars to Lents Park for the bright lights and unavoidable noise of Thursday drunken beer nights with the Beavers is an insult not only to the regular Janes and Joes who use the park, but to every Portlander.
That we're even talking about this is a sorry reflection on our city.
Somebody commented on this blog today that when the county deeded over the Lents Park land to the city nearly a century ago, it was on the condition that the property be used only as a public park. We can't imagine that a high-impact, patently commercial facility such as the new Beavers stadium -- with for-profit alcohol sales on top of everything else -- could be shoe-horned into what the drafters of that condition meant by a public park. The people behind that land donation are probably rolling over in their graves right now. Let's hope the safeguards they put in place are strong enough to fight off the Bush people and their money.