It’s rapidly turning into winter in our tiny ecosystem. Most of the deciduous trees (such as the Quaking Aspens “MackenFrank”) are dormant and bare now – “Alan,” our Oregon white oak, still retains a few brown leaves, as is his species’ habit, but he too is shut down for the winter. Buds are already beginning to swell on many of our leafless trees and shrubs, laying the groundwork for a verdant spring.
The efforts to restore and update the Gladys McCoy Memorial Garden continue with generous support from the NIKE Athlete volunteers, John Barker and others. The Athletes energetically maintain the garden with trash removal and leaf raking and debris removal on a regular basis. (We congratulate them on the reopening of their store, which was closed by the pandemic and vandalized after the murder of George Floyd.)
At the busy intersection of Knott and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, a small semi-circle of grass with a few roses gives a break to the surrounding concrete. At the center of a faded, red brick wall is a portrait of Gladys Sims McCoy etched in stone, with wafted hair and bright eyes watching over passersby. McCoys’s smiling face is surrounded by an engraved list of her accomplishments, as well as the mindless graffiti tags familiar to underappreciated spaces of a city.
McCoy’s accomplishments were many. She was the first African American elected to public office in Oregon. She was elected to the Portland Public School Board in 1970. She also served for many years as a Multnomah County Commissioner. In remembrance, her name now graces a public park in Portland, public housing, and most recently, Multnomah County’s new downtown health department building.
When she died in 1993 from thyroid cancer, her name wasn’t on any buildings, and her friend, Venerable Booker, wanted to ensure her legacy was remembered.
Booker was then the President of American State Bank, the first Black-owned commercial bank in the Pacific Northwest, which was located in the building directly north of the memorial, now a dialysis center.
A few blocks north of the bank, Hillary Mackenzie owned an architecture firm. As a customer of American State Bank, she got to know Booker well and was hired to design the memorial. She recalled he had a clear vision for the project, which would include “a walkway so you have to enter in the site, to settle in and read it. He wanted that recognition and then he wanted it to be pretty, so it was a place people would linger for a few minutes.”
McCoy’s portrait has recently had a front-row seat to many protests marching past in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. After the first night of protests in May, Irvington resident Kate Thompson went to survey the damage she had heard about on MLK. Across from the smashed Nike store windows, she found herself lingering at the memorial. “I walked past it for over a decade, walking to work at Good Sam’s,” she said. “It was not until I retired that I had time to be curious about its history’.
She started pulling weeds that day and has been returning most Friday mornings for the last three months. She has recruited others who wanted to help and started calling the group the Gladys’ Garden Gnomes. The garden has become a place for Thompson to channel her outrage of racial injustice into something positive. “We all need time for reflection,” she said. “Quack grass gives us that opportunity.”
For Thompson and her fellow volunteers, pulling up weeds provides an apt metaphor for our nation’s racism. The grass is deeply rooted and sends out runners in many directions, making it difficult to remove. Thompson acknowledges that she doesn’t know what good it will do, but that “it’s a choice to have hope.”
Thompson has been in contact with Mackenzie to add irrigation and some other features to the original design, including a way to memorialize Venerable Booker, the man who made sure our community knew Gladys McCoy’s life was a Black life that mattered.
Update: In October Mossy Tree Care donated their time to get the trees in shape which was very appreciated especially after the big windstorm. According to Kate Thompson, “Five men from Mossy Tree Care each donated two and a half hours of energetic labor to clean up the hardscape of the garden. They were a delight to work with.”
Here in our third summer, the Grove is looking incredibly lush. As the shrubs grow to fill (and overfill!) their allotted areas, the vegetative contours of the Grove are starting to really look the way we imagined them when we first began. The Willow Dome is rebounding well from the bizarre massive water-main flood of last summer, and we seem to be attracting not just bees but dragonflies and birds of many species. Thank you so much for all your incredible help in making our dream a reality.
Now we’re thinking about a few equipment upgrades, and hope y’all might be able to kick in a little financial support.
When we first began watering the Grove, we dragged our expensive hose across the street and discovered that auto traffic ruptured and destroyed the unprotected hose. For the last couple of years, we’ve protected the hose with four 2” x 12” boards which are huge and heavy (as our Watering Heroes can attest to). They’ve done a great job, but are splintering, cracking, and breaking under the stress.
We’d need some actual hose ramps to protect them, which should both a) do a better job, b) last longer, and c) be much easier to drag out into the street and back. The ones we looked at are black rubber with a bright yellow lid, rated for 20-30 tons per axle, which should stand up even to the garbage and delivery trucks that occasionally traverse the hose.
Six 3’4” pieces, at $46 each, – 8% bulk discount, free shipping, = $254.
The tripod for our sprinkler has done good service, but one of the legs is broken: the clip that holds it in extended position no longer works. Replacement tripod = $40
We also need a couple of bags of concrete to set the ceramic bird/bee bath in place, AND one of our really good hoses just broke at the hose bib last week and needed a repair kit = $19 which brings us up to a total of about: $325.
There are about 150 people on our email list at this time, so if each of you threw say $3-5 at us, we could cover these costs. If you want to give more or cover the entire cost, we’ll name the hose ramps after you, and sing your praises every time we water the Grove. On the other hand, if you are willing to set up a monthly payment with a shout-out and adopt-a-plant perks, click on the Patreon link here: https://www.patreon.com/BoiseEliotNativeGrove
Our Patreon and PayPal launch has so far attracted ELEVEN brave contributors who will have trees, shrubberies, and bee-hotel rooms named after them!
We’ve met several of our goals with these pioneer patrons and as such will be able to 1) purchase new bee-straws for the bee hotel, 2) purchase supplies to fix the hexagonal bench and install the birdbath, and 3) help pay for the water to keep the trees and plants alive! As those first funds arrive, we’ll get those things on the schedule. Until then, keep spreading the word and saving the world.
Also! Please share these links and tell people about the Grove and come visit and take pictures and post them and tag us and just help people find out about us and enjoy this miraculous place we’ve created together.
Thanks as ever for your ongoing support, physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, and psychically. We hope to see you soon in the Grove (all masked up) and in the World (safe and distanced), and in the Streets (don’t forget to Vote!)
Andrine & Howard
P.S. Full disclosure: we were able to borrow the funds to purchase the hose ramps, and we’d like to pay that back to the generous person who fronted us the funds.
I hope everyone is staying safe and finding constructive ways to keep occupied and connect with those around you. We at Oasis of Change miss seeing everyone around especially as the spring is starting and the farm is coming to life. Eating meals on the farm with no community around is just not the same.
We have been thinking hard about how we can help the community in this time and so far we have come up with a couple special ideas. We have been so saddened to see how empty it has gotten and our mission is to create community so we are going to try to start inviting people back in safe ways. We are opening up our garden and farm space to the public as a community coffee and tea hangout. We have partnered with Karma Cup, a really amazing organization who is working to end homelessness. We have so much beautiful outdoor space we might as well share it and the benefit of being outdoors is that the sun actually disinfects!
We just finished re-doing the garden space to allow us to have all the distance we need. We can accommodate up to 6 people per group and we have 10 private outdoor seating spaces all separated by a beautiful farm. So, come relax and see everything coming to life and feel some normalcy in this time. It is recommended that you call ahead to reserve. We are also opening up our outdoor gym and trampoline to families and individuals who miss working out all you have to do is reach out and book a 30 minute to hour time slot. So if you’re feeling stuck and want a little breath of normalcy in your life come out and have a cup of coffee.
The Diversity Gardening Co-op is a citizen-led project envisioned by Eliot Neighborhood Association board member, Shireen Hasan, with the generous support of the members of St. Philip the Deacon Church led by Reverend Maria McDowell. It was designed and constructed by myself and other Eliot residents and community members.
This garden had its beginnings in August of 2018 and in April of this year 2019, construction began. By May we planted our first crops. Those crops were harvested this summer. Currently, the garden consists of nine 3’x6’ planter boxes growing a variety of vegetables for the members of our community. Our ultimate goal is to expand that number to provide gardening space for the members of the church, the unhoused, African Americans, low income, flash disadvantaged, veterans, youth who are in our area and even a raised gardening box for those needing wheelchair accessibility. There will also be an extensive herb garden for all to plant in as well as a meditation garden including artwork to reflect the African American Diaspora in the neighborhood.
These additions are currently in the design stage. This project is breathing renewed life to an area that was starting to slip back upon itself. The pooling of our group’s talents, community and business organization’s resources and other partnerships and support of the neighborhood have been key to helping us proceed past a number of obstacles, both inherent to the project and that arose from unexpected sources along the way. With the continued support of all involved, we are looking forward to the completion of this vision in the summer/fall of 2020.
Stay tuned for quarterly updates and please consider volunteering at the garden this year. It’s a great way to meet some new neighbors and friends and give back to your community.
Who expected that weaving 72 native willow saplings into a dome in the middle of Boise Eliot Native Grove might invoke such magic? But in early August a geyser gushed forth from the center of the Willow Dome, flooded the Fremont Bridge ramp and created a sinkhole that appeared beneath the leafy structure.
City crews were called to investigate and immediately opened nearby hydrants to stem the tide. Turns out it was a broken water main under the Grove. Crews isolated the pipe under the Willow Dome and stopped the flow. The sinkhole that formed inside the Dome was cordoned off with warning tape. Pipe repair was scheduled but threatened to destroy some of the plantings.
Fortunately, Grove volunteers from Bureau of Environmental Services, Xerces Society, Ivy School, and friends of the Boise Eliot Native Grove leaped into action, digging up dozens of Willow and Ninebark plantings to preserve them from the backhoe. Plants were stored in 20 buckets until the repair was completed, and another crew of hearty volunteers worked to replant them at the end of the month. Hurrah for Community! Also, a huge thank you to all our Watering Heroes and Willow Guardians this summer for keeping the Grove enchanting.
Stay tuned at the Boise Eliot Native Grove website, Facebook, and Instagram about upcoming willow weaving and other marvelous events! http://www.nativegrovepdx.org
Gardening at St. Philip the Deacon Church is in swing. People walking by are stopping to take a peek at what is going on behind this historic church. Community volunteers have rolled up their sleeves to bring this amazing opportunity into fruition for the community; from planting seeds and starters, native plants, flowers, and watering, to laying bark chips, soil/compost, and building. Thank you to all the community participants, local residents of Eliot neighborhood, church members, and local organizations who have supported this initiative by donating hoses, plants, compost, starters, and other resources, supplies, and also monetary contributions to grow the community gardening initiative to feed the community! Special thanks to Bellagio’s Pizza for donating massive amounts of delicious pizza to our garden party held on May 4, 2019! My stomach still hurts!
The team has so far built several garden beds for diverse community participation (African Americans, houseless, veterans, church members, youth, and low-income individuals).
Work is being done around the church property to beautify the environment and ‘raise the vibration’. The Co-op is in conversation with Zenger Farms to bring in their farm’s extra harvest to allow folks complimentary access to healthy fruits, and vegetables at the church location.
The initiative had suffered some setback and in moving forward to overcome a few barriers we are asking for the community’s continued support, contributions, and labor assistance to build an accessible garden bed for folks with disabilities who otherwise would not have access to gardening opportunities.
We are also asking for a donation of a nice bench for the upcoming meditation area that will be designed for the church. In addition, we are looking for experienced or well-versed African American artists to work in collaboration with Reverend Maria, and current member artist, Su(e) Diyg, to preserve the memory of North/Northeast Portland’s African American diaspora by creating visual art for all to see and remember.
Come join in with gardening fun, starting every Saturday in July from 11AM-1PM to continue the expansion of community gardening to feed the community and to add a nice, new makeover to the church grounds in the months to come!
For more information email the coordinator, Shireen: at shihas_2005 at yahoo dot com.
It’s summertime now and the gardens are thriving here at Albina Cooperative Garden! We are a community based, urban farm located in the Eliot neighborhood on the corner of Russell Street and Vancouver Avenue. This large, organic gardening project produces impressive amounts of delicious produce every season here in the heart of NE Portland.
The flowers in our pollinator garden are in full bloom and the bees are doing their work, lettuce, chard, and arugula are fresh as can be, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and basil plants are looking fantastic. We are so busy this time of year with crops growing bigger every day and even new seeds are being sown for the fall and winter harvest. Come by and say hello, we are often out in the sun (or rain), cultivating the soil that borders Legacy Emanuel Hospital who gifted this land to the Eliot neighborhood many years ago. Take a stroll through our thriving garden spaces, try a taste of some fresh sugar snap peas, bush beans, sweet peppers or luscious strawberries, maybe relax in the orchard and listen to the sounds of the many creatures that live here, bumblebees, butterfly wings, and bird songs.
Our members maintain this land for growing food and creating a living, green space in the center of the city. We educate citizens on sustainability and organic urban food production, we come together as a cooperative organization to share those values with our Eliot neighbors and our greater Portland community.
Interested in membership? All are welcome to share in the year-round bounty in trade for satisfying work and a small annual membership fee. Eliot neighbors that need financial assistance are welcome to join us through a generous scholarship fund gifted to you, the community by the Eliot Neighborhood Association, please do email us for the application at albinacooperativegarden at gmail dot com.
At the Healthcare Design Expo & Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, November 12, representatives of Legacy Health and landscape architect Quatrefoil, Inc., received The Center for Health Design’s Evidence-Based Design Touchstone Award Platinum – the highest level – for the Evidence-Based Design (EBD) and Evaluation of the second-floor terrace garden at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.
Are you looking for places to go or activities to do in and around Portland? Here are a few ideas:
1) MudBone Grown LLC farms, an African-American run farm growing food for the community, is located at 7900 NE 33rd Dr., in Portland. Volunteers of all ages are encouraged to participate. Children, elders, youth, and families can help with planting and general farming for the next upcoming season working with Shantae Johnson and Arthur Shavers – the king and queen of this operation. Contact the Oregon Food Bank email email@example.com to sign up. Visit http://www.mudbonegrown.com.
In under a year, Boise Eliot Native Grove has transformed a grassy dumping ground into a thriving native pollinator habitat and education space. Located on N. Ivy St. north of the Fremont Bridge ramp, the Grove is now planted with over 500 plants representing 40+ species of native plants and 9 species of trees, along with logs, stumps, snags, boulders, educational species signs & interpretive signs featuring English, Latin & Chinuk Wawa plant names.
The Boise Eliot Native Grove on N Ivy St. is transforming an unimproved right-of-way into a native plant and pollinator grove. Situated just to the north of the Fremont Bridge ramp, the land is owned by Portland Bureau of Transportation but cannot be developed due to a number of utilities running underneath.
Community gardens and cooperative gardens, despite sounding like they offer the same service, differ in essential ways. Community gardens rent plots of land to individuals and those individuals tend to their plot and only to their plot. In a cooperative garden, members share the plots. That means making decisions, planting, and harvesting food together.