Portland offers many great things, but what’s essential? What chunks of cityscape or facets of civic life weave so deeply into the place that the place wouldn’t be itself without them?
You could argue for deep-tissue economic assets (the port, for sure; the railroads, maybe) or organic expressions of culture (beer, music, politeness, plaid shirts as semiformal wear). Should we talk about the weather? Should we talk about the gov—sorry, generational tic. Or should we just stand on downtown’s edge and look to the skyline?
There, behind the nearest bristle of business towers or condominium shoal or industrial whatnot, you will see the gentle green swell of Forest Park. There—not exclusively, but certainly—Portland’s soul resides.
As our feature exploring Forest Park explains, the park per se came into being relatively late in the city’s formative years—not until after World War II, in fact. But the debate about what to do with more than 5,000 urban acres of tree, moss, water, fern, and stone began much earlier. And the debate continues, amid a thicket of city law, environmental and recreational partisanship, and organizational overlap. (If you like the word “stakeholders,” you’d love delving into the many issues the park presents.)
And that, really, is the essential Portlandness of the thing: the coexistence of simple natural beauty and human complexity, and our hard-fought, hard-won determination to protect, invest in, and argue about the most valuable things we own in common. Especially in this fraught moment when the very idea of the Commonwealth finds itself under assault by powerful privatizers, Portland’s commitment to what we share marks our city as a place apart.
In our humble effort to live that ethos, one dollar from every sale of this issue will go to the Forest Park Conservancy, a nonprofit that does all kinds of work to improve and protect the park. As journalists, it’s great to cover a city where a park like this, and all the people who care (and fight) about it, exists.
In-house news: Karen Brooks, Portland Monthly’s dining critic, won the Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review Award, bestowed during April’s James Beard Media Awards. We’re proud, and she deserves it.
Editor in Chief