Ed Benedict Park and Portland Memory Garden

Keeping people active by giving then places they can spend time outdoors improves a communities' health. Ed Benedict Park provides places for young children to play, and people of all ages to walk, jog, garden, grow organic food, or play sports, all in one park. Providing community parks within walking distance of dense neighborhoods with more people living in apartments improves sustainability.

Ed Benedict Park is in outer southeast Portland. The park came out of a grassroots community effort, which defeated the planned four-lane Mount Hood Freeway that would have cut through this part of Portland. Due to a successful effort by neighborhood activists, the freeway was stopped and federal dollars were reallocated to building Portland’s first light rail line, leaving many blocks initially taken by eminent domain for the freeway to be turned into a public park.

The park provides opportunities for exercise in nature, which has both physical and emotional health benefits. Spaces for active recreation include sports fields, playgrounds, and a skate park. Visitors can also simply enjoy being outside on the walking paths or in the community or sculpture gardens. Also, there's a special garden designed as a safe place for people with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.

In 1999, the easternmost block was selected to be the home of the Portland Memory Garden. Establishing a garden designed for those dealing with Alzheimer’s disease is significant because it is estimated there are over 40,000 people with the disease in the Portland metropolitan area, and 75 percent of them live at home. Since gardens can have therapeutic effects on Alzheimer’s patients as well as their caregivers, the city determined this type of garden falls within their mandate to provide services to the community. Essentially a sensory garden, the Portland Memory Garden includes specific plants and paving laid out to support the reduced abilities of those with dementia, as well as elements that may stimulate pleasant memories.

Today, there is little conflict between the disparate users: Adequate separation of activities allows for families with young children to enjoy the playground while teenagers and young adults crowd the skate park. And on the eastern most block, the Portland Memory Garden provides a quiet, tranquil, reflective space. The memory garden shows how any park can be made more accommodating to seniors.

Ed Benedict Park was designed by Koch Landscape Architecture. The Portland Memory Garden is an Oregon ASLA Community Project. The team included: Brian Bainnson, ASLA, project manager, core team; Richard Zita; Jenifer Shipely; Glendon Smith; Mark Hadley; Greg Everhart; and Bob Adams.

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