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The Helensview community garden project — at 8678 NE Sumner in NE Portland — passed two major hurdles this week:

  • On Wednesday, Sumner Association of Neighbors (SAN) was notified by the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District (EMSWCD) that our grant application seeking $16,960 in funding through our Partners in Conservation (PIC) program has been approved.
  • On Thursday, we received word from Portland Community Gardens (PCG) program that soil samples taken from the proposed garden site at the Helensview school yard tested safe and ready to go.

With these two steps — and some pending paperwork — PCG can break ground on construction in June with the goal of an early October opening. (Volunteers will be needed throughout the summer…details will be forthcoming.)

Hvew garden layout With construction in mind, this Tuesday evening, May 15, our neighborhood meeting will review the draft garden plan and layout & collect comments and input from neighbors. Pizza will be served. We’ll meet at the Central Northeast Neighbors (CNN) conference room, 4415 NE 87th, at 7 PM. Food and social time at 6:30 PM.

Details about the grant: Funds from the PIC grant will be matched by funds from the city for construction. Specifically, the 1,000 Gardens program funded through Commissioner Nick Fish’s office will provide the matching funds.

Details about the soil test:

  • Soil samples were collected by PCG staff & testing was free of charge to SAN. PCG had funds from EMSWCD to pay for such tests.
  • Four categories of items were tested (herbicides, pesticides, metals, and hydrocarbons). Most tested elements did not even show trace amounts (results: 819K PDF). The only two items showing any measurable levels were two metals, lead and arsenic. However the levels recorded fell within the normal range for naturally occuring in soil.
  • Specifically, lead recorded 33 parts per million (ppm). Oregon State Extension shows that anything below 50 ppm is safe (PDF) and requires no action. Likewise, arsenic showed 8.9 ppm. The Washington state Department of Health says soil in that state is  typically less than 7 ppm (PDF) of arsenic in soil in their state. For both metals, drinking water levels is a much greather health concern than in garden soil. (Background info about arsenic from Oregon Health Dept.)

Proposed location of the Helensview community garden

Caption: The white rectangle shows the estimated size and location of proposed Helensview community garden

In other Helensview community garden news:

  • We lost our steering committee chair Sandra Clark to other priorities. Please join me in thanking Sandra for her energy & in hoping that she rejoins us at some point. Vice chair (and SAN secretary) Erica Martin will be our new chair. We have an opening on the steering committee for interested neighbors.
  • Our Whole Foods grant application is still ‘pending.’ Their website explains it, though we were not notified directly. In short, ‘pending’ means ‘not rejected but we don’t have funds on hand yet either.’ So we do not have the $2,000 we were hoping to have for design and outreach. If the money comes in later we can use it for other items related to garden construction & outreach.
  • SAN is now plugged in to Hands On Portland, so we can post volunteer opportunity there asking for helpers when we need them this summer.

Next steps:

  • Join us Tuesday night to ask questions and share your feedback.
  • Re-convene the steering committee to confirm Erica as our new chair, and select a new vice chair.
  • Synch with our key supporting agencies (Parkrose School District, Helensview, and PCG) about construction needs, tasks and volunteer opportunities.
  • Confirm (or finalize) the lease and sub-lease paperwork between Parkrose, MESD and PCG.
  • Complete grant paperwork for EMSWCD.

For more background about the Helensview community garden project, see this November 2011 article and the concept plan (PDF).

For getting us this far, special thanks are due to Helensview principal Kris Persson, Parkrose superintendent Karen Gray, Parkrose director of business services Mary Larson, and Laura Niemi at Portland Community Gardens. Thanks also to the Parkrose school board and Multnomah Educational Services District (MESD) officials Barbara Jorgensen and Kelvin Webster for their green light.

For their detailed feedback and support, thanks also to Emily Hicks in Commissioner Fish’s office, Lora Price at Friends of Portland Community Gardens, and Sandra LeFrancois at Central Northeast Neighbors GardenNet.

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