Portland parks series: Alberta Park

Portland parks series: Alberta Park

PORTLAND, Ore. - Everyone wants something different in a park but I think most people can agree that trees are definitely up there on the list.

At Alberta Park, the first thing you notice are the many trees that provide shade (or cover from the rain) while you go for a jog, take a walk, play with your kids or let your dog get some exercise.

Every Friday, we are putting the spotlight on a Portland park and this week we're taking a look at this 16.7-acre greenspace situated in a residential neighborhood at Northeast 22nd Avenue and Killingsworth Street.

Alberta Park has been around since 1921 and features a large covered basketball court, playground equipment for the kids, a tennis court, soccer and softball fields, a dog area and even a bike polo court.

Bike polo enthusiasts are making use of a decommissioned tennis court at Alberta Park and the city is even working with local players to allow them to make improvements to the court. For example, the city already gave them approval to put in kickboards so they can keep their ball in play.

"We're very happy to be working with them," Sue Glenn, Portland Parks & Recreation's Zone Services Manager for North and Northeast Portland, said.

It's a sentiment that Sasha Friedman, President of Portland Bike Polo, expressed as well. The group regularly plays at Alberta Park and has for a number of years.

"The city has been very supportive of us," he said. "We really like our parks department."

"We put quite a bit of time and effort into making the court better and we share it with four other sports," Friedman added.

The success the bike polo group has had in working with the city to make use of an old tennis court is an example of how effective Portland Parks & Recreation's Community Initiated Improvement Project program can be. It's a program that allows the community to work directly with the city to improve their neighborhood. Glenn said while the city does have a process it has to follow and fiscal concerns to consider, they are always open to ideas.

"We can't always say yes," Glenn admitted. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. "We're always partnering to get things accomplished in these hard times," she added.

For Friedman it has meant that he and his friends can enjoy playing a sport they love and park goers get to have fun watching them do it.

"It's a great sport to watch and most people have never seen anything like it," Friedman said, later adding that "we really value being able to be in such a beautiful park playing our team sport."

If you'd like to see the Portland Bike Polo players in action, just head to Alberta Park on any given Sunday - the group plays every week throughout the year, rain or shine. And if you'd like to join in the fun, just let them know while you're there that you're interested. Friedman said all are welcome, although you do have to be patient sometimes because the wait for the court can be a long one (six people at a time play - three on each team).

And here's a fun fact - local bike polo even made it into the opening credits of the Portlandia show. Friedman told us that's him you see for a fleeting moment at about the 20-second mark.

Aside from bike polo, the park has a little something for everyone - including an unfenced off-leash dog area that folks who live nearby enjoy.

"We come here a couple of times a week," Chach Heart, who lives in the neighborhood, told us when we stopped by to take photos. Heart was there with her dog named 'Cupcake.' The two are pictured below on the right.

"She's a Labradoodle, but not really, so we call her an Oopsadoodle," Heart said with a laugh when we asked her what kind of dog Cupcake is. She said Cupcake actually splits her time between Alberta Park and nearby Fernhill Park. "She has friends at both parks," Heart said with a smile.

For the kids, there are several play areas - the park has kind of a hodge-podge of older and newer equipment. There is a shiny jungle gym set with a more modern look and a merry-go-round and teeter totter set that have an old school flair.

Perhaps not everyone is enamored by the older playground equipment at Alberta Park, though. On a Yelp review we noticed that someone wrote a few years back that the park is "the place where playground equipment goes to die."

We spoke with Glenn about that perception. She said the city does realize that many parks are showing their age but with money tight in this economy, they have been focusing mainly on items that could pose safety problems. However, Glenn said there definitely is a master plan for improvements once the economy gets better.

"We've got everything itemized for when the funding comes around," she said. Right now there are not any bonds on the ballot for Portland Parks & Recreation, although Glenn said that is something the city will likely look at in the future.