Portland park series: Sacajawea Park

Portland park series: Sacajawea Park

PORTLAND, Ore. - Every park has a story attached to it and this one takes us back to the early 1800s when Lewis and Clark blazed a trail to the Pacific Coast.

Every Friday we're putting the spotlight on a local park and for this week's installment we headed to Sacajawea Park at Northeast 75th and Roselawn Street.

Before we get to the historical aspect of the park we'll talk about what it has to offer for the folks who live in the area.

The first thing we noticed when we stopped by is that the 4.89-acre park has a beautiful tree-covered grassy area that is perfect for picnics or just kicking back on the grass and watching the clouds go by.

When we were there the park was quiet and peaceful, although you do have to consider that we stopped by in the early afternoon on a weekday.

Sacajawea Park, which has been around since 1985, features a large off leash area for dogs that is completely fenced. The dog park is fairly new - it was just put in last year.

"When we did our public outreach, what we learned from the neighbors is that there was so much dog use in the grassy area that it was kind of ruining the grass," Sue Glenn, Portland Parks & Recreation's Zone Services Manager for North and Northeast Portland, told us.

So the city used a vacant field they had acquired, which was adjacent to the park, and made it a place just for dogs.

When we were at the park, we took a few moments to talk to someone who was using the off-leash area. Shawn Walz, who has lived in the neighborhood for about seven years, was there enjoying a rare rain-free day with his two dogs.

Walz told us he actually hadn't been to the park in a while because of the changes that were made. He said he actually preferred the area of the park outside of the off-leash area for his dogs because they could play under the trees and keep from getting overheated.

"There's no shade for the dogs," he said when we asked him what he thought of the off-leash area, adding that "it's better than nothing, though."

We talked to Glenn about what Walz had told us and she said there isn't a plan to put trees in at the park. She added that there have been some problems with root systems at some of the city's dog parks that are tree-covered.

The off leash area at Sacajawea Park also gets pretty wet at times. Glenn explained that the city didn't have the funds for a drainage plan when they put the fence up.

"We did the best we could with limited funds," Glenn explained. She said they did put in a chip path around the perimeter of the dog area to try to provide a dry place for people to walk their dogs (on a leash).

Despite those few points, the off leash area is actually quite a large one and it has plenty of room for dogs to get in some serious running and playing time. We searched YouTube and found this video to give you an idea of what it's like:

And now for the history lesson.

The park and a nearby school are named after Sacajawea, a Shoshone Indian who traveled with the Lewis and Clark Expedition across the west in the early 1800s.

Sacajawea's story is a well-known one, although historians disagree on certain aspects like the spelling of her name and when she died.

Still, the spirit of her life lives on and she has been honored throughout the past couple of centuries with statues and monuments. Believe it or not there is even a caldera on the planet Venus that bears her name (source: Wikipedia).

And of course here in Portland, she is memorialized not only with a park and school that have her name, but you can also find a large statue of her at Washington Park.