Why Gateway Green Matters

Cole LalomiaIf you have been to our bike shop on 17th and NE Alberta St., you may have seen Cole Lalomia behind the counter. Like many of the Cycling Center’s bike mechanics, Cole is not only adept at fixing bikes, but also volunteers in the community to make it a more welcoming place. Cole is a Board member of Friends of Gateway Green, supporting a park that recently held a grand opening of its skills facilities. We asked Cole more about his passion for East Portland’s new park development.

How did you get involved in Gateway Green?
I was looking for an internship to finish my capstone at PSU, studying community development. I had been a little aware of Gateway Green because of the crowdfunding project they had just completed, which was $50k a few years ago to fund planning and feasibility studies for the park. 

I contacted Jocelyn Gaudi Quarrell to see how I could get involved. There wasn’t an internship or capstone opportunity at that time, but I was interested and kept going to meetings. After a while, they just invited me onto the Board. I’ve been on the Board for a little over a year now.

How would you define Gateway Green?
Gateway Green is a 30-ish acre patch of grass and trees in between two highways. It’s totally isolated and kind of hidden and forgotten, which was why I was drawn to it. I remember riding along the I-205 path and wondering, “What is that? That could be something cool.” When I found out that people were working on developing it, I thought, “This could be something cool.”

What has happened with the space since you joined the Board?
The last six months have been a total whirlwind. Last fall, we had a big meeting trying to determine what our role was as a friends’ group–Friends of Gateway Green–and how long the park will take. We came out of that meeting not entirely certain the park was going to happen. We had raised over $100,000, but with the timelines we were given, it would take more than a couple of years to become a park. We wanted to provide something sooner and didn’t know how. There are challenges with what types of equipment you can bring into the site. There are a lot of weird details. Shortly after that meeting, we got the go-ahead from the City to build what we could. That felt great! We could see a way to getting something on the site, and getting people to it.

What’s at the Gateway Green site now is what people are most excited about.

It still needs utilities, paths, signage, and a clear access point. All of those are on the horizon. But the cycling aspect, which is what has gotten most of us riled up about it, is in place, and that’s pretty cool.

What do you feel is the intersection between your work as a Bike Mechanic at the Cycling Center and your work as a Board Member of Friends of Gateway Green?
I see Gateway Green as filling an incredibly important void that is a lack of parks. Just having a park in that space is valuable, because there really isn’t another option. It’s also turning a space that is vacant and underutilized into something that can be beautiful and that the surrounding neighborhoods can actually use. Having access to these fantastic mountain bike facilities is something new to pretty much everyone in Portland, and how that affects how kids in the neighborhood see bikes is certainly different.

I see that a kid comfortable riding off-road is more confident riding on the road. Just from a skills standpoint, it can be valuable.

Portland in general doesn’t have a good place to ride mountain bikes. You can’t ride your bike anywhere in Portland to mountain bike outdoors. Forest Park has extremely limited access, for example. Why not in East Portland, then?

What is one dream you have for Gateway Green and/or the neighborhood?
I’ll share with you Ted’s dream. Ted’s first dream was Gateway Green. His other dream is a zipline from Rocky Butte to Gateway Green.

In all seriousness, I would like to see a solid connection between Rocky Butte and Gateway Green, and I think that will connect it to a park that a lot of people already know about. There is also maybe a little patch of land on the other side of the highway that Gateway Green has their eyes on. Just the idea of connecting parks. That’s the way Bike Camp works, connecting nodes by bike. Aside from that, I’m just super excited to see all the events that are being planned at Gateway Green. We are also starting to look at how to incorporate art in the space. Then the process of completing access will take a while, and there is a lot of work to be done.

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