Just five years ago, Nadaka Nature Park was a little-known and neglected forested area in the middle of Gresham’s Wilkes East neighborhood.

Now, it is on the cusp of becoming a full-blown neighborhood park complete with community gardens, a nature-based play area, picnic shelter and walking trail.

Gresham city councilors on Tuesday, March 19, approved applying for a state grant that, if OK’d, would provide funding up to $750,000 for park improvements.

“We’ll be requesting $550,000,” said Lee Dayfield, who has spearheaded the grass-roots effort to improve and expand the park. “If we get it, it will pretty much get things done.”

Nadaka Nature Park was used as a Camp Fire Girls day camp from 1956 to 1995 when the city of Gresham bought the 10 heavily forested acres as a natural area. It sat unused, surrounded by a barbed-wire topped fence, until 2001 when a gate on the north side of the property off Northeast Pacific Street was opened. The city created a half-mile loop trail, but with such limited accessibility, few residents knew about it.

In 2009, with grant funding from Metro and East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, the Friends of Nadaka purchased 2 acres that abut the park to the south, called the Nelson property. Purchasing the property, located east of St. Aiden’s Catholic Church, allowed a way for the public to access the park from Glisan Street.

A master plan for the 2 acres — which are not nearly as woodsy as the rest of Nadaka — calls for creation of a park with community gardens, a children’s play area, open space and other amenities.

The Oregon Parks & Recreation Local Government Grant could make that vision a reality, Dayfield said, adding that as a nonprofit agency, the Friends of Nadaka were unable to apply for it.

She hopes to know whether the city gets the grant in time for the third annual Nadaka Community Festival. “That would be the best way to celebrate that festival, I think,” she said.

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