Neighborhood association honored for dedication, cooperation

Every year, the city of Portland's Office of Neighborhood Involvementrecognizes citizens and organizations that have demonstrated civic pride and involvement in what is known as the Spirit of Portland Awards. At an award ceremony Oct. 29, Ashcreek Neighborhood Association was among the honorees.

“This is one way that the city of Portland … thanks the community for all of the volunteering that they do,” said Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who is in charge of the Office of Neighborhood Involvement.

Nominees were evaluated based on their participation in outstanding projects; enrichment of their community and neighborhoods; provision of a special service to the community; demonstration of responsiveness, creativity and civic values; and contribution to raising cross-cultural awareness.

Dean Smith, chairman of the Ashcreek Neighborhood Association, said he is deeply touched by the award.

“It means we’re representing our neighborhood well and that we’re an effective voice for the neighborhood,” he said. “We have recognition that we have high-quality people involved in the neighborhood association and that we put a lot of effort and care.”

It would certainly seem so.

Fritz called the neighborhood association “very committed to good, inclusive public process.”

“And,” she said, “It has an amazing ability to stick with the issues.”

One such issue, according to the neighborhood's Spirit of Portland winner biography, was “a contentious debate over speed bumps on Southwest Garden Home Road.”

“We had multiple meetings, one of which drew about 100 people with an awful lot of pretty strong feelings and opinions expressed,” Smith said. “We tried to do that in the most open way possible so that things were laid out for consideration, and ended up voting as a neighborhood not to embrace sped bumps but to work with the city to come up with solutions that were acceptable to the neighborhood.”

Also at issue in Ashcreek over the past year was opposition to a municipal water tank expansion.

“We objected to that. We appealed to city council and we actually lost to city council, but we got very strong positive reviews from city staff about the nature of our arguments because we stuck to the rules of the conditions upon which these things get judged,” Smith said. “As opposed to getting hysterical, we try to speak to the issues.”

Ashcreek likewise dealt with “opposition to a liquor license for a bar where a small neighborhood grocery store once stood.”

“Immediate neighbors were quite concerned about having a bar that’s going to be operating into the late evenings,” Smith said. “When we looked at the issue we realized that there wasn’t a lot we could combat. … Instead of battling futilely, we approached them with the idea of developing a good neighbor agreement.”

Other points of pride for Ashcreek were “promotion of pedestrian access and trails improvements within Woods Memorial Natural Area, and creation of a leadership development fund in honor of the late Patty Lee, a longtime Southwest Portland community activist.”

“She was an inspiration to me and many others,” Fritz said. “It takes people who persist and don’t give up.”

This year marks the first time the Ashcreek Neighborhood Association has been a Spirit of Portland award winner since its Neighborhood Association of the Year award came into being in 1992.

“We try not to award the same group or person twice within five or 10 years,” Fritz said. “Just continuing to be great doesn’t necessarily get you another award, but if there’s new things happening it’s not out of the question. There are so many good things and good people that we try to spread the wealth.”

Four other Southwest Portland neighborhood associations have been Spirit of Portland awardees in the last 20 years: South Portland in 2008, West Portland Park in 2005, Bridlemile in 2002 and Multnomah in 1998.

“We’re pretty proud of this,” Smith said.

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