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The Oregonian: News from Portland's neighborhood
Author: Susan Green, The Oregonian
Posted: June 11, 2010

Gardening program aims to feed hungry

A group of Portland State University students is working to reduce hunger in Northeast Portland.

The community development undergraduates, as part of required fieldwork, teamed up with Central Northeast Neighbors to create a web page to link would-be gardeners with gardens and fresh produce.

"We have this opportunity to reach out, to make healthy food affordable for all of our neighbors," said Sandra Lefrancois, a Central Northeast Neighbors community program director.

The project -- Root Access: Cultivating Assets in Central Northeast Neighborhoods -- resulted in GardenNet at It shows the locations of existing and proposed community gardens; food drop-off sites; and where residents are sharing yards for producing food. It also has links to garden resources and a forum.

The project was the first hands-on consulting work PSU student Laura Ellen Simmons has ever done.

"I learned a lot about coming to consensus within a group and with an organization," she said. "It was a great learning experience that you just don't get from the books."

Central Northeast Neighborhoods will continue to update the map and will hold a tour of featured gardens this summer. A planning meeting for the tour will be held June 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the organization's offices, 4415 N.E. 87th Ave.

--Anne Laufe, Special to the Oregonian 
PSU students help plan park's future

Four Portland State University graduate students are helping design plans for Willamette Park the old-fashioned way: by talking with people.

On a drizzly Sunday in May, students from the masters of urban and regional planning program talked with dozens of boaters, joggers, dog walkers and others to help the Portland Bureau of Parks & Recreation eventually create a master plan for the 27-acre park.

"For the short term, people told us that they would like better signage and easier bike and pedestrian access to the river," student Maren Murphy said. "Overall, they want to find a way to maintain recreational uses while dealing with sustainability issues like bird habitat and salmon spawning restoration."

Problems such as crowding and occasional shouting matches have cropped up during summers at the park, which is along the Willamette River in Southwest Portland. City planners want to address such issues.

The students -- from as far as Florida and Canada -- are bringing a fresh perspective and energy, park officials said. The students, who are required to tackle a project for their master's degree, dubbed themselves the Quercus Planning Group, using the Latin word for oak tree.

"It's been fun working with real clients," Murphy said. "I'd like to see how our study is put into action."

Brian Aptekar, a Parks Bureau coordinator, praised the students' efforts and said their field work and assessment will be valuable.

"They've even dug up some interesting history about the park," he said. "Several of their quick fixes are ones that we can look into right away."

The students' assessment results will be posted June 9 at

--Joe Fitzgibbon, Special to The Oregonian