By: Kirk Rhea, City Repair Project, guest contributor
If you glance into the parking lot on the south side of Division on the intersection of 19th Ave, sandwiched between the St. Philip Neri Convent and the Hope Center, you may not expect much beyond grey concrete and metal automobiles. But if you look a little closer you’ll start to notice fruit trees, garden beds, a bamboo pyramid-trellis with hops reaching up it. If you continue through the parking lot into the green space you’ll find flowers, herbs, benches, birds, and maybe you’ll run into farmer Brian or a service group tending to the land.
This is the Avalon Sanctuary, an open community garden or what some call a pocket park. Unlike community gardens run by Parks and Rec that have multi-year waitlists and are typically surrounded by fences, the Sanctuary is an open space – a permeable park. Run collectively by individuals and organizations. Farmer Brian, who spends many days watering veggies he’s planted, also calls it an anarchist endeavor. The garden sprung up over the past 10 years as neighbors envisioned having more greenspace in the Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood. Where the Sanctuary sits used to be a gravel lot. The greens space has blossomed over the years; often thanks to a collage of donations and sporadic boosts of volunteer energy. Permaculture, or ecological landscaping informed by traditional ecological knowledge, has been a guiding system to have sustainable practices and to demonstrate diverse garden techniques such as hugelkultur, coppicing, and rainwater catchment.
In July of 2019, a collaboration added a labyrinth style set of garden beds into the south part of the Sanctuary which will hold primarily herbs and medicinals. An amazing example of the collaborative spirit of the Sanctuary many neighbors aided in diverse ways for this new development. Communitecture – Architecture, Planning, and Design created a spiral design, the New Day School donated building material, the Hosford-Abernethy Neighborhood Association (HAND) fundraised to obtain soil in support of SE Uplift, and the City Repair Project facilitated volunteer service groups to install while obtaining donations of plant starts.
Please visit the Avalon Sanctuary! Neighbor Alana sits to bird watch. Street Roots vendor Jonathan takes breaks there for peacefulness. The garden often receives mulch chip drops that anyone can gather from, which neighbor Joanne often does for her roses. The City Repair Project gathers plants that are abundant to share with other gardens in need. The season is almost to fig season where you can bring your ladder to pick from the abundance of the resident fig tree, and until then you can snack on black currants.
If you wish to contribute by helping steward or wish to donate supplies, contact Kirk at email@example.com. Volunteers help from basic garden maintenance to turning over compost to stewarding a specific patch of the garden to new designs. While much of the tending is accomplished during individuals’ best times, the City Repair Project hosts volunteer service groups once a month and also hosts occasional general work-parties. Interested volunteer crew leaders are a need!
A particular challenge that needs your energy is building a bridge between the housed and unhoused as well as keeping a healthy and clean garden. As the Sanctuary is very permeable, occasional unhoused neighbors camp on site. While most of the time the campers maintain their zone and often help tend the garden, sometimes a large amount of material amasses, creating clutter and difficulty moving through the garden – and a neighbor, the New Day School, requires one pathway as an access road. An additional challenge for the school is when needles appear as they make the proximity of the youth particularly unsafe.
As Portland and many other parts of the country are facing a housing crisis, and as unhoused people face stigma and stereotypes, the Sanctuary aims to be supportive of the unhoused neighbors while shaping a healthy environment for all. Please contact Kirk for support in this as well.
For further history of the garden visit: https://www.southeastexaminer.com/2016/08/summer-in-a-city-pocket-park/
To keep an eye out for work parties sign up with City Repair here: https://madmimi.com/signups/182282/join
For connecting around supporting solutions for the houseless visit: https://www.pdxvillagecoalition.org/