The Nadaka Nature Park and Garden Project is an outgrowth of a series of past community and voter initiated efforts that secured public ownership of 10-acres of natural area and the 2-acre neighborhood park site known as the Nelson property located on the border of Wilkes East and Rockwood neighborhoods in Gresham, Oregon.

This 10 acre natural forest area was acquired by the City of Gresham in 1995 at a cost of $500,000 from the Camp Fire Organization using proceeds from the 1990 Gresham parks bond measure.  The Camp Fire Organization used it as a day camp beginning in the summer of 1956 until it was sold to the City of Gresham in 1995.

While owned by the Camp Fire Organization, the 10 acres was surrounded by an eight foot chain link fence with barbed wire on top.  There were two entry gates, one on NE Pacific at the north side and one at NE Glisan on the south side.  There was an easement across 2 acres  owned by the T. A. Nelson family on the NE Glisan or south side.

Once the City of Gresham acquired the property in 1995 the gates remained locked to the public until 2001 when the gate on the north side was opened.  During those years the City created a 1/4 mile loop trail and installed an irrigation line from NE Glisan.

In 2009 the Wilkes East Neighborhood Association (WENA), Friends of Nadaka, successfully obtained a $200,000 capital Metro Nature in Neighborhoods grant toward the purchase of the 2 acre adjoining Nelson property.  The East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District (EMSWCD) contributed $210,000.  The seller, the T. A. Nelson Estate, donated the rest of the appraised value – the land was appraised at $615,000 – as a gift valued at approximately $185,000.  The Trust for Public Land negotiated the deal.

The 2-acre acquisition opened up needed park access to Rockwood’s younger, more diverse population, doubling the number of residents (to 17,000) within 1-mile walking distance.

As a result of the 2 acre acquisition, the City of Gresham developed a Nelson Property Neighborhood Park Master Plan and Vegetation Plan which were approved by City Council in June of 2010.

In 2011 seventeen community organizations and local governments signed the Nadaka Nature Park and Garden Project Declaration of Cooperation (DOC). The DOC set out the community’s vision and goals to build the nature-based neighborhood park on the Nelson property and manage and operate the entire 12-acres for 5 years. The latter became the Nadaka 2020 Project which includes robust educational and recreational programming at the park.

Throughout 2012 and 2013 the Friends of Nadaka worked under the fiscal agency of the Columbia Slough Watershed Council (CSWC) and with staff support from Audubon Society of Portland to hire MIG Landscape Architects. Funding came from a combination of EMSWCD and NIN capital grant funds. MIG worked with the community to complete a revised and updated Nadaka Nature Park & Garden Project master plan and construction design documents.

The new design called for Gresham’s first nature-based play area, largest community garden, and a host of other features including a covered picnic shelter (specifically requested from local Latino residents), walking paths, a bathroom, signage, public art and bike locks. This built infrastructure was to be surrounded and interlaced with native plantings, an ecolawn, and an edible landscaping.

Meanwhile the Friends of Nadaka, Audubon Society of Portland and other partners were were working to raise funds to implement the design. Over a two-year period they were able to raise the following funds:

  • $238,806 from a Metro Nature in Neighborhoods Capital grant funds
  • $153,310 in East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District funds
  • $523,840 from an Oregon State Parks grant

The City of Gresham was able to find $238,300 in federal CDBG grant fund and local gas tax revenue for street improvements necessary for the project to go forward. In addition roughly $190,000 in individual volunteer and donated non-profit staff time between 2011 and 2015 provided critical support in project completion and success. St Aidan’s Church also supported the project with public meeting space in their church and in providing space for construction staging and access via their adjacent parking lot.

Over 240 people attended the grand opening and ribbon cutting on April 4, 2015. Attendees included elected officials, key local government and non-profit staff, and of course many residents of the community. The City of Gresham hired Calcagno Media to produce a video on the Nadaka Nature Park & Garden Project entitled “Nadaka: A Love Story” which features footage from the grand opening.

Over 17,000 people living within 1-mile benefited from the creation of Nadaka Nature Park & Garden, 29% children and 50% people of color.  Survey data indicates Nadaka receives between 12,000-15,000 individual annual park visits with approximately 50% repeated visits.

These numbers have grown with the launch of Nadaka 2020 Project, the 5-year operations, maintenance and programming plan currently starting its third year of implementation. Following a 2015 Nadaka Park Community Survey, Friends of Nadaka has launched an evaluation of events and programming to identify new approaches and strategies to continually expand the diversity of people served at Nadaka Nature Park & Garden.