Portland Parks and Recreation took down construction fences and opened its newest facility in the Cully Neighborhood on Friday, April 24, and Khunamokwst Park, Cully’s first developed park, officially opened Saturday, May 16. The 2.4-acre park at 5200 N.E. Alberta St. is the first park to bear a name indigenous to the land it sits on. Khunamokwst (pronounced KAHN-ah-mockst) is a Chinook name meaning “together.”
Hundreds of neighbors were still gathering when a Native American procession led a line of participants and bystanders around the park perimeter, coming to rest before a covered area. Giant papier-mâché puppets loomed over the line led by drummers and chanters, setting the scene for a blessing of the park pronounced by Confederated Tribes of Siletz elder Pauline Montana.
“Heavenly Father, Creator, thank you for your love and grace…and for all the people who have made this place possible…watch over with a spirit of mindfulness and keep safe … all who use this park.” After the blessing, Mayor Charlie Hales was presented with a gift of salmon, and Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz and other dignitaries received ceremonial necklaces.
Mayor Hales expressed pride in “what the community has accomplished with their investment in this neighborhood.” Commissioner Fritz dubbed Khunamokwst “the best small park I have ever seen … a community gathering place that belongs to the people, to which neighbors need no invitation.” Hales promised that in upcoming city council budget sessions he and Fritz would propose opening the city’s community centers free of charge to Portland’s teenagers.
The new park serves 1,488 families who did not have a park or natural area within a half-mile walk, according to Fritz. “The name invokes a sense of community and unity; our values of inclusion, equity, and fun for all ages. And looking at this beautiful new park, it’s easy to imagine generations of Portlanders having fun together here.”
Khunamokwst Park is a traditional children’s playground with an innovative “nature play,” featuring boulders to climb on and a slide on a hillside. A water feature provides an interactive water play area, and there are paths for walking and jogging lined with native plants. Those looking for a picnic place will find large, open lawns with picnic tables and a shelter with an “eco-roof,” a planted roof to reduce storm water runoff into city drainage pipes. There are park benches, a Portland Loo restroom and, for those who like more strenuous exercise, a small skateboard area for kids and beginners. Street parking is complemented by new sidewalks installed by the Portland Bureau of Transportation, and a rain garden to capture rainwater runoff.