On an overcast late spring day, the Latourette Army descended upon Oregon City. Clad in matching green shirts, Girl Scout Troop 45064 – the group's official name – were there to complete a mission years in the making: the revitalization of D.C. Latourette Park.
These young leaders spent years advocating to turn a neglected space into a community asset. Through their efforts a decommissioned pool and crumbling tennis court have been transformed into a natural play area and new basketball court.
The Latourette Army stood beside elected representatives from Oregon City, Metro, and neighbors on June 5 to celebrate the opening of the park.
Metro Councilor Christine Lewis spoke about investing in gathering spaces.
“Metro really believes place matters,” Lewis said. “And there’s nothing like looking around this and the transformation it’s gone through over the past months to recognize that this place, this park, this intersection matters.”
Place matters and people do too. The reimagined D.C. Latourette Park was designed so that people of all abilities can use the park features. Previously the park was accessible only by stairs and a steep ramp. Now a ramp with a gentle slope flows from the entrance to far end of the park.
This pathway curves up and around the playground, ending at the top of a slide. It allows for easy entrance without needing to climb a ladder. For those who want a climb, the slide is flanked by a cascade of large rocks.
The park features two bird nest swings which can be used by people of different ages, sizes and abilities. The overall theme of nature play, found in the arranged rocks and logs, was chosen for ease of use.
Metro contributed to the park renewal through its Community Enhancement Grant program that invests in the communities that surround garbage and recycling facilities. For every ton of trash processed at local transfer stations, $1 is put into this grant. Oregon City’s enhancement grant program is funded by the customers who use the Metro South transfer station.
The park project received $124,900 in enhancement grant funds over three years. Lewis, who also serves on the grant committee, said the Girl Scouts were very persuasive advocates for the park.
16-year-old Girl Scouts Kate Buehrig and Lucy McKay talked about taking on a years-long endeavor while in elementary school. They spent their free time raising awareness about the park, and attending city meetings, funding sessions and design workshops.
Buehrig described going to city hall in Oregon City as a twelve-year-old and learning public speaking skills from her mother.
“She showed me how to advocate and how important it is to commit to something that you are passionate about, a lesson I will carry for life,” Buehrig said.
Oregon City Mayor Rachel Lyles Smith praised the community collaboration that made the new park possible. She thanked those involved, including the Girl Scout troop, the Oregon City commissioners and their parks team, Metro and the organizations The City Repair Project and Depave.
“I am so proud to live in a city where grassroots efforts can make such a big impact for all our community members,” Lyles Smith said.