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Sharing Memories through Park Development

Portland Parks & Recreation grow and embrace the history of Dawson Park

Dawson Park historical boulder - courtesy of PPR and Ben Brink

In 2014, Dawson Park received improvements that included a new playground, picnic tables, pathways, lighting, plantings, and a splash pad with 12 historical story boulders. The boulder’s illustrate through text and images the many important historic events that happened in and around Dawson Park, including local involvement in the 1963 Washington Jobs and Freedom March, protest marches and rallies, local commerce, Robert Kennedy's 1968 visit to the park, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1961 visit to the Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church.

More recently, Bernie Foster, Co-Founder and Publisher of The Skanner newspaper, requested that Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) add boulders that would recognize the contributions of local Black newspapers such as The Skanner and The Portland Observer.

Funding was approved by City Council, and now work is underway to identify stories for the additional boulders. The original project team has been reunited for this effort, with the addition of local Black historian, Kimberly Moreland, for the historic research efforts. The goal is to complete the installation in either Spring or Fall 2023 to avoid the busy summer season in the park.

As part of this project, PP&R has been seeking community submissions for stories about Dawson Park. What additional themes and stories should be shared on the boulders? What important stories from these newspapers stand out to you? What does the Black press mean to you? If you have a story to share, please submit it online by September 19, 2022 at or you can contact Maija Spencer, PP&R Senior Community Engagement Coordinator at or 503-867-6709.


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