BY CAMI JONER
FOR THE MID-COUNTY MEMO
Residents say Maywood Park is a nice place to live. And they aim to keep it that way.
“Everybody works for the good of everybody,” said Werner Zeller, 94, a retired Providence Portland Medical Center surgeon and Maywood Park’s former mayor.
Zeller helped found the tiny city, leading residents to incorporate in 1967 in a desperate attempt to save the subdivision from the construction path of Interstate 205. They lost the seven-year battle, but had launched a tradition of community involvement by the time I-205 cut through the city.
Maywood Park lost 82 homes to freeway construction, though residents still celebrate their victory in pressuring state officials to build I-205 below grade. Today, instead of resting beneath 30-foot-tall girders, the city’s remaining 300 homes are perched high above the freeway’s east bank between cross streets Prescott and Fremont. A sound-wall barrier and a park-like greenbelt also protect the current population of nearly 800 residents from I-205, as freeway travelers race past, oblivious to the neighborhood.
“There’s really no reason to drive through Maywood Park,” which gives the wooded, all-residential community a tranquil appeal, said current Mayor Mark Hardie. “Our mission is to maintain our independence and keep this a safe place to live.”
Hardie heads an all-volunteer city council and a new generation of activists in maintaining Maywood Park’s identity with community events and beautification projects like the city’s new welcome signs.
“Our city is what it is because of active volunteers and citizen involvement,” Hardie said. “That’s what is great about Maywood Park.”
Maywood Park was first planned as an upscale east-county subdivision in 1926, a period when Sandy Boulevard was the only connection to Portland’s then-distant downtown core. Most of the neighborhood’s Cape Cod and English-style homes were built between 1938 and 1943, said Ed Medak, owner of local firm Medak Realty.
The city’s boundaries are completely surrounded by the city of Portland today, a unique situation that has long attracted buyers, Medak said.
“It’s always been a popular area. People like the fact that Maywood Park is its own city,” he said.
Hardie said he and the city council want to keep it that way.
“I don’t know that we feel any direct pressure to be annexed, but I know Portland would love the tax monies that would come from $66 million in assessed values,” Hardie said.
Maywood Park was outside Portland’s boundaries when the smaller city incorporated in 1967. However, a few years later Oregon state legislators passed a statute that prohibits cities to incorporate in close proximity to another municipality.
Homes in Maywood Park typically sell for prices ranging between $250,000 and $350,000 on average, according to Medak. He said between 15 and 20 homes are sold annually in Maywood Park.
“Taxes in the city of Maywood Park are approximately 25 percent less than the city of Portland,” Medak said. “That attracts people, too.”
Residents also like the city’s traditions, which include a yearly Christmas lighting contest, the annual Easter egg hunt, and a Fourth of July parade and barbeque.
“This could be more expensive the longer we wait,” she said.
But Clark said she likes the family oriented community where neighbors watch over each other.
“I feel very safe here,” she said.
Hardie said dedicated volunteers help maintain Maywood Park’s public safety through a program called Park Watch.
“We’re just trying to keep trouble out and keep ourselves living happily ever after,” said Vic Baldasar, a Park Watch volunteer for the past several years.
He and wife Joanne purchased their Maywood Park retirement home in 1999, moving from a New York City neighborhood that had deteriorated with increasing crime, noise and traffic.
“This is like Eden compared to where we lived,” said Baldasar, who patrols Maywood Park daily, looking for trouble.
“I keep my eyes open for anything out of whack,” he said. “Because I love this city. I love the way people here take care of their neighbors.”
“The people within Maywood Park’s boundaries are very proud of their little town and they’re deeply involved,” said Gene Young, a resident since 1948.
In addition to its holiday celebrations, the city helps residents dispose of yard debris with an annual citywide cleanup day.
“I’d guess we fill between six to eight dumpsters total,” Young said.
At age 90, Young and his wife, Luella, 87, take daily walks along the parkway buffer between I-205 and the city’s western border, Maywood Place. The eastern border is Northeast 102nd Avenue.
The city maintains the half-mile-long parkway, which is also a portion of the I-205 Bike Lane.
“It’s beautifully landscaped,” said Young. The Youngs’ tidy, ranch-style home faces the park.
“We lost a lot of neighbors when the freeway went through,” Young said. But he and Luella say they’ve never considered moving. “We’re staying here as long as we can.”
The quiet community “almost feels like you’ve stepped back in time,” said Julie Risely, 47, a six-year resident and Maywood Park’s only paid employee. Risely works part-time as city treasurer and city recorder.
An operating budget of $547,000 paid for street maintenance and services provided by outside contractors this year.
“We were set up to operate on a balanced budget and we do so every year,” Hardie said.
The city pays for law enforcement and fire services through Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and Fire District 10. The city maintains its own streets with some outside help.
Like any Oregon municipality, Maywood Park receives utility franchise fees and portions of the state’s gas, liquor and cigarette taxes.
“We’re not Beverly Hills, but the city is doing very well financially,” Hardie said. More importantly, “citizens have a better chance to be heard,” he said, unlike those who face Portland’s larger bureaucratic system.
But there’s a downside to independence. Maywood Park was bypassed by Portland sewer lines, and thus, relies on an outdated cesspool system.
“If that system suddenly fails, we can’t replace it,” Hardie said.
The city council commissioned a feasibility study to look at new options for sewage treatment, but Hardie said he hasn’t yet received results of the study or looked at cost estimates.
“There have been no numbers developed yet,” he said. “But we definitely don’t have enough in our coffers to pay for it all.”
Hardie said federal grants may be available to help cover the cost.
The potential sewage problem is a big concern for Jenny Clark, 43, a resident since 1994.