A park celebrating Astoria’s Scandinavian heritage will emphasize what the early immigrants had in common — and might come with a troll.
The Scandinavian Heritage Park Committee unveiled two designs for the park at a community meeting Tuesday. The feedback from the dozens of people who attended brings them one step closer to a final design, said committee chairwoman Judi Lampi.
A number of hurdles remain before Scandinavian Heritage Park can become a reality, but park planners say they want to create a space that is able to meet a variety of needs, providing a place for contemplation and reverence, but also somewhere for children to play and families to relax.
The Scandinavian Heritage Association received permission from the City Council to design a monument at Peoples Park downtown in 2017. The heritage association, the group behind the Astoria Scandinavian Midsummer Festival, has long sought a monument that celebrates their ancestors’ contributions to the city and the stories of their arrival. Plans for the park have been three years in the making, said Janet Bowler, vice chairwoman of the park committee.
The park committee still needs to secure permits and will need to coordinate with nearby private property owners and businesses. Fundraising efforts are ongoing, but the park committee estimates enhancing Peoples Park could cost between $650,000 and $900,000.
The committee hopes to have a final proposal ready by October and in front of the City Council for approval by the end of the year, Bowler said. The city’s Historic Landmarks Commission will also need to review the final design.
Peoples Park, between 15th and 16th streets on Marine Drive, includes a parking lot and a grassy area dotted with trees and shrubs. Most days the park is empty, except at midday, when Filling Empty Bellies, a nonprofit that works with the homeless, serves free lunch six days a week.
The designs for what could be the new version of Peoples Park include a midsummer pole, a flag display and a troll sculpture. Both designs also use text, pictures and other types of sculptures, panels or maps to convey the rich history of Scandinavians in Astoria. The designs also retain most of the trees and grassy, natural parkland. The final design will likely be a blend of elements from the two different designs.
Nancy Lane, who sits on the park committee, said it was difficult to find symbols or items to represent all the Scandinavian nationalities that immigrated to Astoria. Lane and her daughter talked about what the people would have had in common. Steamer trunks, they decided. At Tuesday’s meeting, Lane read from a statement advocating for the inclusion of a sculpture depicting piled steamer trunks.
“They all left their families to come here to start a new life and they had everything in that one trunk,” Lane said later.
Steamer trunks are something the park designers have considered including, though not piled up as Lane suggested. They hoped to have sculptures of trunks placed next to each other to do double duty as interpretive tools and as places to rest or play.
“This is just the beginning of this process,” Lampi reminded the audience Tuesday. “There are still a lot of unknowns.”