Girl's tragic death leads to new sidewalks in East Portland


by Pat Dooris

Posted on July 10, 2013 at 5:59 AM

PORTLAND -- The mother of a five-year-old hit and killed on a busy street in front of her East Portland home said it is bittersweet that the death of her daughter finally brought sidewalks to the neighborhood.

Morgan Maynard-Cook died on Southeast 136th Street after she ran out in front of a car on her way home February 28th.

“Terrible, we notice it every day. Everything we do. There’s just a huge chunk missing,” said Morgan’s mom Connie Ruiz said of life without Morgan.

After the child's death, her mother urged city and state leaders to find money to build sidewalks over a two mile stretch from Southeast Division Street to Southeast Foster Road.

The City of Portland came up with more than $1 million to start to the project and state legislator Shemia Fagan, representing parts of Southeast Portland, raised the rest.

Fagan secured $3.6 million for the sidewalks on the very last day of the legislative session.

“I went there with the knowledge I had to deliver the priorities my constituents wanted and in East Portland, what they wanted was safe streets for their kids,” said Fagan.

But she gave most of the credit to Morgan’s family.

“The fact is they had every right to grieve in private, slam the door and do what any other family would do. But instead they led the fight and they made sure they held the city’s feet to the fire and they held my feet to the fire as a state legislator,” said Fagan.

The sidewalk project has been underway. City survey crews took measurements Tuesday as part of the planning process.

The actual construction can’t start soon enough for many who use the busy street, including Jonathan Lindley, who rode his bike with sons Lukas and Oliver in a trailer towed behind.

“It’s very nerve-wracking with the kids in the trailer,” Lindley said. “They’re contained but I don’t know if cars behind me are paying attention and it’s either choose the pot holes in the side or the smooth ride for them,” he said.

Construction on the new sidewalks will begin this fall near Division Street. Eventually they will stretch past Morgan’s home, all the way to Southeast Foster Road.

Her mother is pleased.

“If it keeps another family from experiencing what we’ve experienced, then I feel it’s wonderful and an honor and a tribute to her,” Connie Ruiz said.