While visiting Portland recently, my partner and I dropped by Common Ground after hearing (on a social network) a positive reference from a trans* friend. When we arrived, I was pleased to find that the staff had a thoughtful, intentional, and well-executed technique of ensuring that the space felt safe for all users. It's unfortunate that many North Americans (men, primarily) don't have a grasp of appropriate behaviour in a clothing-free, gender-orientation-and-race-mixed environment, but I thought that Common Ground's new visitor process was really successful at setting a good tone in a positive way.
Sure, I wouldn't mind if Common Ground had a few extra amenities, like lockers, or a quiet, comfortable room to rest or cool down, but they do occupy a small space and I think they're done a very good job of organising it. I *really* like that the hot pool is outside, yet enclose and distant from the surrounding hubbub.
My partner had a massage, and I joined her afterward in the hot pools. I would have liked to have been able to be flexible about how long I spent, rather than have committed to a completion time, but I can also appreciate how a reservation system helps to ensure that the space isn't overcrowded too. While one can certainly visit Common Ground just a nice soak and/or sauna, is really a more comprehensive wellness facility, and the treatment options are as important as the pools and sauna. If one is inclined to treat it strictly as a recreational activity, one might be slightly disappointed. However, I would highly recommend Common Ground with a desire for a slightly broader experience.
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