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Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

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Portland Parks & Recreation Contributes $1.25 Million towards Thomas Cully Park Construction

 

Project Spearheaded by Verde

(Portland, OR) –

Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz announces that Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) will contribute $1.25 million towards the building of Thomas Cully Park. The 25-acre future park at Northeast 72nd Avenue north of Killingsworth will be built in multiple phases. PP&R’s contribution will go towards the first construction phase, and will address the lack of parks and natural areas in the Cully neighborhood.  405 families who currently do not have easy access to a park or natural area (defined a half-mile walk) will benefit from Thomas Cully Park. This announcement comes a week after Fritz earmarked a significant investment for two new parks in east Portland.

“The Cully neighborhood is unique; it is one of the most diverse neighborhood in Portland, perhaps the state,” notes Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “And, perhaps because of this diversity, Cully is home to some of the most dedicated and motivated community advocates in the City. I am proud to work towards our shared goal of completing Thomas Cully Park.”

60% of residents in the future Thomas Cully Park’s service area are people belonging to traditionally underserved communities, and 45% are considered low income (annual household income of $40,000 or less). The $1.25 million earmarked for Thomas Cully Park comes from System Development Charges (SDC) – money raised from construction development, rather than General Fund tax dollars.

In Central Northeast Portland, nearly two out of five households are not within ½ mile of a park or natural area. Data show that Central Northeast is second only to the area east of I-205 in terms of the greatest need for parks and natural areas in Portland.

“Commissioner Fritz and Portland Parks & Recreation’s investment in Thomas Cully Park will produce multiple benefits for low-income people and people of color,” says Alan Hipólito, Executive Director of Verde. “This new park in a park-deprived neighborhood shows a deep commitment to hundreds of our neighbors. People benefit through community engagement and community-based park design. New jobs will result, youth education opportunities are created, and health is improved with a safe place to recreate. Verde thanks the continued and significant support that Let Us Build Cully Park, PP&R, and our other partners have raised from many contributors.”

History of Thomas Cully Park

The Thomas Cully Park property was a sand and gravel mine, then a construction landfill, and is now in the process of becoming a park. The City of Portland purchased the 25-acre Thomas Cully Park property in 2002.  Working with the community, in 2008 PP&R created a master plan for Thomas Cully Park to guide future developments. This master plan was then adopted by City Council in February of 2013. In 2011, PP&R was approached by Verde, in coordination with the ‘Let Us Build Cully Park!’ coalition (a coalition of more than 17 community-based organizations) to partner with them in a new model to develop Cully Park. In June 2012, Portland City Council approved an agreement between Verde and Portland Parks & Recreation for developing the park.

Since that time, Verde has successfully raised over $2.4M thus far (including in-kind donations) to implement Phase I of the Thomas Cully Master Plan. Their total estimate for beginning Phase I work is $3,790,766. The community garden at the site was installed in 2012, and remaining improvements planned by Let Us Build Cully Park! include pathways, dog off-leash area, playgrounds and picnic areas, tribal gathering area, youth soccer field, basketball court, parking lot, restroom, north slope restoration, and improvements to NE 72nd. Implementation of Phase II of the master plan would include construction of multiple sports fields, improvements to access from NE Killingsworth, and building a parking area off of NE Killingsworth & 75th.

Students from nearby Scott School helped design the adjacent NE 72nd Ave. Community Garden, which opened in 2012, and have had input on the park’s

playground design.  A newly proposed feature, the Inter-Tribal Gathering Garden, offers unique opportunities for honoring and educating about indigenous cultural values and ethics through holistic, culturally-significant garden design and maintenance.

Challenges Remain

As Portland Parks & Recreation commits to new parks in communities where none currently exist and to expanding other parks, many existing parks are at a crossroads. For decades, operating funding has been cut or remained flat forcing PP&R to postpone rehabilitation and maintenance in every neighborhood throughout the city. PP&R has maintenance needs totaling over $400 million. From aging playground replacements to leaking roofs, the list of needs is huge, and grows every year that we don’t address it. The beautiful parks we love to visit are being held together by thousands of volunteers and wonderful employees going above and beyond the call of duty.

The funding being used to create new parks is restricted to expanding capacity only. It cannot be used to maintain or repair existing facilities. It is insufficient to address the hundreds of park projects needed by our rapidly growing neighborhoods – an additional need of $450 million.  Commissioner Fritz adds more context to this endeavor.

“Investing in new parks now is the right thing to do,” she says. “For more than a hundred years, Portlanders built our parks system through a series of legacy investments. Now, we don’t have funding for the needs in growing neighborhoods, nor for maintenance of existing facilities. It’s time for Portland to begin to think about what our legacy will be. Will it be a legacy of increased equity and increased commitment to our region’s uniquely beautiful parks and natural areas? I hope so.”

 

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