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Parks & Recreation

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

Phone: 503-823-PLAY (7529)

Fax: 503-823-6007

1120 SW Fifth Ave., Suite 1302, Portland, OR 97204

1981-2000

1981
Maintenance staff spent much of the last half of 1980 restoring the art center at Lair Hill that had been firebombed three years earlier. The 1920s-era building on SW Second opened in January to provide art, dance, and music classes for toddlers and preschool age children. The 1981/82 budget cut many staff positions and funds for several programs, including theMaintenance Control Center. In April, Mayor Ivancie added $500,000 and half the staff positions originally proposed to be cut from the budget to allow for summer playground programs, some gym time, and summer band concerts. The Council suggested increasing recreation fees to make programs 50% self-sustaining, but just 15% self-sustainability would mean a doubling of fees. Some fee increases were necessary, and many were made, but special children's programs and disabled citizens programs escaped unchanged. A private, non-profit Land Trust was formed to raise funds for the 40 Mile Loop project. Lilla Leach died in 1980, and planning began this year for the Leach Botanical Garden with a volunteer organization, the Leach Garden Friends.

1982
When the Northwest District Association asked the Parks Bureau about the possibility of building tennis courts under I-405, planners discovered a long-lost agreement wherein funds from the State Highway Department subleasing lands under I-405 were promised for the use of Northwest neighborhood improvement. After some study, it was discovered that noise and fumes made the tennis court idea unfeasible, but the neighborhood association decided to use the funds, at least partially, to improve Couch and Wallace Parks. Rick Zenn started a naturalist program for children; he visited parks and provided nature activities to get kids involved in exploring parks. The goal was not only to create an interest in birding, plant identification, and ecology, but also to inculcate a respect and investment in parks to prevent vandalism. The National Park Service awarded $220,500 to develop both Leach Botanical Garden and Delta Park. In December, the City Council cut $1 million from the budget.

1983
Because of budget cuts in December 1982, the Parks Bureau reduced community center hours (all were closed on weekends in the fall), opened summer swimming pools two weeks late, and turned lights off in the parks during normal park closure hours between midnight and 5:00am. Budget cuts also forced parks to begin charging a fee for swimming pool use, making it the last major municipality in the U.S. to do so. The Washington Park Summer Festival was shortened by one week, but many performers volunteered their time to make the event happen despite limited funding. After working with downtown residents to identify which parks suffered problems related to outdoor alcohol use, a ban on alcohol in North Park Blocks, Couch Park, and O'Bryant Square became effective in August. With funds from various sources, including the Oregon State Federation of Garden Clubs, and the efforts of many volunteers, the Leach Botanical Garden formally opened to the public with a new parking lot completed and a study center in the works.

1984
In January, the alcohol ban covered other downtown parks: South Park Blocks, Waterfront Park , and the Skidmore-Ankeny Block. Alcohol consumption in downtown parks was now only allowed with a special permit. Downtown Waterfront Park was officially renamed Tom McCall Waterfront Park, in honor of former Governor McCall who had worked so diligently to create the park and who had died in 1983. Amidst all the budget cuts, Commissioner Jordan and Superintendent Owens began working with private developers and Friends groups to continue to improve Portland's park system. For example, Marquam Nature Park trails were completed this year through private fund-raising efforts. Similarly, an agreement with developers provided land, through the leasing of waterfront property for houseboats, for Sellwood Riverfront Park, the development of which was funded through grants and city matching funds. A National Park Service grant paid for the renovation of three blocks between Jefferson and Columbia in the South Park Blocks.

During the summer, police barricaded several streets in Washington Park beginning at 8:00pm to prevent disturbances and reduce noise in the surrounding neighborhood. Mt. Tabor Park was closed to traffic Monday-Thursday and after 8:00pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In 1982, Multnomah County cut funding for its parks and planned to phase them out, making plans to transfer useable parks to the Portland Parks Bureau. Argay and Beech Parks were transferred from the County this year.

1985
A vestry was added to Oaks Pioneer Church to provide additional space for restrooms and dressing rooms for wedding parties. Outside fund-raising continued to garner support for parks as REI donated $7,500 for the completion of trails in the West Hills which would connect Council Crest Park to Washington Park. In the Recreation Division, a special corporate recreation program was developed to supplement the explosion of corporate gyms in the 1980s; the expectation was that new corporate benefits packages that focused on disease prevention, fitness, and stress reduction would include Parks Bureau programs such as skiing lessons and art classes. The program also encouraged the rental of various Parks Bureau sites (swim pools, gyms, and Pittock Mansion ) for corporate parties and events.

The City Council passed a resolution to make the Parks Bureau head of the 140 miles of Multnomah County recreation area under construction for the 40 Mile Loop. The Land Trust was still responsible for acquiring land, but the Bureau would now coordinate activities between the different cities and groups involved. On October 15, the County transferred four more parks to the City: Sacajawea, Floyd Light, John Luby, and Cherry Parks.

1986
A 6.3-acre park with asphalt walks, riverfront beach, and picnic tables was formally dedicated in July as Sellwood Riverfront Park. The park also featured a sheltered wetland pond that served to extend the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge farther north. It marked a positive advance in working with outside groups to find funding; SMILE, the Oregon State Marine Board, the National Park Service, and the federal Housing and Community Development Commission, along with funds raised from leasing waterfront property to developers, provided much of the $304,000 to build the park. Multnomah County transferred Brentwood Park, Park 51, and two acres on top of Rocky Butte to the City. The state transferred 14 acres between SE 99 & 105 near Powell (now Ed Benedict Park) for soccer and softball fields. In return, the City donated $80,000 worth of summer maintenance to tend state right-of-way property for four years.

On August 1, William V. Owens, a thirty-year veteran of the Parks Bureau, retired after serving six years as Superintendent. Cleveland Williams, previously a Recreation Services Director for the City of Oakland, California, became the new Superintendent. Some of his plans included cleaner restrooms, more playfields, and more partnerships with both public and private groups.

1987
Budget cuts again hit the Parks Bureau hard. The cuts eliminated five full-time and 95 part-time positions, including a gardener position for the Japanese Garden. It decreased the already slender maintenance budget, which had been cut back by 60% over the previous ten years. Leaky roofs, poor irrigation, and 65-year-old lighting systems, which needed to be replaced, could only be fixed temporarily. Graffiti removal was not provided for. Worse yet, funding for tree maintenance and flower planting was cut dramatically. In Recreation, budget cuts meant a cut in the number of summer playground programs (almost by half) and in the number of youth sports officials. In the past, stronger efforts had been made by the City Council to continue to provide optimum youth services, yet this year, funds for the Washington Park Summer Festival were saved instead.

In response to the cuts, the Bureau devised the Park Futures Project and held community meetings in different areas of town to discover which direction citizens wanted the Bureau to head in the next ten years. People expressed the need for more playfields and lighting, better maintenance, and increased safety in the parks. Friends of Portland Parks, an umbrella group to consolidate the efforts of 40 of the local park-related Friends groups, formed to put out a catalog of items needed in the park system. The catalog came out in October and offered citizens the chance to purchase items, from a $10 shrub to a $975 picnic table, to donate to the parks. Other items included playground and maintenance equipment, funding for larger improvement projects, and even Recreation Division classes. Other funds for the catalog came from Portland Power & Light, U.S. National Bank, and The Oregonian. And, as in years past, volunteers aided in providing increased services to the public; in 1987, more than 4,000 volunteers worked 142,000 hours for the Bureau.

After a long planning process, including the completion of a master plan and development of a creative funding program, Powell Butte, a Water Bureau property which served as a key water storage and distribution center, came under the management of the Parks Bureau.

1988
A fountain using recycled water and an underground computer to create a variety of designs with 185 jets was installed at SW Salmon in Waterfront Park. So many major events were being held in and causing so much damage to Waterfront Park that the Parks Bureau instated a higher rental fee to cover park maintenance expenses. In addition, a new scheduling system limited the number of events and allowed time between events for proper restoration work. The Eastmoreland Clubhouse was remodeled and expanded. The Office of Transportation took over funding for maintenance of street area landscaping (although the Parks Bureau continued to manage the work). The Street Lighting Fund did the same for lights in public rights-of-way along parks, as did the Water Bureau for fountains within the city. A Neighborhood Park Security Program was instituted and funds were provided to support a park security force to prevent drug-dealing, disturbances, and vandalism in the parks. Adult recreation activity fees, park usage permit fees, golf fees, and some parking fees were increased. Even children's fees were increased; for example, Goldenball team registration went up. Worse yet, fees for typically young-adult-oriented activities increased; previously free open gyms started charging fees and weight room fees for a 3-month pass doubled. While some efforts (scholarships and staff-approved waivers) were made to prevent at-risk youth from falling through the cracks, many were not served as they had been in the past. The dance program at Metro Dance Center joined the program at Theatre Workshop. Development was underway for public access to Smith & Bybee Lakes, Oaks Bottom, and Beggar’s Tick Marsh.

1989
Cleveland Williams resigned as Superintendent, and Ron Maynard, Business Manager of the Parks Bureau, served as Interim Superintendent until the appointment of Charles Jordan (former Commissioner of Public Safety) on December 28. A contest was held to name the fountain in Waterfront Park; the winning name was Salmon Street Springs. Voters approved a $7.3 million levy for park improvements, which included $20,000 for trails and several million to rebuild and cover Matt Dishman Pool and to rehabilitate the Matt Dishman Community Center (formerly the Knott Street Community Center). Another levy approved this year provided $3 million to restore and extend the park lighting system. Park managers and elected officials from Vancouver, Portland, and other cities in the Metro jurisdiction visited the East Bay Regional Park District in Oakland, California to explore how to undertake regional park planning, and in 1990, a resolution was drafted. Goodyear began advertising on the tower overlooking the racetrack at the Portland International Raceway for $25,000 per year. Portland International Raceway added a professional driving school. A winter storm caused approximately $200,000 worth of damage in the City's rose gardens. The Operation EAGLE (Early Adventures in Golf for a Lifetime of Enjoyment) Program was developed as a two-year internship opportunity for eligible sophomores attending Portland public high schools.

1990
Powell Butte Nature Park opened to the public. The City of Portland, along with 21 other cities, passed Metro's resolution to support a program for regional cooperation to protect and preserve metropolitan greenspaces. The Metro Council assumed a leadership role in this undertaking - setting policies, aiding with funding, and coordinating the efforts of government agencies, Friends groups, nonprofit conservation organizations, and private consulting firms - and designated the Greenspaces Program a priority activity of the agency. The City Arts budget was cut by $59,000, a 50% cut which eliminated the Washington Park Summer Festival. The Bureau experienced other, less dramatic, budget cuts in the areas of staffing, litter control, and community schools. The aquatics program expanded with increased pool hours and two weeks added to the summer pool schedule. Funding for rental of Pioneer Courthouse Square was transferred from Special Appropriations to the Parks Bureau. Thirteen capital improvement projects were undertaken, including asbestos removal, restroom restoration, and play equipment replacement.

The Park Security Program consolidated with the Natural Resources Program. A new golf program for disadvantaged youth began in conjunction with the Portland Interscholastic League, the Oregon Golf Association, and the golf course concessionaires. The program provided golf-related job training, golf instruction, and school credit hours to at-risk high school students. Offices at Portland International Raceway were expanded and gravel barrier pits installed. Work restoring the rose gardens began. The Aging Services program, which provided a range of quality services for the development and protection of Portland 's elderly population, was transferred to the Recreation Division for fiscal year 1990/91. In November, voters approved Measure 5, a ballot measure to limit property taxes which necessitated an almost 19% reduction in the Bureau budget for the 1991/92 fiscal year.

1991
The Parks Bureau again faced budget cuts, which greatly affected organization and staffing, as well as various programs. The Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center program was transferred to the Recreation Division in fiscal year 1991/92. Budget limitations effectively shut down regular operations at the Scene and Costume Shop, relegating it to the status of storage facility, and necessitated the leasing of the Firehouse Theatre to a non-profit organization. Several changes were made in the Administration Division of the Bureau, including the elimination of the Communications Director position as well as a few full- and part-time administrative clerical positions. Several fee increases were instated, from youth athletic team fees to Pittock Mansion entrance fees. Maintenance cuts were made to Ladd’s Rose Gardens since they were deemed the least "public" of the rose gardens. And, the international seed collection and exchange program at Hoyt Arboretum was discontinued. Other reductions affecting parks directly were decreases in litter removal, mowing, plant replacement, and cleaning of walks, plazas, and sports courts.

Public comment urged City Council to provide a $2,666,000 increase in the Bureau's budget, allowing for continued funding of community center, community school, and summer playground programs. It also allowed for the use of Arbortec, a new treatment for Dutch Elm disease, on the elms in the South Park Blocks. Since the 1990/91 fiscal year budget accounted for the position, the Recreation Division was also able to hire a new supervisor to develop and oversee programming for at-risk youth. The Metropolitan Greenspaces Program received $1.134 million in grants (over two fiscal years) to act as one of only two projects nationwide demonstrating planning for regional open spaces and natural areas.

The name of the Parks Bureau was officially changed to Portland Parks & Recreation to better reflect its recreation component.

1992
Although the 1989 levy provided funds for a skateboard park, choosing a location proved controversial, and Portland Parks & Recreation recognized it did not have the expertise to build or manage the kind of indoor park eventually recommended. Howard Weiner found a site and contracted with PP&R to manage the new indoor skateboard park, City Skate, at 519 SE Main. Revenue produced from entrance fees would cover expenses. The Parks Improvement Levy Fund also provided for two positions to be reinstated: a maintenance mechanic and a recreational instructor.

Monies from the General Fund, various grants, and the Portland Parks Trust Fund allowed improvements to irrigation systems and improvements to the Matt Dishman Community Center. Youth golf programs underwent some changes, with the result being three separate programs: 1) classroom introduction to the sport of golf in middle schools; 2) the EAGLE program, paid internships for highly motivated high school students to learn the golf industry by working on municipal golf courses; and 3) Project Par Excellence, introducing at-risk youth to the game of golf with mature golfers who act as sponsors. Greens fees for golf were increased. Matt Dishman Pool was completed and opened to the public. The new facilities included an indoor pool, new showers, a spa, and bleachers that were paid for mostly by funds from the 1989 levy; Nike contributed $250,000 to the project after a shortfall was realized.

Charlie Hales became Commissioner of Parks this year. In April, Portland Parks & Recreation received the Tree City, USA, Growth Award from the National Arbor Day Foundation for its partnerships in tree-planting efforts with groups like Friends of Trees, and for its efforts to protect trees during development work. In September, the City gave half of Denorval Unthank Park to Self-Enhancement, Inc. (SEI), a helping organization for inner-city youth, to develop a community center. Since PP&R had no money to develop a center of its own, this partnership would help to create a center with classrooms, a gym, and an auditorium for under-served students.

1993
Vera Katz became Mayor of Portland. Portland Parks & Recreation needed to make improvements to various properties to conform to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guidelines, yet it lacked the funds to do so. Fifteen years of budget cuts had seriously hurt PP&R and hindered the development or even proper maintenance of Portland 's park system. The City Council this year gave PP&R $3 million specifically earmarked to implement the ADA Transition Plan.

Development began on an old, run-down parking lot on the Willamette Greenway to create Macadam Bay Butterfly Park. In December, PP&R received loans through the City’s new Innovations Loan Fund which provided seed money for revenue-producing improvements and projects. The funds would go to set up a slide at Grant Pool, to computerize course registration and park permits, and to install wells and pumps to irrigate Waterfront Park. The neighborhood rejected the Grant Pool slide, however, and it was eventually installed at Wilson Pool instead.

1994
The November election brought good news for Portland Parks & Recreation with the passage of Measure 26-10, a bond issue that included 114 projects at 99 locations throughout the city. The master plan developed for the bond measure was the result of the Park Futures Project begun in 1987. After 24 public meetings, a survey of 1,200 people, as well as numerous focus groups and community interviews, the plan was accepted in 1992 identifying $100 million worth of development. Subsequent planning reviews selected the most beneficial as well environmentally and financially sound projects, cutting the proposed budget to $58.8 million. Many of the proposed projects would increase resources by adding new community centers and parks to under-served areas. Other parks and buildings would receive much-needed improvements such as new lighting, irrigation, and paths in parks and updated heating, plumbing, and electrical systems in buildings.

1995
In mid-July, Portland Parks & Recreation offered dog off-leash areas on a six-month trial basis in Gabriel and Mt. Tabor Parks. Chimney Park, too remote to be a regular neighborhood park, was entirely leash-free. In order to focus on corporate fundraising and partnerships, Superintendent Jordan temporarily turned operation of PP&R over to David Judd, Deputy Director since 1989. Students at Milwaukie High School joined in a three-phase project to restore Johnson Creek Park. The project included efforts to stabilize the creek bank, to remove the storm pipe, and to create an area more conducive to wildlife.

The key focus of the year was the initiation of several bond projects. Much of the year was spent in planning new parks and buildings, such as the East Portland Community Center, the East Delta Sports Fields, and Ed Benedict Park, as well as in planning improvements to old sites such as St. Johns Community Center. Another focus was finding sites for new soccer fields to accommodate an ever-increasing interest in the sport. Construction began in many existing parks to renovate irrigation systems and pathways, and sometimes to add parking lots or play equipment. Work in Community Gardens, which generally consisted of adding fencing and gates and improving access, was completed in most cases this year.

1996
Jim Francesconi became the new Commissioner of Parks this year. It was decided, amid much conflict, to continue to pursue a dog off-leash area plan in Chimney, Gabriel, and Mt. Tabor Parks. Much of the 16.5-mile Springwater Corridor walking/biking/riding trail was completed with the aid of many community groups, including Friends of Springwater, the 40-Mile Loop Trust, Friends of Trees, and Volkswalkers. It opened to the public on September 28. The trail from McLoughlin Boulevard to Gresham was completed (the City of Gresham had already built the part of the trail that lay within Gresham city limits). The rest of the planned trail, east of Gresham and from OMSI to McLoughlin Boulevard, remained undeveloped until 1999. Work continued on bond projects, and new construction began on the William V. Owens Softball Complex at Delta Park and the East Portland Community Center.

From 1960 to the late 1980s, the primary funding source for park improvements and acquisitions was from grants, such as UPARR, Urban Demonstration, and HCD grants. The passage of Ballot Measure 47, which again limited property taxes, changed the way that Portland Parks & Recreation operated since much of its capital funding historically had come from property tax levies and from bond issues which are repaid with property tax monies. PP&R now had to rely even more heavily on various non-profit groups (such as the many Friends groups) to raise funds and organize events; fortunately, Portland had enough caring citizens to help effect such a change. Funds donated by Friends groups and corporations along with grants from various state agencies also allowed for many improvements to the park system.

Volunteers continued to make remarkable contributions to PP&R, providing almost 500,000 hours at an estimated value of more than $3 million. Sharing resources with various city agencies, such as Portland Public Schools (sharing gyms, classrooms, and fields), allowed PP&R to provide more services than it could have otherwise.

1997
Difficulties with dogs running loose and bothering pedestrians encouraged the creation of a new, fenced off-leash area in Mt. Tabor Park, one that was farther away from regular pedestrian traffic. The new SEI (Self-Enhancement, Inc.) center opened in March and featured a gym, a dance & theatre complex, a health clinic, music rooms, and a computer lab; its mission was to cultivate job skills, cultural awareness, academic excellence, and physical health in inner-city youth. The Urban Forestry Division planted almost 2,000 trees in parks and on residential streets, and the division worked on a Community Tree Protection Program to get a new ordinance passed to protect trees on undeveloped properties and to educate citizens to care effectively for urban trees. Two new programs were started: Adopt-a-Park which incorporates education, stewardship, and community, and the Tree Liaison program which trains members of the community to care for trees in their neighborhoods. Portland Parks & Recreation worked in conjunction with the Bureau of Environmental Services to restore the banks in Columbia Slough and the newly-acquired Johnson Lake.

Many bond project improvements were completed this year. The renovation of Sellwood Pool included a new filtration system as well as a zero-depth play area for small children and non-swimmers. The Hillside Community Center improvements featured an ADA-approved entrance and lobby, updated fire and safety systems, and new restrooms. Tennis courts were rebuilt in Irving Park, and PP&R's first water slide was added at Wilson Pool. Field #8 in East Delta Park was converted into a championship-size, synthetic grass soccer field with $240,000 in additional funds from the Rob Strasser Foundation. The problem of muddy, slippery fields resulting in both injuries and turf damage was solved with the synthetic grass which drains well, requires less maintenance, and has no mud. The synthetic grass was also installed at the field at Mary Rieke School. Almost immediately, soccer teams throughout the city began requesting game time on these newly updated fields. Perhaps the largest new project to be completed for the year was the William V. Owens Softball Complex in East Delta Park, and softball teams from the PMSA (Portland Metro Softball Association) leagues began vying for field time in May.

1998
Nike’s World Masters Games were held in Portland, with many events sponsored at Portland Parks & Recreation sites, such as Delta Park and Waterfront Park. Aquatics Director Doug Brenner was proud to receive, on behalf of PP&R, the National Parks and Recreation Association's Excellence in Aquatics Award. The Pacific Northwest Regional Council of NPRA granted the Dorothy Mullen Arts & Humanities Award to the Summer Performing Arts Workshop. The course registration and field and park permit computer system installed in 1993 was updated. The new East Portland Community Center, the first new community center built in over 85 years, opened in April, offering an amazing array of intergenerational courses and services for the residents of outer Southeast Portland. In May, St. Johns Community Center reopened with new classrooms, new restrooms, and a new kitchen. Montavilla Community Center improvements were also completed, and a new deck and slide were added to its pool.

Renovations in neighborhood parks continued, and many such projects were completed; for example, the kitchen was removed and a new drain valve installed in Laurelhurst Park. New, safer playground equipment was installed in parks around the city. PP&R employees also worked hard to educate voters about a new bond measure. Amidst all the positive improvements from the 1994 bond issue, Measure 26-70, a second bond issue which would have created more neighborhood parks, improved aging park facilities, and provided additional recreational opportunities to all citizens, was defeated in November. The City authorized the establishment of a System Development Charge for PP&R to generate funds for land acquisition for future parks.

1999
A collaborative effort between PP&R, the Portland Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society, and the Friends of Crystal Springs resulted in several improvements to the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden: the construction of a gatehouse, a wheelchair accessible entrance to the garden, and an extension of the Elaine D. Floweree Terrace Garden. The new Southwest Community Center , located in Gabriel Park and funded by Measure 26-10, opened in June. The Will Hathaway Adventure Playground was dedicated on October 19 at the Multnomah Arts Center. Hathaway was the center's director for 25 years, retiring in 1998.

Work began on Parks 2020 Vision - the most comprehensive master plan done for Portland's parks and recreation system in decades. It is a broad-based, citizen-driven directive that presents the vision, guiding principles, issues, opportunities, and recommendations for Portland Parks & Recreation for the next 20 years, covering everything from parks, open space, and natural areas to community centers and swimming pools. A Vision Team made up of citizens and staff guided preparation of the plan which was based on extensive public input.

2000
The projects funded by the 1994 bond issue were completed: a new indoor aquatics center at Mt. Scott Community Center and renovations to 52 playgrounds, 46 park restrooms, five pools, six community centers, and a host of sports fields and play courts. The $3.8 million renovation of RedTail Golf Course was completed in June. The 2000 USGA Public Links Championship took place at Heron Lakes Golf Course in July.

PP&R's Integrated Pest Management Program was approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service and was included in the Federal Register for meeting Endangered Species Act requirements.

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