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What if Portland and its neighborhoods could help us be healthier? What if the things we need every day — like healthy food, local schools, shops and transit to get to jobs and destinations throughout the city — were just a convenient walk or bike ride away from home? What if trees and natural areas were woven into our city so that nature was an integral part of our neighborhoods and people could easily enjoy the benefits of being outdoors?
Neighborhoods that make healthy options affordable, attractive and convenient make it much easier to live a healthy lifestyle. For example, people who live in neighborhoods with nearby shops and services, safe pedestrian and bicycle paths, and transit access can make walking and biking a part of their daily lives. Not only is this kind of neighborhood more attractive, it can also help reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease and diabetes and save residents money on transportation. Neighborhoods with trees and less traffic have better air quality, which can reduce respiratory problems like asthma. And parks, public spaces, community events, and places where people feel comfortable on their streets, allow Portlanders more chances to exercise, relax and spend time with friends and family, improving both their physical and emotional well-being.
Right now, roughly half of Portlanders live in neighborhoods where they can walk or bike to parks, businesses, schools, and frequent bus or light rail transit. But many of us live in neighborhoods where this isn’t possible. Perhaps our streets don’t have sidewalks or safe places to bike. Maybe there aren’t shops or a grocery store nearby, a bus stop or a developed park. And while many of Portland’s natural areas are protected — like Forest Park, Powell Butte and Tryon Creek — there are many opportunities to create better wildlife connections between these areas, to bring nature into more neighborhoods and better connect residents and wildlife with the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.
In the next 25 years, Portland is expected to grow by 105,000 - 136,000 households. While this growth certainly means new development and changes, it also gives us an opportunity to reinforce and enhance our city's quality of life, accessibility and vitality, and nurture the health of our community and our natural environment.
The City of Portland — along with its partner agencies, including Multnomah County, Metro, school systems and a wide variety of community and nonprofit organizations — is working with the community to plan for the City’s future through the Portland Plan. The Portland Plan will include a strategic plan to make Portland a thriving and sustainable city – a city that is prosperous, healthy and rich in opportunity for all. The plan is organized around key strategies to meet these goals over the next 25 years and short-term actions to get us started. The draft strategies, which are being shared with the community through the spring, address the issues that Portlanders indicated they care about the most: Equity, Education, Economic Prosperity and Affordability, and Healthy Connected Neighborhoods.
The Healthy Connected Neighborhoods Strategy aims to enhance human and environmental health. It also proposes to connect people with nature, neighborhoods, businesses and each other through a system of neighborhood hubs linked by a network of greenways and habitat corridors that bring nature into the city.
These neighborhood hubs would be centers of community life, serving as anchors for “20-minute neighborhoods.” They would be walkable places with concentrations of neighborhood businesses, community services, housing and public gathering places that provide residents with options to live a healthy, active lifestyle. Linked by convenient, high-quality transit, they would also be places where getting around by walking, biking or wheelchair is safe and pleasant. Portland already has a number of places like this, such as Multnomah Village, Montavilla and St. Johns. The Healthy Connected Neighborhood Strategy will ensure that more neighborhoods would be targeted for attention and resources, making the benefits of this kind of healthy lifestyle available to more Portlanders.
These vibrant neighborhood hubs would be connected to the city’s natural areas and rivers through three types of greenways; habitat, neighborhood and civic.
Habitat Greenways include forest and stream corridors and lush neighborhood tree canopies. These greenways would help preserve existing natural areas and restore degraded habitat. They would also serve to recreate habitat connections that improve stream water quality and provide travel ways for native and migratory birds, fish and other wildlife.
Neighborhood Greenways would encompass a citywide network of green streets and trails that make it safer and more fun to walk and bike in the city, while also treating stormwater runoff. They would extend into neighborhoods and provide park-like connections to natural areas, parks, schools, business districts and other key community destinations.
Civic Greenways would transform Portland's major streets, such as Sandy, Barbur and Powell Boulevards, into premier streets for pedestrian safety, community pride and environmentally friendly design.
To succeed, the Healthy Connected Neighborhood Strategy will mean doing things differently with the community.
To achieve a healthy Portland, we must work together to create a city that provides access to healthy options for everyone. We’ll have to make it a priority to improve conditions for those who have poor access to the environment, services and amenities, transportation options, and opportunities for healthy living — regardless of income, race, ethnicity, age or ability. It also means we’ll have to start considering how our public decisions impact the health of our residents and our environment.
As a community, we’ll need to plan and invest in a way that is appropriate for the unique needs and characteristics of different parts of the Portland. Each neighborhood’s natural environment, businesses, and local community needs and assets mean that there can’t be a one-size-fits-all formula for ensuring each one is a healthy place to live. It’s likely that what neighborhood hubs and greenways look like — and how they function — will also be different in the Southwest hills, for instance, compared to inner-eastside or outer east neighborhoods.
But wherever we live in Portland, a safe and healthy neighborhood is important to us all. Through the Healthy Connected Neighborhood Strategy, we can focus our public investments to make every neighborhood a place residents can live healthy and active lives.
Want to know more about how to create healthy connected neighborhoods? Interested in what this strategy might mean for you and your neighborhood? For more information and to give your feedback, visit www.pdxplan.com or call 503-823-2041.