Parks are essential to our quality of life in Portland. The city leaders and voters who established and invested in Portland’s parks left a remarkable legacy. Yet, access to parks is not shared equally among Portlanders. In East Portland, two out of every five households do not have ready access to a city park. That is in contrast to the rest of Portland where four out of every five households live within a half mile of a park or natural area.
East Portland needs more parks. After the City Council adopted the East Portland Action Plan in 2009, Parks Commissioner Nick Fish and Parks Directors Santner and Abbaté began to address this park deficiency by adding amenities to twelve existing parks in East Portland, in the E-205 Project. Due to the recession, funding was not available to build completed parks.
New East Portland Parks
This park is adjacent to Shaver Elementary School in the Parkrose School District, in the Argay neighborhood of NE Portland. It will feature grand views, a sports field and basketball court, accessible play and picnic areas, community gardens and much more. Learn more here.
Gateway Park & Plaza
I hope this park on NE Halsey will become the heart of the community in the Gateway Urban Renewal Area, featuring flexible green spaces for playing and picnicking, as well as a plaza ready to accommodate a variety of events, festivals, and farmers' markets. The Portland Development Commission is our partner on this project, contributing to funding and seeking private investment to develop a building on NE Halsey adjacent to the new park. Learn more here.
This year, we will take a significant step in addressing historical inequities in Portland’s parks. The improving economy, and dollars generated from development fees, have created a dedicated funding source for building new parks.
“Provide parks for people who don’t have one.” Since becoming the Commissioner in Charge of Portland Parks & Recreation in June 2013, I have heard from parks enthusiasts all over Portland, neighborhood associations, the Parks Board, a subcommittee of the Coalition of Communities of Color, and many other groups and individuals. The direction is clear: “Provide parks for people who don’t have one.”
I thank the community leaders and volunteers who are engaged in a decision-making process that is not easy. There are inequities in every Portland neighborhood, and insufficient resources to correct them all. In deciding which parks to build, I asked seven key questions:
- Which new parks would serve the most people currently lacking access to any park?
- Which communities would they serve?
- Where is the greatest need?
- Which would best serve the City’s equity goals?
- Which could be completed with the available funding, from “none to done” in one project?
- Which would leverage other dollars from key partners?
- Which would provide service to key partners and other public interests?
Yesterday, leaders from the City Council, Multnomah County, Metro, and the State Legislature joined me in re-affirming our commitment to correct disparities in East Portland. I announced plans to build two new parks in East Portland, with most of the work completed before I leave office at the end of 2016.
Together, these parks represent a $12.4 million investment in East Portland. They will serve more than 1,790 households that currently are not located within walking distance of any Portland park.
At the same time that Portland Parks & Recreation commits to new parks in communities where none currently exist, we all must recognize that many of our existing parks are at a crossroads. Parks has maintenance needs totaling over $400 million, as well as an additional $480 million needed to buy and improve new parks and facilities within existing parks. The funds for new parks ( development fees) cannot be used for maintenance.
Investing in new parks now is the right thing to do. 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.
I invite you to join me in the continuing discussions around how to invest in the parks and our communities over the next few years. While we rejoice in providing two new parks in East Portland, there is much more work to be done.
Amanda Fritz, Parks Commissioner