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Portland Parks & Recreation

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Updated Master Plan approved for Portland’s iconic Washington Park

Rendering is courtesy of PLACE Studio, LLC

POSTED MARCH 15, 2018

(Portland, OR) –

City Council approves vision for a more bike and pedestrian-friendly, accessible destination with an improved park experience.

  • The newly updated Washington Park Master Plan will help guide the vision of the park over the coming decades
  • Robust public engagement has resulted in a more bike and pedestrian-friendly vision for Washington Park
  • The phased implementation of the Master Plan Update will strategically address key concerns including maintenance, transportation access to and within the park, and improve the park’s ecological health

Today, the Portland City Council unanimously approved an updated master plan that will strategically guide the future development of Portland Parks & Recreation’s Washington Park over the next decades. The plan addresses transportation and parking issues, maintenance and access, identifies opportunities for a new park entrance on West Burnside, and for plazas and gardens. The updated Washington Park Master Plan is the result of extensive public engagement which has resulted in a new and exciting vision for the iconic park. The plan aims to make Washington Park more bike and pedestrian-friendly, and preserves and improves the park’s ecological health.

“This new master plan will guide Washington Park towards an enhanced visitor experience for everyone, with less dependence on cars,” notes Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “The park’s natural areas will be improved and preserved, maintenance will be a key initiative, and Washington Park will become more transit-friendly and pedestrian-friendly.”

The master plan also aims to protect, preserve and enhance the park’s natural areas, plants, animals and birds, recognizing the Washington Park is part of an important regional wildlife corridor.

“With three million visitors each year, Washington Park is Portland’s most recognizable and iconic park,” says Portland Parks & Recreation Director Mike Abbaté. “The new master plan will ensure its world class status for Portlanders and visitors alike. That begins with an improved visitor experience. Thanks to all of our partners, volunteers, Champions Committee, and all Portlanders, for their commitment to helping us shape Washington Park’s vision.”

A paricipant in a November 2017 Washington Park community engagement session

An important first step in the implementation of this new plan will be the Transportation Management Study. This work will mirror the extensive public engagement undertaken for the master plan, and will focus on understanding transportation and parking opportunities and challenges in the park.  Throughout this process, TriMet will continue to provide regular bus service to Washington Park, and Explore Washington Park continues to provide a free visitor shuttle within the park - with service from April-October. The number of people taking mass transit to Washington Park is up 66% since the free shuttle and paid parking endeavors began in 2014 - even as the park’s overall attendance has increased. Ridership on the free shuttle has increased 40% since service began, and has resulted in a significant decrease -estimated at more than 600 tons - of greenhouse gas emissions from cars visiting Washington Park, since 2014. Shuttle riders helped save enough driving miles to total five trips from the earth to the moon.

Master plan elements include:

  • Managing and enhancing current park assets
  • Improving access to and around the park
  • Protecting and preserving Washington Park’s natural areas and wildlife
  • Improved safety for park visitors
  • A new entrance off W. Burnside for people on foot and bike
  • Maintaining the same amount of parking spaces while reducing congestion
  • A garden plaza between the Portland Japanese Garden and International Rose Test Garden
  • A garden plaza when you get off the MAX so you enter a park, not a parking lot.
  • Offering clear park and wayfinding information at multiple park sites
  • Enhancing the visitor experience for pedestrians and people on bikes, while ensuring the park is less car-dependent through a variety of improvements

The process for developing the new master plan was based on a robust engagement strategy that took place over a period of 18 months and included: regular and ongoing consultation with key stakeholders including the Explore Washington Park Board and adjacent neighborhood associations and neighbors; public events; surveying park users; an online survey; culturally-specific focus groups conducted in Vietnamese and Russian. The engagement was supported by the Champions Committee – a 16-member committee appointed by Parks Commissioner Fritz to oversee and advise on the plan’s development – creating goals and a vision for the project to address the key issues and opportunities that the park will face over the next decades.

Portland Parks & Recreation will be working with the Commissioner-in-Charge of Parks, Metro, and the community, to seek funding for implementing the projects outlined in the master plan update.