By Don MacGillivray
Comprehensive is not a meaningful enough term for the all encompassing qualities of the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
Portland voters will decide in November whether the city’s park system deserves the continuation of a $68 million bond for much needed repairs and other capital costs.
The measure would fund less than 20 percent of the major maintenance projects identified by the parks system. Officials say the parks bond would pay to improve 10 to 20 playgrounds, upgrade three swimming pools, improve trails and bridges, and up to $10 million to renovate or replace two aging maintenance facilities.
Polling by the City in May found that voters are supportive of this bond measure.
Portland’s parks, trees, gardens, natural areas, and trails are the infrastructure that embellish our city, provide important wildlife habitat, water quality, environmental benefits and contribute to the safety and stability of Portland neighborhoods.
Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) cares for over 17 square miles of parks and natural areas, manages the urban canopy, and offers thousands of programs for all ages at its community centers, swimming pools, and other recreation facilities.
In 2013, 86% of Portland residents rated the overall quality of parks as good or very good, making Parks the highest rated City service. That year, there were 4 million visitors to Portland community centers, pools, and recreation programs.
There are 155 miles of regional trails used for active recreation that keep Portland moving and healthy. Annually community members volunteer 500,000 hours to help maintain parks and assist others in our community.
Portland’s extensive park and recreation system had a current replacement value of just over one billion dollars then, not including the underlying land value. PP&R does not receive adequate capital revenues annually to address capital needs including maintenance to existing assets, expansions of the system, and deficiencies in service. PP&R has an expected annual capital funding need of $93 million for each of the next 10 years.
The park system cannot meet the need of certain recreation facilities, like aquatic facilities and sports fields. Both are heavily used, highly programmed, and in short supply. As more people crowd into existing parks and facilities, the quality of park resources are likely to decline.
Parks works to balance the need for expansion of the system and address equity issues by reinvesting in existing infrastructure. If they are not able to increase funding, they will need to either reduce levels of service or manage the park system with greater risks to the user.
The City is rediscovering the relationships between health, good community design and how decision makers can improve the public health of everyone.
Some parts of the city have fewer options for active recreation than others, and gaps exist throughout the city. The City and its partners must ensure equitable distribution and access to recreational opportunities in parks, recreation centers, programs and gardens.
Socioeconomic factors such as ethnicity, income, gender and age can impact the extent to which people experience negative health impacts of not exercising. Physical activity in the daily routine is a proven way to improve health.
In addition, children living within four blocks of a playgrounds are five times less likely to be overweight.
Parks Bureau is important in the care and development of the natural riparian areas and wildlife habitat resources in the city.
These resources provide important ecosystem services that can protect public health and reduce infrastructure costs.
Plans are one thing, but the resources for implementation are usually scarce.
Please vote in the best interests of the City of Portland and its residents.