Fund our Parks: A Message from PPF's Executive Director

Thank you to everyone who came out to support Portland's parks at the Community Budget Forums on April 3rd and April 17th along with those who submitted written testimony.  On April 3rd PPF's Executive Director, Jeff Anderson, had the opportunity to testify on behalf of the Foundation. Below is the text of the testimony he read from. You can also access the video version of the testimony here (Jeff's testimony begins at 1hr47min).

Community Budget Forum - April 3, 2018
Statement to City Council
Jeff Anderson, Executive Director

Good evening, Mayor Wheeler and members of the Council.  Thank you for the opportunity to speak about the proposed 2018-19 city budget.

My name is Jeff Anderson.  I’m Executive Director of the Portland Parks Foundation.  The mission of the Portland Parks Foundation is to mobilize financial and popular support to ensure a thriving and accessible parks system for a healthy Portland.  The Foundation was created by the city in 2001 as Portland’s chief private fundraising partner for parks.

The Portland Parks Foundation is extremely concerned about the ongoing general fund cuts for PP&R in the proposed 2018-19 budget. 

Public parks are very likely our most popular city service.  86% of Portlanders rate their parks as good or excellent.  More than 9 out of 10 residents use our parks.  Parks advance community wealth, community health, and community culture.  They are not an expendable amenity.  They are as essential as any other service supported by city budget dollars.  Yet the City Budget Office’s proposed cuts to parks are disproportionately high.  In fact, it appears that 40% of ALL the recommended ongoing cuts target our parks.   

Parks are integral to our core character as a city.  Parks host major music festivals, diverse cultural events and holiday celebrations, and a variety of events promoting local businesses.  A recent study estimates the economic impact of local parks in Oregon at $1.9 billion dollars and over 17,000 jobs.  Portland’s a big slice of that pie.

Portlanders routinely give some 470,000 hours per year to volunteering in the parks—an annual value of $5.5 million or more.  The City of Portland’s budget should signal appreciation for that contribution and should reinforce—not undermine—the efforts of volunteers.  In fact, the city should be looking for every additional opportunity to leverage the good will and private resources that have already contributed so much to iconic parks all over Portland.  

We already have a backlog of $430 million in deferred major maintenance for parks.  The proposed budget cuts accelerate a downward spiral that the City Council has started with its cuts to general fund support for parks over the past decade.  Other cities have found to their sorrow that massive disinvestment in parks is nearly impossible to make right.  It’s also a huge deterrent to success in the Parks Foundation’s own work to encourage private contributions to our public parks.

This year the city is projected to have record tax revenues.  This is not the time to put parks’ ongoing general fund support on the chopping block.  As PP&R’s Budget Advisory Committee letter to you observes, “After multiple years of reductions, the cuts now dig deep into core PP&R services and values, have significant service-level impacts for the public, and further erode employee morale.”  

In closing, I urge you to support the public parks the way Portland’s public wants you to.  Invest in what makes Portland not only livable, but exceptional.  The Portland Parks Foundation stands ready to help.  Thank you for your attention.

Enjoying the Parks in the Rain - The Value of Community Centers

By Julia Benford

Here at the Portland Parks Foundation, we love to see people enjoying their neighborhood parks as often as possible. But we also understand that in the winter, Portland’s rainy, wet weather can make outdoor activities seem a bit less than ideal. One great way to avoid the rain while still taking advantage of Portland’s parks: visit your local community center! PP&R’s community centers offer tons of different amenities, from fitness classes to swimming to kids’ activities. Here, we break down what makes some of Portland’s community centers awesome.

 Gymnastics at Montavilla Community Center. Photo courtesy of Portland Parks & Recreation.

Gymnastics at Montavilla Community Center. Photo courtesy of Portland Parks & Recreation.

Montavilla Community Center: 8219 NE Glisan Street
If you’re a teen (or have one in your household), Montavilla Community Center is the place to go. The center offers unique and interesting classes specifically for tweens and teenagers, including spoken word poetry, weightlifting, and gymnastics. If your teen has a busy schedule or just wants more flexibility, there are also drop-in classes (breakdancing, anyone?), movie nights, and homework help. Best of all, every class for teens is FREE thanks to Portland Parks & Recreation’s TeenForce program, which helps teens get involved with their local parks.

Matt Dishman Community Center: 77 NE Knott Street
The Matt Dishman Community Center truly offers something for everyone, from empowerment programs for young women to van trips for seniors—including a coffee and chocolate tasting tour that’s perfect for Valentine’s Day! The center also offers a wide variety of affordable, inclusive classes for people with disabilities or special needs, including dance classes, winter crafts, and button making. It’s the perfect place for all your loved ones to socialize.

Peninsula Park Community Center: 700 N Rosa Parks Way
Located in beautiful Peninsula Park, this North Portland community center has lots of fun activities for both kids and adults. Parents can enjoy adult/child dance, music, and gymnastics classes together with little ones. Or if your 4-6 year old loves the circus, they might enjoy the center’s circus arts class, where they can learn improvisation, clowning, and juggling! For adults, it’s never too late to learn a new skill—you can learn to play guitar, piano, ukulele, or violin with private music lessons.

Charles Jordan Community Center: 9009 N Foss Avenue
Are you an older adult looking to get more involved in your community? Charles Jordan Community Center has plenty of options just for you, with classes for ages 55 and up. From inclusive fitness options like Yoga in Chairs to floral design classes to van trips to the coast, there’s something for every interest. For the younger set, the center offers before and after school care and birthday party rentals—you can even rent a bouncy castle for extra fun!

Woodstock Community Center: 5905 SE 43rd Avenue
Woodstock Community Center offers some of the most unique classes of any community center in Portland. If you’re a senior interested in recording your family history, the center offers genealogy and memoir writing courses, which let you share your history with younger generations! For people of all ages who want to pick up a new skill, there are classes for calligraphy and antique clock repair. Finally, adults ages 60+ who want a relaxing fitness class can give hula dancing a try for a unique workout.

 Swimming for all ages at the East Portland Community Center.  Photo courtesy of PP&R.

Swimming for all ages at the East Portland Community Center. Photo courtesy of PP&R.

East Portland Community Center: 740 SE 106th Avenue
For fitness buffs and people looking to keep up their New Year’s resolutions, East Portland Community Center is ideal. They offer exercise classes for all ages and activity levels, as well as family fitness classes perfect for keeping the whole family healthy.  Take a break and enjoy swimming in the pool—swimming lessons and water fitness classes are also available! And finally, for those with homeschooled kids looking to socialize, the East Portland Community Center offers sports and art classes specifically for homeschoolers. It’s a great place to branch out and try something new.

Sellwood Community Center: 1436 SE Spokane Street
Feeling crafty? Sellwood Community Center might be the place for you. They’ve teamed up with the Portland Lace Society to offer low-cost lacemaking and crochet classes—try it out and you might discover a new hobby! Little ones can also discover their creative sides with baby and toddler art classes for children 10 months and up. If you have school-aged children, check out the Sellwood Community Center’s Grow after-school program, which helps children build gardening and cooking skills and find physical activities they enjoy.

 Don't miss Daddy Daughter Night at the Southwest Community Center.  Photo courtesy of PP&R.

Don't miss Daddy Daughter Night at the Southwest Community Center. Photo courtesy of PP&R.

Southwest Community Center: 6820 SW 45th Avenue
If you have a child who’s looking for a new hobby and some new friends, the Southwest Community Center is a great place to go! They offer some amazing classes that will build lifelong skills, including cooking, rock climbing and skateboarding classes. Adults can find unique ways to get active too—take advantage of the community center’s rock wall, or try out a barre class. Finally, if you’re the father of a daughter, consider taking her to the center’s Daddy Daughter Night on February 24th or 25th! The $20 cost includes pizza, salad, frozen yogurt, and plenty of fun bonding time.

Meet PPF's Newest Members of the Team

Board members are critical to our success as a foundation. Over the last three months, PPF has had the honor of introducing four new board members to our team.  We are very appreciative and grateful for their time and guidance. Today would would like to introduce each of them.

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Jorge Guzman
Founder - Executive Director, Vive Northwest

What is your neighborhood park? Director Park

What is your favorite thing to do in a park? I enjoy hiking or simply sitting down and enjoying the fresh and clean air. 

What inspired you to join the Portland Parks Foundation? My goal is to support the great work Portland Parks Foundation is already doing by providing a diverse and inclusive perspective.

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Cristin O'Brien
Sales Manger - West, Sorel Footwear

What is your neighborhood park? Forest Park (photo from snowy Christmas hike 2017)

What is your favorite thing to do in a park?  Hike, run, think, and de-stress!

What inspired you to join the Portland Parks Foundation?  Desire to contribute to the community & ensure that as the city of Portland grows that access, maintenance, improvement, and development of city parks in all communities continues to happen for future generations.

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Kathryn Beaumont
Retired Attorney, Portland City Attorney's Office

What is your neighborhood park? Irving Park

What is your favorite thing to do in a park?  My favorite things to do in a park are walk, ride my bike, and enjoy the plantings throughout the seasons (and imagine them growing in the garden of my dreams).  What makes me happiest is to see people of all ages engaged in all sorts of activities--recreational sports, picnics, family celebrations, relaxing, and enjoying the respite a green or natural space provides--in a park.

What inspired you to join the Portland Parks Foundation?  I joined the Portland Parks Foundation Board of Directors based on my deep appreciation for the role public parks play in Portland.  In my past work for the city, I helped support the Parks Bureau in creating and preserving needed parks and community centers. I saw first-hand how important they are in knitting neighborhoods together and providing places for all Portlanders to play, relax, enjoy nature, celebrate, and gather with others. By serving on the Foundation's board, I hope to help maintain these vital public spaces for all Portlanders to enjoy both now and in the future.

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Lee Novak
VP of Development - Western Region, Fore Property Company

What is your neighborhood park? Healy Heights is our neighborhood park, but we love roaming throughout the hills.

What is your favorite thing to do in a park? We like to hike and walk our dog on the trails in the hills. We also enjoy attending events in our great public places like the Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

What inspired you to join the Portland Parks Foundation? Portland’s parks give all of us wonderful places to engage with nature and one another. They make the City beautiful. While we are relatively new to Portland, we want to help preserve and enhance the things that make it special.  

Celebrating the Holidays in Parks

By Julia Benford

In December, Portland comes alive for the holidays in its own special way. We have  made a list of our favorite events happening in parks throughout Portland. The weather outside might be chilly, but these holiday happenings are sure to make you feel warm and cozy.

Christmas Ship Parade: Ongoing through December 21st

Since 1954, ships adorned in Christmas lights have navigated the Willamette in the annual Christmas Ship Parade, which has become a beloved city tradition. Although the route changes nightly, there are opportunities to view ships from several parks along the river. Check the schedule and route here to see when the parade is coming to a park near you.


Pioneer Courthouse Square Holiday Events: Ongoing through 12/23

Pioneer Courthouse Square is hosting a different family-friendly holiday event almost every day.  Highlights include traditional Old English carolers (December 15th), a pirate-themed holiday performance perfect for the family (December 16th), and free roasted nuts from NW Nuts (December 18th). Click here for a full schedule.


Pittock Mansion Christmas: Ongoing through 12/31

Following in a 50-year tradition  of majestic holiday displays,  Pittock Mansion is celebrating the city’s most iconic people, places, and events  this year. Trimet is offering a free holiday shuttle to Pittock Mansion starting December 16th, making it easy to take in the spectacular sights.



Volunteer Spotlight: Cully Park's Wendy Yah Canul and Teresa Raigoza

The Let Us Build Cully Park project is transforming a former landfill into a brand new park in NE Portland. Cully is Portland’s most diverse, park-deprived neighborhood. Wendy Yah Canul lives in Cully with her family. “To tell you the truth, I really got excited when they said there would be a big park nearby. There's a lot of beautiful parks, but I'm not able to get to them because I don't drive,” Wendy said.

 Wendy Yah Canul with three of her children Yurel, Kiara, and Mario.

Wendy Yah Canul with three of her children Yurel, Kiara, and Mario.

Another Cully neighbor, Teresa Raigoza is also looking forward to having the new park accessible to the community by foot. “It has beautiful views looking out over the airport. It's a beautiful space, up a small hill so you can see out. It's also really big, like 25 acres,” Teresa said.

Both Wendy and Teresa have been involved in the development of Cully Park from early on. The Let’s Build Cully Park coalition, led by nonprofit partner Verde, has been committed to providing opportunities for community input and investment by local residents. Wendy and Teresa have become extremely active local community members, and their families are deeply connected to the park project. They have participated in community walking tours, soil testing, clean up, planting, design and planning meetings, as well as fundraising.

“I like that the community and other people are invited to meetings to share their opinion. They felt like they were taken into account as part of this project and really listened to. That's a nice process, to be heard,” Wendy said. “My oldest daughter has been involved since she was two years old. I have pictures of her picking up trash in our neighborhood. She's thirteen now.” Last summer, Wendy and her daughter Kairi Valle spoke to Cully Park donors and guests at a Portland Parks Foundation and Verde event, sharing their convictions about why Cully Park is needed.

Teresa also serves on the board of Verde. “I'm involved on the ground in the community, but I'm also on the board. So I get to see both sides and how the process is moving forward,” Teresa said.

 Teresa Raigoza leads a bike ride with ABC (Andando en Bicicletas en Cully).

Teresa Raigoza leads a bike ride with ABC (Andando en Bicicletas en Cully).

When the new park is complete, Wendy and her children will be able to walk to the new soccer fields and play areas. They are already taking advantage of the community gardens at Cully Park, where her family grows chiles, tomatoes, cilantro, and other typical foods in her family’s cuisine.

Teresa and her family are also looking forward to walking and playing at Cully Park. “The future park has really been moving forward. Before it was just an abandoned piece of land and now look at it. We hope that it gets finished soon.”

Cully Park is scheduled for completion around June 2018. Learn more about the project and how you can donate or get involved at the Let Us Build Cully Park website.  

Thanks to Teresa and Wendy for their time, and to Anna Gordon for providing interpretation.

Park Champions Exemplify the Power of People and Parks

 Above: Park Champion Award presented to Yvonne Boisvert for amazing efforts at Peninsula Park Rose Garden, from PPF Board Member, Jules Bailey. Below: Linda Robinson receives Park Champion Award for tireless work on behalf of parks in East Portland. 

Above: Park Champion Award presented to Yvonne Boisvert for amazing efforts at Peninsula Park Rose Garden, from PPF Board Member, Jules Bailey. Below: Linda Robinson receives Park Champion Award for tireless work on behalf of parks in East Portland. 

We are thrilled to announce the Portland Parks Foundation Parks Champion Award winners. Their inspiring work exemplifies the power of people and parks to benefit Portland and our region. On September 24, as part of our 15th Anniversary celebration, we honored Yvonne Boisvert and Linda Robinson as our Parks Champions. Along with the award, a cash contribution of $1,500 was given to the parks-based community of their choice. The Parks Champion Award is an honor presented by Portland Parks Foundation to recognize an individual who has provided outstanding service to a park, community center, natural area, or community garden.

Did you know that the first public rose garden is actually in North Portland? Park Champion Yvonne Boisvert was a founding member of the Friends of Peninsula Park Rose Garden. One of Portland’s best kept secrets, the Peninsula Park Rose Garden is over 100 years old. Yvonne has worked tirelessly to preserve, enhance, teach about, and advocate for the garden over the years. She and her Friends co-founders worked with Portland Parks and Recreation to replant the entire garden - over 4,000 roses for the centennial celebration in 2013. She helped design new signage for the garden, and can often be seen there giving tours and teaching free rose classes. In 2015, she founded the Art in the Rose Garden summer art show and sale. This year’s event drew over 3,000 to the garden.

On the other side of town in East Portland, Linda Robinson has spent decades as a tireless for parks across East Portland -- including Ventura Park, Gates Park, and Gateway Discovery Park. She also founded and leads the East Portland Parks Coalition to support current and future parks, open spaces, and green spaces projects in East Portland. One of Linda’s significant current projects is Gateway Green. Over the past decade, Linda has been spearheading the ambitious public-private project to develop the former site of Rocky Butte Jail into Gateway Green, a dynamic open space and recreational park for the region.

Congratulations to our winners Yvonne and Linda, and to our communities benefitting from their incredible contributions.

Master Naturalists in Portland

By Julia Benford

Have you ever walked through a park and found yourself wanting to know more about a particular tree, flower, or bird you saw there? Even in the depths of Winter Portland's parks hide natural treasures just waiting to be discovered. 

One great way to learn more about the native species of the Pacific Northwest is to take a Master Naturalist course, offered through Oregon State University’s Extension Service. We spoke to Brandy Saffell, Portland Chapter Coordinator of the Oregon Master Naturalist Program, to find out more about the role of Portland parks for wildlife conservation.

How have Portland’s parks played a role in your life?

The Master Naturalist training that I lead focuses on the Willamette Valley eco-region, which means that we do field work in Portland. We conduct two field classes in Portland parks, one at the Hoyt Arboretum and one at Mount Tabor. I find that hosting  classes in the parks is a great way to educate people about plant and animal life within the city. On a personal level, I really enjoy spending time in Portland’s parks because they create the feeling  of being out in the middle of a forest, but with all the amenities of a traditional park. That sense of being in the wilderness is something that’s unique to Portland parks.

What benefits have you seen from holding naturalist classes in city parks?

I remember one Master Naturalist class trip to the Hoyt Arboretum where many of the students were already knowledgeable in one particular field-- some were birdwatchers, some had studied native plants, et cetera. As a group, it took us three hours to do a third of our planned trail walk because people kept stopping to point out plants and animals along the way! It was amazing to see the students so engaged with their surroundings and eager to teach others about the natural world. Seeing the existence of biodiversity in the city can help spark a passion for learning more about the plants and animals around us.

What value do parks hold for Portland residents?

In addition to the important habitat they provide, parks are valuable because they inspire excitement about the outdoors! Many urban dwellers don’t have access to rural wilderness areas, but Portland’s parks allow people to explore a similar forested ecosystem. Having access to such beautiful natural areas encourages Portland residents  to value conservation, because they see the ways that habitat can be incorporated into the city.

This month, why not take a Master Naturalist course for yourself? The next time you visit a Portland park, you’ll feel proud knowing that you can identify the plants and animals that live there. Learning more about the natural world is a great way to gain an even deeper appreciation for the wildlife here in Portland.

Parks that Changed America

Portland was ranked 6th for the best parks in the nation last spring according to the Trust for Public Land’s survey of the top 75 largest cities in the nation.  Portlanders are proud of their parks, and work hard year-round to fundraise, friendraise and volunteer to continue making our parks more accessible to our citizens. 

But what really goes into designing a park or park system? What makes a park a place where a community will gather? This documentary explores 10 historic parks that look very different, but have defined what parks mean to our communities.  Get some popcorn and enjoy looking at some of our nation’s most historic city parks.

 CLICK HERE: 10 Parks That Changed America photo courtesy PBS

CLICK HERE: 10 Parks That Changed America photo courtesy PBS

More Than A Walk In The Park

By Julia Benford

In the modern world, people interact with their neighbors very differently than they did a century ago. Acording to a recent study by the National Association of Realtors, today 70% of Americans  live in single-family houses, separated from people outside of their immediate family.  The design of American neighborhoods also means that people use personal cars to get almost everywhere, from home to work to the grocery store. As a result, most people don’t spend much time interacting with their neighbors in a meaningful way.

Childhood development research shows that cultivating relationships with people outside of one’s immediate family is important for social engagement and mental well-being. Unfortunately more and more we don’t have as many opportunities to make those kinds of connections in today’s world.

Luckily, a few spaces still exist where community members come together. Parks are one such space, and they’re especially important because they’re free for everyone to access. Neighborhood parks allow people to interact in casual ways while doing other activities-- joggers say hello as they pass one another, dog owners chat as their pets play in the dog park, and parents schedule playdates with other families. These interactions build familiarity and trust, strengthening the sense of community in the neighborhood. A well-maintained park can truly serve as a “third space,” where people create social relationships outside of the home and the workplace.

Improving the stewardship and accessibility of Portland’s parks is a big part of our mission here at the Portland Parks Foundation,  but sadly not everyone has access to a safe and well-maintained park in their neighborhood. However, people still recognize the value of parks, and they often come together to support the parks in their neighborhood. Mark Wells, Portland’s Neighborhood Watch coordinator, spoke to us about some community efforts to promote safety in local parks. A new Neighborhood Watch program called Park Watch serves as “a collaboration between neighbors and crime prevention, where both work together to bring positive activities back to neighborhood parks.” In Sellwood, the local Neighborhood Watch has teamed up to help take care of nearby Sellwood Park, cleaning up trash and reporting maintenance issues. Many of these types of programs have been very successful, showing how positive the effects can be when communities come together around parks.

Everyone deserves access to a clean, safe neighborhood park. The space that parks provide is incredibly valuable for creating connections between neighbors and helping reduce the sense of isolation that some people feel. Even if your local park needs some work, chances are good that others in your community feel the same and want to help create positive change. If you spot maintenance issues in your neighborhood park, you can report them using the PDX Reporter app. Or you could get involved by volunteering at a park near you with Neighborhood Watch! When you volunteer, you not only make connections with people in your community, you can also help create parks that forge those connections for others.

Portland's First Living Room

By Julia Benford

Did you know that Portland has over 12,000 acres of parkland within its city limits? One of the best things about Portland is the way that green space is integrated with the rest of the city, making it possible to enjoy a day in the park while still having access to shops, restaurants, and cultural opportunities. South Park Blocks, located downtown, is a great place to visit if you want to experience Portland’s unique combination of parks and culture. We sat down with David Newman, founder of Friends of South Park Blocks, to find out what makes the park so special.

What role does South Park Blocks play in the surrounding community?

There are 3-4,000 people living within 2 blocks of the park. Since downtown Portland is an urban area without room for yards, South Park Blocks provides important green space for those residents. It has something for everyone-- in addition to nearby residents, you also see downtown workers taking their lunch breaks, preschool groups having recess, and visitors checking out downtown. So really it’s a space for anyone who comes to downtown Portland.

What connection does South Park Blocks have with nearby businesses?

Being downtown, South Park Blocks is located near many businesses and organizations. The Portland Art Museum, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, and the Oregon Historical Society Museum are all located adjacent to the park, and there are lots of restaurants and shops nearby. Having the park nearby gives a distinctive feel to the area. It’s unique to have a park so close to these kinds of downtown visitor attractions.

Without South Park Blocks, how would the neighborhood be different?

Without the South Park Blocks, there would be no green space or gardens in the neighborhood. Having the park there makes the area more open and spacious, creating a venue for local events. As I mentioned previously, there is a nice concentration of cultural centers in the neighborhood, and the park provides a central space that ties these organizations together.

Next time you’re downtown, try spending some time exploring South Park Blocks and its neighboring attractions. There’s no better way to spend an afternoon than a relaxing stroll in the park, followed by some beautiful paintings at the Portland Art Museum and an evening performance at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. If you’re looking for a quicker trip, check out the South Park Blocks Wednesday Farmer’s Market, where you can pick up some tasty pizza for lunch and fresh produce for dinner. South Park Blocks is a convenient way to enjoy both Portland’s vibrant city life and its beautiful parks.