PPF's newest board member's lasting impact on Portland parks

PPF Board Member Mary Anne Cassin. Her legacy to Portland parks includes 22 years with Portland Parks & Recreation and a planned gift through Portland Parks Foundation.

PPF Board Member Mary Anne Cassin. Her legacy to Portland parks includes 22 years with Portland Parks & Recreation and a planned gift through Portland Parks Foundation.

Mary Anne Cassin was with Portland Parks & Recreation for 22 years. At the end of her time there, she managed the implementation of the successful 2014 campaign to pass a bond measure that would raise up to $68 million for parks. We’re now at the halfway point of the implementation of that money. It is making vital repairs and improvements citywide and it has prevented many playground facility closures. Read about it here. Mary Anne has joined the Portland Parks Foundation board and we’re so delighted. We sat down with her in September, just before her first board meeting.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! What’s your favorite neighborhood park?

I had a hard time choosing just one, so I’ve narrowed it down to two. My own neighborhood park, Gabriel Park, is such an amazing urban amenity. At 90 acres, it has a stream, a forest, a community garden; it has everything; and yet it can still be a place to be quiet and contemplative. I’ve absolutely loved living near it for the past 30 years. When we built Southwest Community in the late 90s it has become an incredible resource for the city since the community center was built.

You said you had another one, what is it?

Tanner Creek Springs, because I worked on it, and because it’s such an unusual and wonderful one square block amenity. It does so much in so little space. It manages to make you feel like you’re off somewhere in a wetland somewhere with the still water, and the stream, but at the same time it still fits so much into its highly crafted space in an artsy neighborhood. I just think it’s great.

What is your favorite thing to do in a park?

That’s easy, walking in a park, you see people, you see plants, birds, it’s just a wonderful way to go through life. It’s so much better than walking anywhere else because you’re away from cars and you’re in a little bit of nature.

Do you have a moment or memory that encapsulates this?

I remember walking up the stairs at Washington Park Rose Garden one time, it hit me really hard that I was in this amazingly gorgeous place with all these roses and all this beautiful art and sculpture, and that it belonged to the people. This was no one’s private garden, it belonged to all of us.

What inspired you to join the board?

I know some of the people quite well, having worked at Parks for so long. It’s full of people I admire and miss working with, so that will be nice. The mission also inspired me. It’s close to my heart. What the Portland Parks Foundations has been able to do in its short existence is phenomenal. Public funds will not always cover, what in an ideal world they should cover. The fact that the foundation is there to help bridge that divide is wonderful.

You’ve put Portland Parks Foundation into your will - what inspired you to make this kind of commitment?

My career is so tied into Portland parks and when you think about legacy, you tend to think about what will continue to have value to people, not just people but also to habitat. That’s what kept me at Parks all those years. The benefits are so universal, no matter what kind of person you are, what kind of animal you are, even the water — everything benefits from parks. It’s hard to find any kind of nonprofit that rings all the bells that way. You can address hunger, you can get people books, but it all felt like a tiny little slice. Portland Parks & Recreation has done such a good job of being responsive to people. I know enough about park history to know that it is responsive to the culture and the needs of the time. It’s not just this static thing, it will continue to grow and evolve with what it needs to do. Parks seemed like a really good place to leave things for.

What would you tell someone considering a legacy gift but not sure of what the next step is?

Just go do it. The Portland Parks Foundation makes it so easy. They will sit down with you, answer any questions you have without pressure. You can just have an exploratory conversation. The fact that it’s a younger organization makes it more user friendly. I did a couple legacy meetings in my exploration stage, and I felt welcoming arms from the Portland Parks Foundation, more so than I did from bigger, more corporate organizations.

Do you have anything else to add?

It takes a while for any organization like the Portland Parks Foundation to find out who they are and hit their stride. I really think they’ve found it now. It’s an exciting time to be a part of it. I have the context to see that!

We’re so excited to welcome Mary Anne to our board. To learn more about legacy gifts click here.