Portland Parks Foundation welcomes new Executive Director Randy Gragg

Portland Parks Foundation (PPF) welcomes Randy Gragg as the new Executive Director. Gragg succeeds Jeff Anderson who recently retired from the role. Bringing a dynamic background in journalism, urban planning, and advocacy, Gragg will lead the organization that serves as the chief philanthropic partner for the City of Portland’s Parks & Recreation.

For nearly 30 years, Gragg has helped to shape conversations about the city of Portland’s spaces and culture. His leadership and advocacy has helped champion a number of public parks projects, including Eastbank Esplanade, Pioneer Courthouse Square, and Lawrence Halprin’s Portland Open Space Sequence, also known as Lovejoy Fountain, Pettyrove Park, and Keller Fountain.

“The Portland Parks Foundation is proud of the impacts we've made on Portland’s Parks system, most recently the Barbara Walker Footbridge over Burnside, opening next summer,” said Mary Ruble, the foundation’s Board Chair. ”With Randy Gragg at the helm of the Foundation, our goal is to increase our visibility and expand our range of public/private partnerships to build a stronger and more vibrant parks and recreation system throughout Portland. We are honored to have Randy join us, and look to his vision and experience to take us to new heights.“

As a journalist, Gragg served as Editor-in-Chief at Portland Monthly Magazine from 2009-2013 and as a columnist and reporter at the Oregonian for 17 years. More recently he has developed exhibitions and public programs with Design Week Portland. From 2013-2017, Gragg was the Executive Director of the University of Oregon’s John Yeon Center for Architecture and the Landscape where he developed a major 2017 retrospective for the Portland Art Museum on the seminal Oregon architect and landscape designer John Yeon.

“Portland is entering an exciting era,” Gragg said. “The city is growing dramatically, not just in numbers, but with deepening cultural diversity, creativity, and awareness. With the Parks Foundation’s 16-year legacy of good work to build on, we’re ready to partner with Portland’s wide-ranging communities to create new parks and programs, refresh those we have, even rethink what a park is and where it can be.”

Gragg was a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and an inaugural National Arts Journalism Fellow at Columbia University. His volunteer affiliations include roles as a board member with Pioneer Courthouse Square and the Alumni Council Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University. As board chair of the Halprin Landscape Conservancy, he co-led the development of an innovative $4.5-million public/private partnership to restore Halprin’s world-renowned fountain plazas.

Portland Parks & Recreation recently came under the leadership of City Commissioner Nick Fish, who will also be the Foundation’s City Council liaison. “Randy is a respected community leader and will bring a strong vision during this time of growth for the Portland Parks Foundation,” said Portland Parks Commissioner Nick Fish. “I look forward to building on our longstanding partnership and expanding Portland’s world-class parks and recreation system.”

About Portland Parks Foundation

The Portland Parks Foundation is devoted to building a thriving and accessible parks system for a healthy, sustainable, and creative Portland. We are the chief philanthropic partner for Portland Parks & Recreation. Through leadership, partnership, and philanthropy, we advance the City of Portland’s commitment to excellence, equity, inclusion, and good stewardship of our public parks. PPF will soon complete the Barbara Walker Footbridge over Burnside.  We have played key roles in the creation of Cully Park, Director Park, the Bill Naito Legacy Fountain, the Gateway Green Master Plan, and the Dawson Park interactive fountain. PPF also provides technical assistance and financial support to parks affiliates and friends groups.

Photo courtesy of Sabina Poole.

Community Connections through new PPF Board Leadership

Meet JR Lilly, PPF's newest member of the Board of Directors. JR brings with him a deep connection to the Native community as well as a true love of parks and respect for the value that they bring to life in an urban setting. PPF is honored to welcome JR to our team. 

JR Lilly
Civic Engagement Coordinator, Native American Youth & Family Center (NAYA)

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What is your favorite neighborhood park? My favorite park is Peninsula Park which is always worth the drive across town no matter where I live. I just moved and my neighborhood park is going to be Thomas Cully Park (opening Jun 30).

What is your favorite thing to do in a park? Growing up I was in all the sports, so anything active is great. Some of my best memories are with friends playing kickball on a nice sunny day. Our parks are always great for a simple walk or to toss the football with family.

What inspired you to join the Portland Parks Foundation's board? I love our parks! And I want to make sure that everyone in Portland has access to a place that is safe, fun, and welcome. The Portland Parks Foundation does great work and I look forward to supporting those efforts.

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.

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.  

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.

Nancy Hebb Freeman Grants

Nancy Hebb Freeman

Nancy Hebb Freeman

This Fall the Portland Parks Foundation created a new small grant program, which will help local parks complete improvements and add new features such as fountains and playgrounds. The grant program is named after Nancy Hebb Freeman by a generous donation from the estate of Nancy Hebb Freeman who passed away in August 2015 and left a bequest to the Foundation. Nancy loved Portland’s parks, and she and her family wanted to continue that legacy.  To honor her memory, we wanted to share Nancy’s story and her relationship with Portland parks.

Nancy Hebb Freeman grew up on the east coast but fell in love with the West. Here, she met her partner Ray Siderius, who very kindly gave us the material to write this little bio. Both Nancy and Ray greatly enjoyed spending time in the outdoors, and went on frequent walks in Forest Park, Hoyt Arboretum, Macleay Park, Gabriel Park, and many other parks around Portland. Along the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park, they would make little bets on the mileage markers-- whoever guessed the number closest to the one on the mileage marker would have to buy the other a cup of coffee. For Nancy, Portland’s parks were a place to not only get some exercise, but to find peace of mind as well.

Portland’s parks also provided inspiration for one of Nancy’s greatest passions: art. Nancy studied art in college and found a passion for Pacific Northwest landscapes when she moved to Bellingham in 1990. She continued to draw inspiration from parks in and around Portland, and she greatly enjoyed painting from nature. Her partner Ray Siderius writes, “I think the time in nature was an essential part of Nancy’s spiritual life."

We are honored that Nancy left everyone a parks legacy and look forward to crafting a small granting program in the next year that serves those that love our parks the most - the volunteers that work every week to keep our parks beautiful.  You can carry on Nancy’s legacy of appreciation for Portland’s parks today by exploring one near you. Take a page from Nancy’s book and make bets with your friends and family on the mile markers in Forest Park! Or you could continue her love of art by taking a class at the Multnomah Arts Center, which is run by Portland Parks & Recreation and features outdoor classes as well. Nancy’s pressence brightened the lives of the people around her, and we’re grateful that her legacy continues to live on at the Portland Parks Foundation.