"Even if you don’t go to a park every day, you can still recognize the value that it has." - Gary Maffei
Our board chair, Julie Vigeland, recently sat down with Charles Jordan Circle member Gary Maffei to learn why he supports public parks.
Tell us about your upbringing and how it’s influenced your relationship with parks.
Well, I’m a native Portlander—I grew up in Southeast Portland—and our closest park was Mount Scott. I used to spend all summer there. As a child, I remember that the parks system was a center for the neighborhood. We couldn’t afford to go to the beach or to the mountains or on vacation, but we could walk over to the park and have a picnic or play on the playground. I also used to do Little League in Lents Park. My brother did the Babe Ruth league for high school and my dad was a coach.
What has your relationship with parks been like as an adult?
For 20 years of my career, I lived near Council Crest, and I’d go for walks there. We’d take the dog out for runs because there were beautiful hills for playing fetch—the ball would just keep going and so would the dog! In my career years, I was on the City League for tennis, so we played in all the city parks: in North Portland at Peninsula Park, at Grant Park, up at the Rose Garden tennis courts… It was lots of fun.
In your view, what makes parks important for cities?
It’s a gathering place for the neighborhood, especially the parks that have community centers. The community center at Mount Scott had a roller rink in the basement that we used in the winter, and of course the pool opened in the summer for all the kids. The park near where we live now has the farmer’s market and movie nights in the summer—they have a man-made hill where people put their blankets out, and a big screen so everyone can watch the movie.
How can we make parks more accessible for Portlanders in every neighborhood?
I think it’s important to promote the use of existing parks, and also maintain the existing parks so that people want to use them. Maintenance isn’t as exciting as big new projects, but it’s necessary so that parks and sports facilities don’t fall into disrepair. The Parks Foundation has a unique position where you can really advocate for maintenance within the parks, or even for a bond measure to make improvements.
Do you know of any parks advocates who are doing inspiring work?
Any civic leaders that are in love with Portland are going to be in love with the parks—I mean, who isn’t? Even if you don’t go to a park every day, you can still recognize the value that it has. Anybody who’s donated to parks is supporting parks.
You’ve mentioned a number of parks. If you had to choose a favorite, which would it be?
I’d say Mount Scott. I grew up there—20 years of my life was spent in that park, whether that was hanging out with friends, swimming in the summer, or bicycling there. As an older person, my favorite has been Gabriel Park, because I play tennis there. I’ve spent so many evenings playing tennis there, with friends or in the League.