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Portland Parks Are In Danger
Portland Parks Are In Danger
by Jack Kerfoot
The global coronavirus pandemic is our new reality. Schools are closed and students are being home schooled. Theaters, restaurants, libraries and most businesses are also closed. Self-isolation is our new normal, which is the antithesis of being a Portlander.
Portlanders are about socializing and embracing the moment. Our world-renowned parks are a focal point for us to connect in the gardens, walking trails and community centers. Personally, I believe that Portland's parks are the soul of our city.
In my campaign for Portland City Commissioner #2 (www.jackkerfoot2020.com), I have met many people, who share my love for our city parks. We all long for the day when the pandemic is gone, so we can resume our old way of life. I know I look forward to the days when I can go for a jog or a walk in our parks and not worry about social distancing.
In addition to our concerns and anxiety from the coronavirus, we must also come to grips with the fact that our magnificent parks also in danger. Twenty years ago, Portland Parks and Recreation (PPR) concluded in the Parks 2020 Vision report, that our parks were being "loved to death." The report documented that our parks and community centers were not being properly funded to maintain these facilities due to the high level of use by our residents.
In 2000, PPR projected the city's population would increase by 65,000 people by 2020. The reality is our city's population has increased by over 120,000 over the past twenty years. In 2020, I would characterize our city's park systems as suffering from "under-investment," instead of overuse.
In 2019, a city "budget short-fall" resulted in laying-off sixty parks employees and closure of five recreation centers, many in low-income areas of the city. A recent PPR study found that, just to maintain existing parks facilities, current parks funding would need to double. Continuing current funding levels would result, long term, in closures of additional PPR facilities.
Are there solutions to re-invigorate our city's parks and recreations facilities, that will not further increase property taxes, which will further increase rental rates? Absolutely! As Commissioner of the Bureau of Parks and Recreation, I would actively pursue the following options to provide appropriate financing for our parks and recreation centers across our entire city:
1. Corporate Sponsorship - Companies that sell sporting equipment like Nike, Adidas, Columbia, Under Armor may be willing to provide major sustainable, financial support for community centers and/or facilities in exchange for center naming writes and/or other opportunities to enhance their brand.
2. Oil Import/Export Fee - Assess a 2 cent per gallon fee for all oil that is imported and then exported, like the Zenith Oil Terminal. The Zenith Oil Terminal imports heavy oil from Canada and then exports by ship overseas. The fee would apply to gasoline, diesel or hydrocarbon products used in the Pacific Northwest. This type of fee could generate $5 to $10 million per year in revenue for our city's park and recreation centers.
3. Renting Park Facilities - As an example, the Pittock Mansion is available to corporate donors, as part of a package program. However, there is no option for individual donors, nonprofits, etc. to rent Pittock Mansion or many other park facilities at premium prices for special events.
4. Food Trucks - Portland is famous for the excellent cuisine available in our food trucks. Portland's food trucks could rent a space in the parking lot at Pittock Mansion, or at other busy Portland parks. This concept is used in many farmers markets around our city.
5. Re-Invigorate The Park Volunteers - PPR does have strong participation in the volunteer engagement program. However, the volunteer hours have been relatively flat over the past several years, even though our city's population has continued to increase. I believe there is real potential to further increase Portland's volunteer-powered park services.
I also believe a commissioner should be an outspoken champion for the bureaus they lead. As City Commissioner, I pledge to walk the 40-mile loop, Pacific Crest Trail loop over a weekend, as a way to earn media coverage for the wonderful trails we have in this city. I make this commitment, regardless of whether or not I am assigned the Bureau of Parks and Recreation by the mayor.
If you agree with me and want to see our city find real solutions to re-invigorate our deteriorating parks and recreation facilities, please consider adding your name to my list of public supporters for my campaign.
Together we can find solutions to the issues facing our city. Thank you for reading this blog and thank you for your support.
This article was reprinted with permission from Jack Kerfoot. Jack is a candidate for Portland Commissioner.
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