Parks Commissioner Fish outlines plans for outer East Portland’s green spaces

Why did Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish come out to the neighborhood coalition offices? See it all right here …

Before the East Portland Parks Coalition convenes, Commissioner Fish’s assistant, George Hocker Jr., meets with Committee Chair Alesia Reese, as well as with Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A real draw for the April East Portland Parks Coalition meeting was the visit by Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, who is in charge of Portland Parks & Recreation.

Before the meeting got underway, the coalition’s Chair, Alesia Reese, confided that Fish’s visit was important – especially in a year with shrinking City budgets. “It’s important for him to hear and understand the concerns that East Portland neighbors have, regarding their parks.”

Reese noted that outer East Portland neighbors are thrilled that the Portland City Council did approve “master plans” outlining how three parks will be developed.

“Our primary concern is that these Master Plans don’t sit on the shelf gathering dust,” noted Reese. “We hope that they come off the shelf, and that the Beech Property, Clatsop Butte, and Parklane Park see some – even if only minor – development. A few trails, a few benches, something to ignite interest, and support these Master Plans. This will encourage citizens to support bonds or levies in future years.”

As the meeting opened, Reese revealed that Nick Fish was the first City Commissioner to visit the Coalition since its formation four years ago.

For the first time since the East Portland Parks Coalition’s founding, a City Commissioner in charge – Nick Fish – meets with the group.

East Portlanders speak up
Fish said he was glad to bring some good news to the committee. “The good news is at the Portland City Council is paying attention; they are looking east of Interstate 205. They’re asking the question, ‘How can we help enhance the quality of life here?’ As the new Parks Commissioner, I am very interested in what the East Portland Parks Coalition is thinking, and I need their help in defending my Parks budget. Also I want to know where they would like to see our resources focus.”

A concern expressed was the possibility for the entrance to the Powell Butte Nature Park to be moved, and a new one built, due to the reservoir construction project scheduled to start this summer.

The attendees asked pointed questions about the budgeting process; the level of funding for parks in other cities; and, whether Fish thought there was equity in parks across the city.

Fish says the Portland City Council is finally grasping the concept of “parks equity”.

“Equity is an essential value,” Fish replied. “The new aquatic facility at the East Portland Community Center, and the three new Parks Master Plans, indicate that the City grasping the concept.”

Referring to the three Master Plans, Fish said that they have the potential to “create signature parks” for an under-served area.

Three immediate priority goals mentioned by the Commissioner included:

  • Greatly expanding the Community Gardens program – Fish noted there are currently 1,200 outstanding requests for plots;
  • Establishing a Youth Conservation Corps – Formation of this new organization could address the needs of the park’s forest areas and clear natural areas of invasive species; and,
  • Upgrading outdoor playing fields – “We want to enable the City’s children and youth to enjoy the same benefits experienced by those who live in the suburbs.”

Commissioner Fish concluded by noting that parks are part of our essential infrastructure. “We need positive momentum and stability with our core services and programs.”

Special thanks to George Hocker for his help in preparing this story.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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