Parks supervisor honored at going-away party

Take a look, and see why so many people turned out to honor Portland Parks’ Jeff Milkes, as he leaves for a new job in California …

Friends and supporters come to say goodbye to Portland Parks & Recreation Land Services Manager Jeff Milkes, on his last day of work.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The activity room at Mt. Scott Community Center began to fill with people on Wednesday afternoon, January 4, to wish Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) Supervisor Jeff Milkes farewell on his last day on the job.

After previously working for 15 years in Germany, Korea, Guam, and Spain, Milkes spent the last eleven years with the Parks Bureau supervising the care and maintenance of East Portland parks.

“Actually, I’ve been I’ve been a Portland resident most of my life,” Milkes reflected. “However, my wife and I took advantage of the opportunity to work overseas, before coming back to town.”

But, Milkes became known for more than just his job, as he providing day-to-day supervision of East Portland parks.

Jeff Milkes talks with supporters at his going-away party.

Milkes was the one who took on the job bringing back a citywide event, the Portland Rose Festival Milk Carton Boat Races at the Westmoreland Casting Pond. “It’d sat empty for a number of years; we were able to have the plumbing repaired, refill the pond, and bring back this iconic event,” Milkes reminisced.

In addition to supervising his Bureau’s outdoor event crew setting up sound systems there, Milkes attended all of the Milk Carton Boat Races as a knighted Royal Rosarian, and helped judge the events.

Seeking to create summer activities for kids, Milkes led the effort to start the Bureau’s “Portland Team Idol” competition, drawing from high schools all over the metropolitan area.

For years, Jeff Milkes served as master of ceremonies at “Movies in the Parks”, such as at this one in 2012.  East Portland News archive photo

But the biggest project on which he worked, outside of overseeing the maintaining of the parks, were the ‘Movies in the Parks’ and ‘Concerts in the Parks’, now presented under the banner of ‘PP&R Summer Free-for-All’ festivities.

“At our very first ‘Movies in the Parks’, I remember wondering if anyone would come; but by dusk there were at least a thousand people in the park,” Milkes smiled. “It started from nothing, to now it’s one of the top programs of its kind in the country – as far as the number of events, the neighbor participation, and the sponsorships,” he said.

In outer East Portland, Milkes became well known for supporting the “Movies in the Parks” and concerts as they interfaced with the East Portland Rovers group. “This shows what happens when volunteers organize to help each other with their events; really cool things happen.”

Milkes also lent to support to the volunteer-run Summer Playgrounds Program. “Even with significant budget reductions, we were able to double the number of USDA lunches we gave out in the parks, thanks to the leadership from the East Portland Neighborhood Office and volunteers who ‘led the charge’ to make this happen,” he commented.

Parks booster Linda Robinson spends a few minutes with Jeff Milkes.

Long time parks activist, and now East Portland Parks Coalition Chair Linda Robinson, said – speaking only for herself, she demurred – “Jeff did amazing things for Parks, and outer East Portland.

“Jeff was at our monthly meetings of the Coalition,” Robinson continued. “He would listen to our requests, and find out whether or not they were feasible. Then, he’d let us know honestly whether we could look into it or it wasn’t likely to be approved. Jeff helped us do a lot of things that we didn’t know that we could do!”

PP&R Director Mike Abbaté talks with Jeff Milkes and his wife Tammie Milkes.

PP&R Director Mike Abbaté was one of the about 60 guests on hand at the going-away party, and lauded Milkes, saying, “He’s creative, innovative, and the genius our major summer program. He’s going to make a phenomenal parks director, because one of his great strengths is building relationships with the community. Portland owes him a huge debt of gratitude.”

Milkes responded, “It’s been a fabulous journey, with fantastic groups of people to work with – both within the Bureau and our volunteers. I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for those folks.”

Milkes is off to Cupertino, California, near San Jose, where he’ll become the community’s Recreation and Community Services Director.

© 2017 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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