Development of Mill Park gets underway

It won’t be done for a couple years. But, see how the process to develop this outer East Portland city park was kicked off …

One of outer East Portland’s more difficult parks to find – unless you’re looking for it – is Mill City Park, right in the Mill Park neighborhood. It’s scheduled for massive improvements, now beginning.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Since the onset of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, it’s seemed like a very long time since we’ve covered a “live” event for a property operated by Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R).

But that changed on April 22, when City of Portland officials – and those with PP&R – gathered in 5.7-acre Mill Park, hidden away behind Mill Park Elementary School, not surprisingly in the Mill Park neighborhood.

Enthusiastic about the project just now starting just east of his school, located in the David Douglas School District, is Mill Park Elementary School Principal Michael Cruz.

“Having this park developed is important to our school, because Mill Park is part of our elementary school – and our students love using the space,” Mill Park Elementary School Principal Michael Cruz told East Portland News.

“We’re looking forward to its development because, mainly, [the planning has] been done collaboratively, and in a community-based way, which will make this a wonderful addition to our area.”

Talking about plans for developing Mill Park with a neighbor here’s East Portland Parks Coalition Co-Chair Linda Robinson.

“Something really good is happening here – as we’re getting ready to take this property and turn it into a real park, complete with a playground, community garden, splash pad, benches, sports fields, and other park-like amenities,” declared East Portland Parks Coalition Co-Chair Linda Robinson.

This is of interest to the East Portland Parks Coalition, Robinson explained, “Because we still have a lot of undeveloped parks. After this park has been developed, kids and families won’t have to cross SE 122nd Avenue to get to a park with good amenities!”

Her request: “I’m hoping that they can improve the signage and the entrance,” Robinson conceded. “Being somewhat hidden away behind the school, and with limited entrances, I think a lot of people don’t even know that it’s here.”

Portland City Commissioner Carmen Rubio, who oversees Portland Parks, pauses for a photo with PP&R Director Adina Long.

“This is important because we see it as one of the most important bond projects here, in outer East Portland,” PP&R Director Adina Long told us. “And, with the school here, this park has a built-in clientele!”

Before the formal meeting began, the Parks Commissioner – Portland City Commissioner Carmen Rubio – remarked to East Portland News, “This is a wonderful thing to celebrate! The project here at this park is finally on its way to fruition. It took a lot of advocacy, alignment, and clear equity goals, to ensure that we got to this point today.”

In her public remarks, Commissioner Rubio commented, “This is my first time coming out an event like this, as your Parks Commissioner – and it’s a privilege to be here. This is really important to me; this community feels like my second home.

“This project took 35 years to come together; it shouldn’t have taken that long, but that’s why were so pleased to get going on this project,” Rubio continued. “The neighbors here are deserving of a nice park like this one will be.”

PP&R Capital Project Manager Robin Johnson Craig says in addition to sports fields, Mill Park will also feature a Portland Loo.

The development of Mill Park will be based on its 2017 Master Plan, assures PP&R Community Engagement Coordinator Maija Spencer.

Describing the park’s development process was PP&R Community Engagement Coordinator Maija Spencer. “The Mill Park Advisory Committee will be meeting five or six times; and, in between those meetings we’ll host broader community engagement.”

But, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Spencer acknowledged the team “doesn’t know what these community input events will look like.”

Here’s the illustration of how the park might look, based on its 2017 Master Plan. PP&R illustration

The project can be summarized in four main phases, Spencer explained:

Phase 1 –  Exploring the Master Plan, through the summer and fall, with the Mill Park Advisory Committee, to determine the community’s needs.

Phase 2The PP&R Design Team goes to work. “They will take the ideas, ruminate with their own thoughts and put together some ideas – then likely will produce three different design concepts to present to the Mill Park Advisory Committee,” Spencer said, adding that this phase will continue through the Winter of 2022.

Phase 3Develop final designs. From Spring 2022 through Spring 2023, PP&R Design Team will be doing the final design and will check in with the community.

Phase 4Construction. The Parks Bureau anticipates construction will take place from Spring 2023 through Spring 2024.

“Then, we’ll be in Summer of 2024. And we’re already looking forward to our opening celebration for Mill Park!”

All properly socially-distanced, supporters wave to signal their excitement of this park development project getting underway.

The $10.4 million project will be paid for by City of Portland System Development Charges funds.

© 2021 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™



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