Parks boosters support Bureau shuffle

While outer East Portland Parks supporters say they agree with the Portland Parks & Recreation proposed reorganization, one nagging concern remains ….

East Portland Parks Coalition Chair Alesia Reese brings the first meeting of 2016 to order.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Members and guests of the East Portland Parks Coalition gather on the first Thursday of each month, at the East Portland Neighborhood Office, to find ways to improve – and in some cases, to build – parks in the 13 outer East Portland neighborhoods.

Before the first meeting of the 2016 began, held on January 7, two concerns were expressed; budget cuts, and bureau representation they’d receive when the proposed reorganization takes effect at Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R).

“Part of what’s on the agenda this evening is reviewing the 2016 upcoming events,” said Coalition Chair Alesia Reese – who is also Chair of the Woodland Park Neighborhood Association (which has no parks) – as she outlined the meeting for East Portland News.

“We are in the planning stage for the spring and summer events, especially for the Concerts in the Park and Movies in the Park. We need to get these events scheduled and committed. And, our fundraising is beginning for many of those public events.”

As attendees were filtering in, Reese talked about goals for parks in area.

“Hopefully we can continue to grow with the Park Master Plan process for Beech, Clatsop Butte, and Gateway Park,” remarked Reese. “Also, we’re working to expand access to community gardens for our new and newer residents, and citizens of outer East Portland.”

The “movement” of the group for many years, she said, has been advocating for “food security”. “We think that Community Gardens is one way of providing food security – especially for those residents new to our country, who are unfamiliar with, or have poor access to, commercial grocery stores.”

Turning to the PP&R reorganization, Reese said she personally wasn’t concerned.

“This is not the first reorganization of the Parks Bureau,” commented Reese. “This is one of several restructurings that has gone on over the years. I think that there are always going to be some changes.”

Guests introduce themselves during the East Portland Parks Coalition meeting.

Her top concern, she said, had to do with citywide budget cuts. “With all of the City Bureaus being told to cut 5% from their budgets, that could be a problem for our area,” Reese added. “Here, having 5% reduction – where we have had almost nothing – is really problematic, and difficult to imagine.”

It’s both curious and somewhat puzzling, Reese said, that the Parks Bureau continues to be not treated as an infrastructure-based agency.

“Instead, the funding for the Parks Bureau continues to come from the Portland General Fund, and continues to suffer cuts,” Reese pointed out. “Other infrastructure agencies such as Fire, and Police, don’t suffer the same level of budget insecurity that the Parks Bureau does. Yet, while our Parks system is considered to be a model and leader nationwide – here, there is no firm commitment to protect their budget from the political winds.”

Outer East Portland parks activist Linda Robinson listens to a presentation, as does outgoing PP&R South/East Zone Manager Jeff Milkes.

Hazelwood resident Linda Robinson, a longtime Parks advocate, and Chair of the Gateway Green, chimed in – reminding that she’s been on the PP&R Budget Committee for many years.

“At our last Budget Committee meeting, I learned more about the reorganization,” Robinson said.

“I’m not sure how it will affect outer East Portland,” Robinson added. “I am concerned that we appear to be losing our liaison, PP&R South/East Zone’s Jeff Milkes; and, his replacement may be at a lower level of management in the organization and thus, not have his level of authority.

“In the Budget Meeting, [Parks Bureau officials] assured me that they really like the kind of interaction they’re getting between the Bureau and the East Portland Parks Coalition, and will keep that in mind as the assignments are made,” Robinson went on. “Having a good conduit into the Parks system should help us to continue helping improve the status of East Portland Parks.”

PP&R Stewardship Equity Coordinator Emily Lytle tells how they promote volunteer opportunities.

“I think this is a good reorganization the Parks Bureau is undertaking,” commented Parkrose Heights neighborhood Chair Tom Badrick, representing East Portland Neighbors, Inc. on the Parks Budget Committee. “This will help them better manage the their diverse programs in future more effectively,” he said.

“I do have serious concerns about the liaison PP&R will appoint,” Badrick continued. “Like Linda (Robinson), I do hope they assign an individual who will clearly communicate our needs and concerns to the bureau.

To learn more, and keep in touch with East Portland Parks Coalition, CLICK HERE.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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