Tag: Mark Ross

Picnic Shelter’s Funding on Hold

Last month, crews removed the aging picnic shelter at Montavilla Park and prepared the ground for new grass turf. Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) planned on replacing the structure with a modern 2,000 square foot open-walled shelter. However, a department-wide budgetary shortfall will postpone that work.

Preceding the demolition work, PP&R updated the Montavilla Park Picnic Shelter project webpage announcing the pending deconstruction of the structure while noting the lack of funds for its replacement. Park staff will plant grass seed on the worksite and open the space for general public use in the interim.

PP&R Public Information Officer, Mark Ross, confirmed the project’s indefinite delay. However, he emphasized that staff would continue to look for opportunities to revive this project in future budgets.

Proposed Montavilla Park Picnic Shelter, currently on hold.

Currently, PP&R has a $450 million backlog in unfunded major maintenance needs across the Parks system. Years of budget cuts and an ineffective funding structure reduced the Department’s ability to address needed repairs. “Portland Parks & Recreation has long been underfunded and has an aging but beloved parks system,” explained Ross. “PP&R is focusing our efforts on addressing the most critical repairs and identified service gaps, with equity at the forefront.”

To address the Parks department’s structural funding gaps identified in the 2019 budget process, PP&R staff worked with Portland City Council to develop the Sustainable Future Initiative. It included the directive to seek alternative funding sources to align operations with community expectations while not increasing the City’s budget. In November of 2020, voters approved a 5-year local option levy to maintain neighborhood parks, improve access and safety, provide equitable recreation programs, and proactively care for its natural areas and urban forest.

Levy funds saved many programs jeopardized by the monetary shortfall and kept park services available across the City. However, those funds had no impact on the maintenance backlog. “The Parks Local Option Levy is an operating levy, not a bond for capital projects,” explains Ross. Consequently, many projects are on hold, waiting for funding from other sources. With little money for these projects, PP&R must select projects based on specific criteria that address the most significant need. “These projects are ranked for equity, likelihood of failure, and consequence of failure,” said Ross.

With Montavilla’s decaying shelter demolished and no longer a danger, the project’s position could slip back in the queue based on the PP&R priorities. However, the project is not canceled and remains active. Funding for this project could arrive through several sources at any time. Until then, residents should not anticipate seeing significant changes at Montavilla Park, aside from the construction fences coming down and a little extra grass to enjoy.

Skateboarding at Berrydale Park

UPDATE – Portland Parks & Recreation created a Berrydale Park Skatepark Project page, featuring information about the proposed new amenities and a tentative schedule for community involvement with the planning process.

Yesterday Portland Parks & Recreation announced substantial investments in several neighborhood parks throughout the city. As part of that proposal, Montavilla’s Berrydale Park will gain a new skateboarding area with potentially more enhancements planned around the project. The new skatepark will join eight others in the Portland Parks system.

Last week, Early Assistance application 21-038776 outlined the potential upgrades coming to Berrydale Park beyond the approved skatepark. Mark Ross with Portland Parks & Recreation explained that the skateboarding area is the primary addition to the park, but other improvements could soon follow. “In the future, contingent on available funding, additional park amenities may include improved access, new site furnishings such as lighting, drinking fountains, benches, trash cans, and signage.”

With a total project budget of two million dollars ($2M), this work represents the most significant investment at this park within recent memory. Commissioner Carmen Rubio allocated one and a half million dollars ($1.5M) in System Development Charges (SDC) to this project, adding to the existing five-hundred-thousand dollars ($500K) in SDC funding. The added funds now allow for project planning to begin and ensures the completion of the skateboarding area.

Improvement to Portland parks is in line with city-wide efforts to curb a trend of violence and crime growing within the city. At a recent neighborhood meeting, Commissioner Mingus Mapps explained how after-school activities and the return of community programs outweigh increased policing in his plans to reduce crime. “If you are out doing something constructive, then you are not out doing something destructive.” Commissioner Mapps’ plan does not directly rely on park resources. However, these long-term investments by Parks & Recreation will create constructive outlets for the community, reinforcing other programs aimed at changing behavior.

The Berrydale Park project is scheduled to complete construction sometime in spring 2024. Within the coming months and years, Parks & Recreation staff will create proposed designs and engage with the community around this project. Look for opportunities to get involved when that phase of planning begins.

Skatepark at Glenhaven Park

New Park Picnic Shelter in 2021

Pre-construction work passed another milestone last week for the new picnic shelter at Montavilla Park. Demolition of the old shelter and wading pool will make way for the updated picnic space.

“Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) staff are making good progress in planning and have secured the needed permits. PP&R will be moving the design forward to be ready for bidding, likely in 2021.” Said Mark Ross, a Media Relations representative with Portland Parks & Recreation.

Issued October 7th, Permit 20-160791 outlines the creation of a “new picnic shelter and expansion of asphalt drive north of structure.” This summer, Portland issued two demolition permits for the old shelter and wading pool. PP&R will not replace the former wading pool.

Budgetary constraints on PP&R could challenge the construction of projects like the new picnic shelter. However, Ross believes that funding will be available for this project when construction starts in 2021. “At that time, we hope for the necessary amount of project funding and staff capacity.”

On the ballot this year is Measure 26-213. It seeks to create a five-year tax levy that would provide PP&R with approximately $48 million each year. Funding from Measure 26-213 taxes would not necessarily pay for this upgrade to Montavilla Park but could ensure that additional citywide cuts do not dramatically affect the PP&R budget. Budget cuts could push this project to a later date.

Outdoor spaces are more important than ever when we look at our long-term recovery from COVID-19. Creating usable, safe spaces in the fresh air will help in the immediate future. Additionally, investing in long term improvements to our parks will secure their viability if economic circumstances cause future budgetary shortfalls. With luck, Montavilla residents will be enjoying a new picnic shelter in the warmer months of 2021.

Old shelter and decommissioned wading pool. Image courtesy of Google Maps

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Demolition at Montavilla Park

Two demolition permits for Montavilla Park were recently submitted. Application 20-159559 and 20-159551 seek to demolish the park’s wading pool and picnic structure. Currently, these structures are fenced off.

Mark Ross, Media Relations with Portland Parks & Recreation, explained that this work is in preparation for a replacement picnic structure. “Portland Parks & Recreation must demolish and remove the existing shelter which had become unstable. The bureau plans to replace it with a similarly sized shelter. The wading pool is not functional and cannot be used per State regulations which went into effect some years ago.”

The picnic structure is visible from NE Glisan Street and is adjacent to the children’s play area. This corner of Montavilla Park is dark and uninviting in its current condition. The demolition should clear the way for needed upgrades to the park.


Top photo is courtesy of Portland Parks & Recreation, Portland, OR.