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.
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.