Tag: Montavilla Park

Park Light Pole Community Meeting

On May 17th, Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) will host an online community question and answer session regarding its Light Pole Safety Project. Attendees should log in just before 7 p.m. on Wednesday to participate in the hour-long event. Bureau representatives will present timeline and lamp post design information before answering questions. This meeting and other significant program changes resulted from public objection to the program’s first iteration, which planned to remove 244 light posts in twelve parks without sufficient funds for replacement.

On February 22nd, PP&R began the removal of potentially dangerous light poles in City parks, including Montavilla and Mount Tabor Parks. Engineers determined that some older cast-concrete light poles in Portland Parks have structural anchoring issues that could pose life and safety hazards to the public. This project had limited funding, with just two parks expected to receive new lights within 16 months. Affected parks would have closed at 10:00 p.m., with Park Rangers frequently visiting at night to compensate for the dangers caused by the poorly illuminated facilities. The maintenance worker’s quick action and the public’s short notice caused anger in the community. Before citizen groups could mobilize, PP&R crews removed lights in Mount Scott Park, Sellwood Park, and Sellwood Riverfront Park.

Within weeks of announcing the Light Pole Safety Project, several community groups asked PP&R leaders and City elected officials to halt the removal and reconsider the process. Among them, Montavilla’s neighborhood coalition Southeast Uplift sent a letter signed by 23 community-based organizations. The letter requested the City find funding to restore all lighting it had or would have removed. It also asked PP&R to postpone further light removal until they procured replacement units and engaged the community in the replacement lighting process.

At the April 5th Portland City Council session, the Mayor and all four Commissioners approved an amended contract with McKinstry Essention for energy savings performance contracting services, including funding for new park lights. PP&R halted light pole removal and has begun a community engagement campaign that includes the Zoom meeting on May 17th. Participation in this meeting is an opportunity for community members to stay informed about this project that impacts the function of the public parks. Additionally, attendance signals to City staff that public engagement is a valued component of this project and others like it. Registration is not required, and organizers invite everyone to attend.

Zoom Meeting Link:  https://us06web.zoom.us/j/81212765219?pwd=Sk04a1pjcFR0V0ZnL0lFMVA2QzdZQT09 
Meeting ID: 812 1276 5219 | Passcode: 078274

Disclosure: The author of this article serves on the Montavilla Neighborhood Association and 82nd Avenue Business Association boards, both signers of the Southeast Uplift letter.

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A New Approach to Replacing Dangerous Park Lights

At the April 5th Portland City Council session, the Mayor and all four Commissioners approved an amended contract with McKinstry Essention for energy savings performance contracting services, including funding for new park lights. This update halts the removal of older lamp posts that inspectors deemed hazardous earlier this year. Starting February 22nd, Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) began removing dangerous light poles in twelve City parks without funding to replace the majority of lights. Six of the seventeen light poles at Montavilla Park have structural anchoring issues that make them potentially unsafe. Those units were slated for removal, and the dimly lit park would close at 10 p.m. for safety. However, the nearly 100-year-old light poles will remain in place until replacement units are purchased, minimizing the impact of this work on parkgoers.

Although many residents and community groups appreciate the pivot by PP&R, testifiers at City Council expressed further concern over the lack of public involvement. Several residents spoke about the need for historic design consideration when replacing lights, as Mt. Tabor Park is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Dan Ryan, the Commissioner in charge of PP&R, said that Portland’s Historic Landmarks Commission would review the light poles’ design. However, one member of the public, speaking on the record, noted that Historic Landmarks Commission review does not replace the public’s participation in light pole selection. Commissioner Ryan indicated that he would have PP&R staff engage in public conversations on this issue at an unspecified future date.

Slide from Heather Flint Chatto Director of Portland Main Streets Design Initiative testimony

Another Portland City Council testifier echoed the public engagement concerns and added a request to consider lighting effects on wildlife, noting that some light-emitting diodes (LED) can negatively affect animals. The same person also expressed community interest in retaining the removed lights for historical preservation instead of selling or donating them. Commissioner Ryan assured the public that this emergency work is evolving, and he intends to protect the public by replacing the failing poles while maintaining adequate park lighting.

Slide from Heather Flint Chatto Director of Portland Main Streets Design Initiative testimony

Although Montavilla Park and adjacent parks retained all light poles, crews had already removed dangerous units at Irving Park, Mt. Scott Park, Sellwood Park, and Sellwood Riverfront Park. Once the new light poles are available, PP&R will replace light poles in those four parks first. Until then, the City will explore temporary lighting options. After crews restore light poles in those four parks, the bureau will announce plans for removal and quick replacement of light poles in other affected parks, including Montavilla Park. Light pole fabrication will take six months, and design review could slow down that process. However, this new slower plan will prevent more parks from going dark and ensure a solution that maintains nighttime visibility in Portland’s natural areas.

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A Dim Future for Portland Parks

Starting February 22nd, Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) will remove dangerous light poles in twelve City parks, including Montavilla Park. Six of the seventeen light poles at 8219 NE Glisan Street have structural anchoring issues that make them unsafe. These units could pose life and safety hazards to the public. Maintenance teams must remove them immediately, even though the City parks bureau lacks sufficient funds to replace these lights. Affected parks will close at 10:00 p.m. nightly, and Park Rangers will visit locations more frequently at night.

PP&R recently identified 243 poorly anchored light poles after conducting a system-wide review of 1,000 units in City parks. Some lamp posts are over 100 years old. Many of the older cast concrete light poles are not anchored to the ground sufficiently to avoid tipping over if pushed with horizontal force. Last June, one of the older light poles fell on two people in Irving Park after a hammock was illegally attached. 

Mt. Tabor Park also contains 81 lights that fall into the unsafe category. Park crews will replace some light poles over the next 16 months, with Irving Park and Mt. Scott Park receiving priority based on an equity analysis. However, bureau staff are exploring opportunities to maximize the use of remaining lights to keep affected parks as bright as possible. 

Montavilla Park’s gravel center road lined with older lamp poles

PP&R will require additional funding to replace all the unsafe light poles in the park system. bureau leadership has reallocated $5 million from the major maintenance fund to remove the potentially hazardous light poles and begin the partial replacement process, pulling money away from other projects. Portland parks require $600 million of repair and replacement work beyond what the bureau budget covers. PP&R Director Adena Long is working to address this challenge through its Sustainable Future Initiative to align equitable service with available funding.

This lighting reduction is one of multiple budget shortfalls leaving Montavilla Park with fewer amenities. In 2021 demolition crews removed a dilapidated picnic shelter that park officials intended to replace with a new structure. However, lack of funds postponed that project, and the site is now just another grassy field. Expect fewer light poles in the two area parks over the next few months. Until PP&R funding increases, do not anticipate the restoration of the removed lights or shelter at Montavilla Park.

Update: PP&R will now replace all lights and halt removal until new lights are available.

Twelve City parks with light pole removal planned

  • Colonel Summers Park will have 12 of 16 light poles removed
  • Irving Park will have 73 of 78 light poles removed
  • Ladd Circle Park will have 4 of 20 light poles removed
  • Lair Hill Park will have 5 of 9 light poles removed
  • Montavilla Park will have 6 of 17 light poles removed
  • Mt. Scott Park will have 18 of 22 light poles removed
  • Mt. Tabor Park will have 81 of 216 light poles removed
  • Rose City Golf Course will have 1 of 1 light poles removed
  • Sellwood Park will have 17 of 23 light poles removed
  • Sellwood Riverfront Park will have 14 of 17 light poles removed
  • Woodstock Park will have 8 of 25 light poles removed
  • Wallace Park will have 4 of 6 light poles removed

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In My Shoes Walking Tour of Montavilla

This Saturday, February 18th, the Word is Bond organization will host two In My Shoes walking tours of Montavilla. The month-long project highlights stories and experiences of young Black men across Portland and Southwest Washington. Each excursion is designed and led by a community ambassador from Word is Bond, with personal stories of the ambassador’s experience and the neighborhood’s history. Talks address race, class, community investment, gentrification, community safety, and equity.

In My Shoes Ambassadors, Noor and Mubarak will meet pre-registered participants in Montavilla Park at 1:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. for a one-hour walk through the neighborhood seen through their experience. There is no fixed cost to attend. Tours are offered on a sliding scale from $0 to $25, depending on each person’s ability to pay. This neighborhood walk is one of eight locations featured in this year’s 2023 In My Shoes season that began on February 4th and runs through the 25th. The Word is Bond website has the full tour schedule and links to other resources.

The walking tours expose community members to the experiences of young Black men around Portland, creating dialogue about racial equity and inclusion. It is also an opportunity for ambassadors to engage their community through tour interactions and a walking community audit. People interested in attending should register soon to reserve space on the Montavilla tour or one of the other remaining neighborhood walks.

Update – February 15th, 2023: Tickets are currently sold out but they have a wait list.

In My Shoes Ambassadors Noor and Mubarak. Article images courtesy Word is Bond. Portraits by Brett Brown

Eventbrite registration Saturday, February 18th: 1:30 pm and 3:00 pm

“82nd street” tour led by Mubarak and Noor will touch on their upbringing in the Montavilla neighborhood being Muslim and Black. Noor invites us into his perspective of growing up in a neighborhood he calls “home” while others call “dangerous” and the ways in which he reminds himself, his home is safe to be in. Rewriting a narrative that is often from a white perspective, we will hear from Noor the ways in which his neighborhood has lacked the resources rather than the safety. Mubarak being Somalian and Ethiopian, he will invite us into spaces where he finds windows of what feels like home to him. From the Mosque to a Somalian food spot, Mubarak will teach us what his life has been fighting against Islamaphobia by sharing with us where he has found safety from this hate and what he calls “home bases”.

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.

Park Picnic Shelter Demolished

Last week, demolition crews removed the picnic shelter and wading pool at Montavilla Park. Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) decommissioned both structures years ago due to health and safety concerns. This recent work clears the way for constructing a new open-air building of similar size. Construction crews expect to begin that project later this Fall

Funds for removal and reconstruction of the picnic shelter only recently became available, thanks to voters approving Measure 26-213 last November. City staff granted permits for this project in October of 2020, but pandemic-related restraints pushed back the project. Even with new levy funds secured earlier this year, PP&R could not schedule work immediately due to the substantial backlog of other work ahead of this one. However, now that work had begun, the site should transform quickly.

The deconstructed picnic shelter’s “H” configuration will be replaced by an 86-foot by 28-foot reticular covering. The new structure will feature a metal roof and have exposed wood rafters. Open gable ends, and a 23-foot high cathedral ceiling will provide ample natural light into the shelter. A stark contrast to the dark low-slung building now demolished. When completed, the area around the new structure will contain more green space and less pavement.

Plan detail courtesy City of Portland

Expect to see construction crews onsite in the following months building the replacement picnic shelter. If PP&R can keep to their schedule, users of the park will have covered space available during the cold and damp winter season.

Photos in this article by Weston Ruter

Replaced Bus Shelter at 82nd and Glisan

A new bus shelter on NE Glisan Street replaces the one damaged last month. On September 25th, a vehicle collided with the previous weather enclosure. At the time, TriMet did not have replacement shelters available.

The new unit is brighter colored than the damaged shelter. Painted blue, it matches colors used on TriMet busses and trains. Mounted only inches from where the original structure met its end, the replacement is a near-exact match for its predecessor.

Unfortunately, TriMet declined to add extra protection to the bus stop. Considering the destruction of the last shelter, a shield from future automotive collisions would be prudent. However, many TriMet riders will be happy to have their cover bus stop back, just in time for the colder seasons.

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.