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2021-22 Parks Levy Annual Report

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View the Executive Summary for the 2021-22 Parks Levy Annual Report


From the Commissioner

In November 2020 Portlanders voted to pass the five-year Parks Local Option Levy (Parks Levy) to support Recreation for All, Protect and Grow Nature, and Community Partnerships by preventing cuts to park services and recreation programs, preserving and restoring park and natural area health, and centering equity and affordable access to all. This critical funding ensures that Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) can operate Portland's park system and programs that provide recreation services to all and help conserve parks, nature, and clean water. Thank you for your investments in PP&R.

In addition to increasing equitable access and maintaining neighborhood parks, the Parks Levy was also crucial in providing programming throughout summer 2021 and the COVID-19 pandemic. Without the Parks Levy, PP&R would not have had sufficient resources to continue to provide recreation programs, and community centers, camps, and pools would have been closed indefinitely. Thanks to the Parks Levy, PP&R was able to provide critical outdoor recreation opportunities, including camps, classes, and open swim, for Portlanders of all ages, in a COVID-safe and equitable way. 

I thank all Portlanders for their continued support. 

Commissioner Carmen Rubio

City of Portland, Parks & Recreation

Portrait photo of Commissioner Carmen Rubio

From the Director

We are excited to celebrate the results of the Parks Levy and to share some highlights from Year 1, which include:

  • Recreation for All—Return of summer programs. PP&R worked with City Council to get early access to Parks Levy resources before they were collected in November 2021, which allowed PP&R to deliver a COVID-19–responsive summer program in 2021. Programming included more than 15,000 swim lessons, summer camps for more than 7,500 kids, more than 100,000 nutritious meals served in the summer at over 30 park sites, Fitness in the Park classes for more than 2,000 people, pop-up concerts, and many other services throughout the city.
  • Recreation for All—Affordable access. PP&R piloted a “Pay What You Can” pricing model to increase access to programs. In past PP&R surveys and community engagement, PP&R heard from the community that cost was a barrier to participation and that program costs disproportionately impacted people of color and families earning low incomes. The Parks Levy allowed PP&R to establish financial access models to reduce cost as a barrier. PP&R also partnered with culturally specific and community-based organizations to introduce summer programming to families that may not have participated in the past.
  • Protect and Grow Nature—Increased care for parks, natural areas, and trees. Thanks to the Parks Levy, this year PP&R treated 874.55 acres of invasive weeds and collected 3,107,384 pounds of trash. The Bureau also created 85 new positions to increase park, natural area, and tree maintenance. These positions will expand PP&R’s capacity to meet park and natural area maintenance needs across the city. With more than 11,000 acres of land, including 8,000 acres of natural areas, and 1.2 million park trees, PP&R’s maintenance and enhancement of natural features is essential to climate resilience, protecting water quality and habitat, and ensuring ecological health in urban areas.
  • Community Partnerships—Prioritizing transparency and oversight. PP&R established the Parks Levy Oversight Committee, composed of five community members selected from an open public applicant pool. The committee meets quarterly and reviews program implementation, advises the Bureau on transparency and communication strategies, and will counsel on an independent audit process.
  • Community Partnerships—Strengthening and growing partnerships. PP&R expanded on the existing Teen Collaborative Initiative grant program to create a new Community Partnership Program focused on providing funding and in-kind support to community partners. PP&R is awarding approximately $1.28 million to 20 organizations to provide youth and teen services to underserved communities over the next two years.

Year 1 of the Parks Levy has established the mechanisms to successfully deliver on voter commitments over the five years of the Parks Levy and beyond. In FY 2021–22 PP&R hired 1,416 full-time, part-time, seasonal, and casual staff. With Parks Levy funding, PP&R created 142 new full-time equivalent positions and restored hundreds of jobs to meet Parks Levy goals, increasing PP&R’s capacity to provide services and programs to Portlanders. This increase in capacity will create living-wage jobs while helping the Bureau meet the needs of a growing parks system. The result will be cleaner parks, improved access to programs, increased care for the urban tree canopy, and a growing effort to center and learn from underserved communities.

PP&R is planting the seeds to better serve Portlanders. By Year 5 of the Parks Levy, we will have grown, with stronger partnerships, improved processes, and positive community outcomes. We are thankful for Portlanders’ continued support.

With gratitude,

Adena Long, Director

Portland Parks & Recreation

Portrait photo of Director Adena Long

Summary

In November 2020 Portland voters passed the Parks Local Option Levy (Parks Levy) to maintain neighborhood parks, improve access and safety, provide equitable recreation programs, and proactively care for natural areas and Portland’s urban forest. The Parks Levy focuses on preventing cuts to park
services and recreation programs, preserving and restoring park and natural area health, and centering equity and affordable access to all. It is a property tax of $0.80 per $1,000 of assessed value that will raise approximately $48 million per year for five years, starting in 2021, to provide critical operating funds to
deliver services.

A group of kids running with race bibs and face paint on.

To maximize Parks Levy funds and deliver on the Parks Levy’s goals and commitments, PP&R is using the Leveraged Funding Model to fund Parks Levy–eligible costs. This means that the Bureau uses the full allocation of General Fund resources before tapping into Parks Levy funds; any underspending of Parks Levy funds on voter commitments is reserved for spending in future years. Parks Levy funds are not limited to spending within the five year collection timeframe. In fiscal year 2021–2022 (FY 2021–22) the Parks Levy received $44.69 million in revenues, of which PP&R spent $19.11 million ($18.73 million on PP&R programs and services, $379,962 on reducing financial impact to the Portland Children’s Levy caused by compression under Oregon property tax law), leaving $25.58 million of Parks Levy funding to be spent in future years.

The ballot measure centered on fifteen commitments and PP&R is using them to measure and report on the success of the Parks Levy. In this report, the commitments are grouped under larger service categories: Recreation for All, Protect and Grow Nature, and Community Partnerships. In FY 2021–22 PP&R made progress on all fifteen commitments. Highlighted examples follow, with additional details in the full report.


Ballot Title and Explanatory Statement

PP&R is tracking progress on the fifteen commitments listed in the November 2020 voter pamphlet and approved by Portland voters. Exhibit C and Exhibit D were included in the original resolution (Resolution No. 37498) and voter pamphlet. The fifteen commitments each have a code from their exhibit letter and order in which they appear in the exhibit.

Ballot title and explanatory statement for Measure 26-213 (Restore recreation programs, parks, nature, water through five-year levy) as it appeared in the November 2020 Voter Pamphlet.

By the Numbers: Parks Levy Year 1

Icons noting: 874,780 estimated PP&R program attendance. 173,190 free meals served. 1,467 trees planted in priority neighborhoods. 17 new positions related to the urban forest. 2,667 participants in Environmental Education programs. 22,778 Teen Force pass scans. 874.55 acres of invasive weeds treated. 68 new positions for park and natural area maintenance. 15,000 plus summer swim lessons. 328,181 volunteer hours. $1.11 mil in financial assistance provided. $19.11 mil in Parks Levy funding spent.

Introduction

Year 1: Planting the Seeds

The Park Levy is a five-year levy. Year 1 has established the mechanisms to see success through the next four years. These mechanisms include financial tracking systems, eligibility analysis, and planning including approving new positions in the Bureau. These Year 1 “ramp-up” efforts are creating capacity,
resources, and processes for successful delivery of Parks Levy–funded services in subsequent years.

Year 1 of the Parks Levy has the highest concentration of “ramp-up” activities. For example, one of the Parks Levy commitments is to perform proactive maintenance on park trees, a service area that PP&R had not previously had the resources to support.

This new PP&R service area requires the purchase of additional equipment, the approval of positions and subsequent hiring, and workspace allocation. When these pieces are place, PP&R will be ready to begin the work of proactive park tree care.

Today the Parks Levy is planting the seeds and furthering PP&R’s growth as an organization. By Year 5 of the Parks Levy, PP&R will have grown, in terms of staff resources, improved processes, and stronger partnerships, to deliver services for the community.

How the Parks Levy is Centering Equity

PP&R is committed to becoming an anti-racist organization and to centering equity in our service delivery. Parks Levy resources will be used to improve equitable access throughout the Portland’s parks and recreation system.

The Parks Levy ballot measure title and explanatory statement reflected this commitment to equity. Ballot measure language included a focus on prioritizing services for communities of color and households experiencing poverty and on providing services to diverse populations, including communities of color, seniors, teens, households experiencing poverty, immigrants and refugees, and people living with disabilities. In addition, as part of the Bureau’s Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland strategic framework, PP&R has committed to centering the voices and needs of underserved communities, specifically Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQIA+ people, youth, older adults, people living with disabilities, and people living with low incomes; this list expands upon the ballot language of the Parks Levy.

With resources from the Parks Levy, PP&R is working to increase engagement and partnerships with centered communities, reduce barriers to access for park services, and center equity in its decision-making processes. Some examples of this work include:

  • Implementation of the Equity and Anti-Racism Lens. After developing the Equity and Anti-Racism Lens (available at PP&R Equity Hub) in 2021, PP&R embedded it in a new Decision Support Tool, a common framework to evaluate budget choices and investment decisions through an integrated lens. The application of the Equity and Anti-Racism Lens to budget decisions through the Decision Support Tool allows PP&R to continue to pursue more equitable outcomes by prioritizing investments and services for underserved communities.
  • Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland—Listening and Learning. Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland uses an ongoing cycle of Listening & Learning to drive its strategy and is including underserved communities in decision making. This outreach is intentional in raising the voices of groups that have previously been excluded on the basis of race, ability, national origin, income level, gender, and/or age. In 2021 PP&R completed its first wave of Listening & Learning to inform drafts of PP&R’s new Mission, Vision, Values, and Racial Equity Statements. The second wave of Listening & Learning in 2022 involves gathering feedback on the drafts.
  • Community Partnership Program. Building on the existing Teen Collaborative Initiative (TCI) grant program, PP&R is awarding approximately $1.28 million to 20 organizations through TCI and the new Community Partnership Program. The new program was developed using the Equity and Anti-Racism Lens, among other tools. These awards expand PP&R’s capacity to reach underserved communities and center equity, particularly in working to better serve the communities listed in the language of the Parks Levy commitments. Grants provide targeted financial and in-kind support to partner organizations that bring knowledge, expertise, resources, and a focused approach to serving culturally specific communities.
  • Pay What You Can and Access Discount. For years PP&R has heard from Portlanders that cost is a barrier to participation; in a 2017 survey, 20% of Portlanders said that cost was a barrier to access, and that barrier was even larger for people of color (25%) and people living in East Portland (28%). To address this inequity, PP&R expanded available financial assistance programs with two new pilot models. Each model created discount options on a scale up to 90% off program prices to allow for increased and equitable access. In 2022 PP&R used community input to further refine the financial access model.
  • ADA coordinator. The Parks Levy has allowed for an expansion of PP&R’s Equity and Inclusion team, including the hiring of an American with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator. This position will help ensure that PP&R’s programs, facilities, and services are inclusive of people living with disabilities.
  • Early registration window and multiple registration periods. The timing of registration and the registration process can also be a barrier to access. To reduce this barrier, PP&R now opens a one-week pre-registration window for registered activities and shares it with partner organizations that serve priority communities. While no individual was turned away during the pre-registration window, outreach was focused on partner organizations that work with communities that have historically had less access to PP&R registered activities. In addition, PP&R shifted from one registration period for all summer programming to two registration periods spaced throughout the summer. The registration window itself was shortened from four months to four weeks to provide more access to individuals with less discretionary funds. This shift allows for additional flexibility and a second chance for users to get into popular programs that filled quickly for the first session.

Continued development of demographic data collection and analysis tools will enable PP&R to evaluate who is being served as these programs and engagement efforts are implemented, and whether these investments are effective in reducing historic disparities in access to PP&R services.

Maximizing Parks Levy Funding

Portland voters approved the Parks Levy to provide PP&R with critical funding to continue operations and to incrementally increase services and programs. Parks Levy funding will provide additional funding on top of other revenue sources such as the City’s General Fund.

In a March 2022 memo to her City Council colleagues, Parks Commissioner Carmen Rubio wrote, “In keeping with the principle of preserving [the] Parks Levy, I’m . . . directing PP&R to reimburse levy-eligible expenses only inasmuch as they exceed other available resources, including [the] General Fund. This will have the result of eliminating General Fund underspending by the bureau and making sure that [the] Parks Levy will benefit our parks, natural areas, recreation facilities and ultimately, our community.”

To maximize Parks Levy funds and deliver on the Parks Levy’s goals and commitments, PP&R is using a leveraged model to fund Parks Levy–eligible costs. This means that PP&R uses the full allocation of General Fund resources before spending Parks Levy funds to maximize the Parks Levy’s purpose of supporting park operations and ensure incremental increases to eligible services and activities. (See Appendix B for information on the mechanics of the Leveraged Funding Model.) Parks Levy resources are applied to the program’s net expenses (total expenses reduced by associated program revenues). When the budget is underspent, General Fund support can cover more expenses and the amount of Parks Levy resources needed is lower. Parks Levy funds are then available to fund additional service delivery on voter commitments.

In FY 2021–22, PP&R spent a total of $19,105,009 of Parks Levy funding. Of that total, $18,725,047 was spent on PP&R programs and services and $379,962 on reducing financial impact to the Portland Children’s Levy caused by compression under Oregon property tax law. This spending, with Parks Levy underspending of $25.58 million, is a result of overall underspending of the FY 2021–22 budget due to the pace of hiring and continued pandemic impacts. With the Leveraged Funding Model, underspending most dramatically affects Parks Levy spending, since the General Fund is allocated first and fully spent down before Parks Levy funds are allocated. Parks Levy funds are not limited to spending within the five-year collection timeframe, and savings from this fiscal year can be spent in future years on meeting voter commitments.

Revenues from the Parks Levy support a portion of the PP&R operational expenses that align with the Parks Levy voter commitments. This annual report tracks and reports the outcomes that the Parks Levy supports, based on the total services delivered, with financial support from both the Parks Levy and leveraged funding. For example, in FY 2021–22 PP&R served more than 173,190 free meals throughout the year, including 100,000 during the summer, to youth and families through Free Lunch + Play, SUN Community Schools, and after-school programs. Those meals were funded by federal aid; the staffing and transportation to deliver the meals, were funded by both the General Fund and the Parks Levy. This report notes the full number of meals—an outcome that both the Parks Levy and leveraged funding supported.


Recreation for All icon of two people high fiving

Recreation for All

The Parks Levy’s focus on Recreation for All means increasing access to recreation services by reducing cost as a barrier, ensuring service continuity, and centering programming and outreach on underserved communities, specifically Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQIA+ people, youth, older adults, people living with disabilities, and people living with low incomes. In FY 2021–22 PP&R had $17.08 million in total expenses related to Recreation for All; Parks Levy funding provided $5.05 million toward those expenses.

Parks Levy commitment: Prevent cutes to recreation programs, closures of community centers and pools (C4*).

*The fifteen commitments each have a code from their exhibit letter and order in which they appear in the exhibit. Exhibit C and Exhibit D were included in the original resolution (Resolution No. 37498) and voter pamphlet. See "Ballot Title and Executive Summary" above for the full list.

Recreation programs, community centers, and pools are essential to providing services that Portlanders love and need. In FY 2021–22 PP&R was successful in preventing cuts and closures to recreation programs and facilities. PP&R spent $2.15 million of Parks Levy funding on this commitment—a portion of the $6.39 million in total net expenses focused on recreation facility operations.

A lifeguard blows a whistle while looking out at the pool from the edge.

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Parks Levy made it possible for community centers and pools to reopen and keep programs running. Before voters approved the Parks Levy, PP&R used an uncertain and inequitable funding model, in part because ongoing operations relied on collecting fees from classes and activities. The pandemic made this uncertainty even more challenging. At the beginning of the pandemic, PP&R had to lay off or freeze hiring for most of the Bureau’s casual and seasonal staff, which meant that more than 950 people were without work.

The Parks Levy stabilized PP&R’s operational budget. It allowed the Bureau to embrace affordable access for all, removed its reliance on fees from classes and activities to fund operations, and allowed for hiring and re-hiring of positions. In addition, City Council’s referral of the Parks Levy to the ballot promised the restoration of summer programs in 2021, and PP&R fulfilled that promise. PP&R requested City Council’s approval for early access to funds in FY 2020–21 to deliver a COVID-19 responsive summer program in 2021.

Summer programming included:

  • More than 15,000 swim lessons.
  • Summer camps for more than 7,500 kids.
  • More than 100,000 summer nutritious meals served at over 30 park sites.
  • Fitness in the Park classes for more than 2,000 people.
  • Pop-up concerts and many other services throughout the city.

Without the support of the Parks Levy, community centers, camps, and pools would have faced significant delays in reopening. Additionally, the Parks Levy reduced the need for PP&R to charge fees that were historically needed to keep programs and facilities running. The Parks Levy revenue support helped stabilize PP&R’s budget and helped provide financial assistance options when the impact of a global pandemic and associated public health guidelines remained uncertain—which allowed PP&R to prevent cuts to recreation programs, keep community centers and pools open, and continue to provide the services and activities to all Portlanders.

Feature Profile: Return of Summer Programming

Corryn Pettingill loves her job as assistant manager at Pier Pool. Being able to offer children and families a cool refuge from the hot summer weather gives her a sense of purpose and joy.

“All I hear is ‘thanks’ from the patrons, and all the people are just so grateful,” Corryn says. “We all want to work and provide for the community. I feel that from our entire staff. I feel that we’re well taken care of, and it impacts the community in a positive way when the staff is well taken care of and happy.”

But with COVID shutdowns, pools closed and Corryn’s job with Aquatics was cut as a result.

Portrait photo of Corryn Pettingill with quote: "I knew that as soon as the pools opened back up, I wanted to come back."

“I did have to get another job during COVID because, of course, the pools were closing,” Corryn says. “In 2021 I knew that as soon as the pools opened back up, I wanted to come back. I knew I wanted to continue being a lifeguard and being surrounded by the pool. I love giving what I experienced to kids who love it as well.”

When pools reopened with Parks Levy support in summer 2021, Corryn returned to her position as a lifeguard at Pier Pool. In summer 2022 she was promoted to assistant pool manager. She is grateful to be able to pass on the swimming experience she received from PP&R.

“I grew up near Columbia Park,” she says. “I considered my swim instructor like a grandmother. I called her Grandma Kathy.”

Parks Levy funding has helped restore the community’s sense of stability too. In 2021 the Parks Levy brought back programming, including critical swim lessons that community members rely on. Parents feel that swim lessons help their children develop a sense of independence.

“The kids benefit from it, and the parents are grateful for the experience,” Corryn says. “I am really glad to be able to provide that.”

Parks Levy commitment: Deliver recreational programs, including, but not limited to, environmental education and access to nature for youth, summer camps, family-friendly movies and concerts, fitness and arts classes, teen- and senior-focused programs, life-saving swim lessons, and a summer playground program serving free lunches to children experiencing hunger (D2).
A child smiling and playing giant Jenga.

The beloved programs that PP&R provides enhance the lives of Portlanders and the surrounding community. PP&R succeeded in delivering recreational programs in FY 2021–22. Despite ongoing pandemic restrictions, PP&R was able to safely provide swim lessons, camps and classes, Fitness in the Park, pop-up concerts, Free Lunch + Play, and other popular programming. PP&R served more than 173,190 free meals throughout the year, including the 100,000 meals served in the summer, to youth and families through Free Lunch + Play, SUN Community Schools, and after-school programs. During the  school year, 57% of young Portlanders qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Without school lunches, summer becomes the time when nearly 50,000 Portland children face hunger daily.

COVID-19 impacted participant numbers, particularly in the first half of FY 2021–22. In addition, once programming no longer had COVID attendance restrictions, participation numbers continued to be limited because of difficulty in hiring staff to provide registered activities. PP&R is continuing to prioritize outreach around employment to increase programming in future years of the Parks Levy.

PP&R spent $2.90 million of Parks Levy funding on this commitment—a portion of the $10.69 million in total net expenses for providing services associated with this commitment.

Table of performance measures. Annual scans for Teen Force Passes: 22,778 in FY 2021-22 with the Parks Levy (indoor facilities were closed summer 2021 and had limited access for the remainder of 2021 due to COVID). Total estimated attendance: 181,590 in FY 2020-21 and 874,780 in FY 2021-22 with the Parks Levy (after COVID, program attendance remained lower due to difficulty in hiring staff). Total volunteer hours (recreation): 174,598 in FY 2021-22 with the Parks Levy (COVID limitations).
Parks Levy commitment: Remove financial barriers for low-income households by ending current dependence on recreation fee revenues, allowing an equity focused delivery of community events and programs and reducing the likelihood of further cuts to recreation offerings (D3).

PP&R believes that recreation is for everyone and recognizes that charging fees means that not everyone has been able to access recreation services. In FY 2021–22 PP&R provided more financial assistance through two pilot initiatives—Pay What You Can and the Access Discount—than previously provided by PP&R in the past.

For years, Portlanders have told PP&R that the price of programs like swim lessons, day camps, and exercise classes is a barrier for participation. A 2017 PP&R Community Needs Survey found that cost was a barrier to program access for 22% of respondents, and that barrier was even larger for people of color (25%) and people living in East Portland (28%). In addition, people with incomes below $75,000 were less likely to participate in programs than those with higher incomes. The survey also found that the lower the reported income, the more likely a respondent was to report cost as a barrier to participation. Overall, these findings were an increase from a previous 2008 survey, in which 8% of respondents identified cost as a barrier.

Two kids dancing together at an outdoor event.

With the Parks Levy, PP&R now has the financial resources to reduce cost as a barrier for program participants. In 2021 PP&R piloted two new discount models, Pay What You Can and Access Discount. The Pay What You Can pilot provided up to 90% off for registered activities like classes, lessons, and camps. The Access Discount model was for drop-in activities and passes like swimming and open gym use. Users registered once for the year and the discount, up to 90%, automatically applied to the purchase of passes and drop-in activities until it expired.

In the first year of these financial assistance models’ implementation, PP&R provided $1.11 million in financial assistance to 7,948 unique people. This was significantly more than PP&R had provided in years past, where only about $565,000 in fee reductions was provided through scholarships. The Pay What You Can and Access Discount support in FY 2021–22 represents nearly twice as much financial assistance provided compared to previous scholarships, even despite there being fewer programs provided and less total revenue due to the pandemic and staffing challenges. Under the previous scholarship model, approximately 4–5% of possible revenue was discounted. In the first full year of the Pay What You Can and Access Discount pilot, it grew to 19%. Based on usage data and community surveys, PP&R plans on moving forward with a model where users will register annually for an Access Pass that will apply a discount automatically at the time of program registration and to drop-in activities. In future years PP&R will look to collect survey data from Portlanders and program participants to evaluate if there are additional improvements that can be made to the financial assistance models to further reduce cost as a barrier to participation.

In addition to discount options, PP&R continues to provide free programming, which is in alignment with the Parks Levy commitment to reduce cost as a barrier. Programs like Summer Free for All, SUN Community School programming, and teen programming are provided at no cost. Supported with resources from the Parks Levy, PP&R looks forward to ensuring that recreation is truly for everyone.

Feature Profile: Community Benefits of Financial Assistance Programs and Partnerships

PP&R is excited to partner with the Black Parent Initiative (BPI) and BPI’s work supporting Black/African American families with children ages 0–10 aligns with the Parks Levy’s equity focus. Costs and program fees have historically been a barrier to participation and access to PP&R’s programming.

Portrait photo of Leigh Bohannon with quote: "Making space for our families where they can share their true experiences and offering culturally-specific programming and events is great."

The Pay What You Can and the Access Discount pilots, funded by the Parks Levy, aimed to lift that burden. PP&R reached out to over 150 partner organizations— such as Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), Rosewood Initiative, Neighborhood House, and more—to share information about financial assistance and Early Registration.

“The Pay What You Can program has been amazing,” says Leigh Bohannon, BPI Community Outreach and Resource Manager. “During 2021’s hot summer, BPI kids were able to participate in swim lessons for multiple weeks, and now they are swimmers.” She adds, “Early registration was also incredibly helpful because classes fill up super fast. It took the stress away from the registration process. Parents were able to map out their work schedules and the swim classes in advance.”

Gentrification has impacted BPI family participation, making them feel shut out from recreation activities in North and Northeast Portland. Financial assistance and Early Registration has helped families feel more welcome and comfortable coming back to the community centers.

“Around 30–50 BPI families with children from toddler to elementary-school age participated in summer 2021,” Leigh says. The Parks Levy’s focus on community partnerships has helped with relationship and trust building. “BPI families are visiting parks more and utilizing the community centers with greater frequency because there is an increased comfort level,” Leigh adds.

BPI families look forward to continued and future collaborative opportunities with PP&R. “Making space for our families where they can share their true experiences and offering culturally-specific programming and events is great,” Leigh says.

With the Parks Levy, PP&R’s partnerships with BPI and similar organizations can make programs and services more affordable and more accessible to underserved communities.

Leigh Bohannon talking with partners at a PP&R and Black Parent Initiative event.

Protect and Grow Nature icon of two hands holding up an evergreen tree.

Protect and Grow Nature

Protect and Grow Nature means keeping parks and facilities cleaner, safer, and more welcoming for all. Enhanced maintenance of natural features, natural areas, and trees ensures clean water, protects wildlife, and diminishes the impacts of climate change. In addition, increased day-to-day maintenance of park features, restrooms, and recreation facilities will proactively care for and protect PP&R assets. In FY 2021–22 PP&R had approximately $36.76 million in total expenses related to Protect and Grow Nature; Parks Levy funding provided $11.47 million toward those expenses.

Parks Levy commitments: Enhance and preserve parks, rivers, wetlands, trees, and other important natural features in urban areas for the benefit of all Portlanders and wildlife (C1); AND Protect water quality and wildlife habitat, control erosion, remove invasive species in 8,000 acres of natural area (D1).
Teens standing in a marsh pointing and looking through binoculars

With more than 11,000 acres of land that include 8,000 acres of natural areas, PP&R’s maintenance and enhancement of natural features is essential to climate resilience, protecting water quality and habitat, and ensuring ecological health in urban areas. In FY 2021–22 PP&R hired 23 of 68 approved new positions focused on maintenance, including natural feature and natural area maintenance. As the remaining 45 positions approved in FY 21–22 are filled in the coming year, maintenance of natural features will increase. PP&R will measure the health of natural areas next year through a study completed every five years.

PP&R spent $817,194 of Parks Levy funding on these commitments—a portion of the $2.38 million total net expenses focused on natural area maintenance.

Table of performance measures. Number of invasive weeds treated annually: 836 in FY 2020-21 and 874.55 in FY 2021-22 with the Parks Levy (value reflects ongoing COVID challenges and previous reduced staffing, which the Parks Levy will help increase). Total volunteer hours: 150,411 in FY 2021-22 with the Parks Levy (limited due to COVID).
Feature Profile: Resilience, Creativity, and Care - How Increased Maintenance Staff Is Enhancing PP&R’s Plants and Natural Features

PP&R is the caretaker of both Mill Ends Park, the world’s smallest greenspace (452 square inches) and Forest Park, one of the country’s largest urban forest reserves (more than 5,100 acres). PP&R’s Land Stewardship Division maintains these natural park areas, and now, with Parks Levy funding, additional staff positions have been approved and hired to support and care for PP&R’s parks and natural areas.

Photo of Allison Parker and Heather Humphrey with quote: "As we're going through these harder weather events, additional capacity just makes us able to help some of these plants deal with the extreme stressors we're currently experiencing."

“With more people on staff, we can be more flexible and nimble with responsiveness,” says Allison Parker, PP&R’s North Portland Parks Zone Supervisor. “Our work makes a big impact, and I think we always knew our parks were valued by the community, but as we’ve gone through COVID, we’re seeing this increase in park usage. Of course, that comes with an increase in maintenance needs, so it’s even more important to be able to be out there.”

With Parks Levy funding and an expanded maintenance staff, the care of parks and natural areas has become more thoughtful and strategic. Heather Humphrey’s fulltime horticulturalist position was added to the North Zone team thanks to increased funding through the Parks Levy. Her previous experience with the team as a seasonal staffer means she knows the impact another full-time position gives the team. Previously, two horticulturalists managed 32 parks in the North Zone; now, with a third horticulturalist, the team’s capacity, flexibility, and creativity can thrive.

“Before, it was more working to really try and stay on top of what we already have and just maintaining,” Heather says. “Adding another person into the mix gives more availability to think of new ideas for ways that we can improve the parks instead of just trying to keep the bare minimum of what we have.”

Prior to the Parks Levy, maintenance staff was stretched thin. “I definitely heard from my staff that they were feeling very overwhelmed,” Allison says. “It can be hard on them when they feel like they are never going to catch up or get everything done.”

In FY 2021–22 Parks Levy funding made it possible to hire 23 new maintenance-related positions, with an additional 45 positions approved for hiring next year. “Now we’re able to have more time to do things like research plants that will be more adaptable, especially as we’re facing climate change and need to adapt what we’re using, what we’re planting, and how we do things,” Heather says. “As we’re going through these harder weather events, additional capacity just makes us able to help some of these plants deal with the extreme stressors we’re currently experiencing.”

Heather’s work as a horticulturalist is critical to climate resiliency. With Parks Levy funding and expanded capacity, PP&R’s maintenance teams can ensure that plants, parks, and natural areas are enhanced and preserved for the benefit of all Portlanders and wildlife.

Parks Levy commitment: Increase opportunities for communities of color and children experiencing poverty to connect with nature (C3).

PP&R’s Environmental Education (EE) programs provide opportunities for communities of color and children experiencing poverty to connect with nature. Compared to the previous year, Parks Levy funding has increased the number of EE participants. However, COVID-19 still impacted participant numbers, particularly in the first half of FY 2021–22.

EE programs actively work to engage and provide services to communities of color and children experiencing poverty. As with Recreation programs, the early registration opportunity allows partner organizations’ communities to sign up one week early for EE registered programs such as Nature Day camp. PP&R also works closely with Title I and SUN Schools for school field trips and to recruit students for Nature Day Camp, Teen Nature Team, and Youth Conservation Crew programs, and with local partner organizations to reach underserved communities for Ladybug Nature Walks and Custom Nature Programs.

PP&R spent $445,866 of Parks Levy funding on this commitment —a portion of the $1.41 million total net EE expenses.

Feature Profile: Environmental Education - Connecting to Nature, Connecting to Community

PP&R’s Environmental Education (EE) programs and services have always been a favorite for youth. The Parks Levy’s commitment to increase these opportunities for communities of color and children experiencing poverty builds on EE’s work, programs, and values.

“Nature connects us to our community,” says Rose Ramirez, EE’s coordinator for camps and classes, including Nature Day Camp. “We are offering a connection to nature where community building is the foundation of what we do.”

Cost and location can be a challenge and barrier to participation. The EE team has worked hard to reach underserved communities.

Portrait photos of Rose Ramirez, Karen Chao, and Gina Dake with quote: "The Parks Levy offers children more opportunities to come to parks and get to know them."

“Our outreach included emails, phone calls, organic connections,” Rose says. “For Nature Day Camp, we reached out to more than 100 partners.” Thanks to the Parks Levy, EE was able to use initiatives like the Pay What You Can pilot and early registration for Nature Day Camps. “People were able to skip the huge barrier of registration day and get into a camp at an affordable price,” Rose adds.

Increasing opportunities also means adapting to the needs of underserved communities. Because the Parks Levy funding expanded the EE team and added capacity, “we were able to bring back after-care so that working parents and caregivers had options,” says Gina Dake, EE supervisor. Offering additional locations was also key to engaging communities of color and households experiencing poverty. "For years parents and guardians have been excited about locations like our Powell Butte camp, since they lived near there,” Gina says. By hosting camp in East Portland, where there is a higher proportion of households experiencing poverty, EE can better center underserved communities. “We look to move to where the need is,” Gina says.

With Parks Levy support, EE now has staff dedicated to individual programs. “Youth Conservation Crew and Teen Nature Team are now run by separate staff, which meant that we could add an extra week to meet demand for Teen Nature Team, spend more time on outreach, plan more detailed enrichment, and have a greater richness and depth of programming,” Gina says.

This is helping EE build a stronger impact and effect. “After programming is done, I hear about the families going out to the parks to explore with the child who participated in the programs and they’re able to show their family what we taught them,” says Karen Chao, EE’s coordinator for Teen Nature Team. “Oftentimes it’s in parks that kids and families haven’t been before, so it’s great that we’re able to expose them [to these parks] and show them that it’s their park.”

EE continues to work toward authentic engagement and breaking down barriers to participation for communities of color and households experiencing poverty. “The Parks Levy offers children more opportunities to come to parks and get to know them,” Rose says.

There’s more to be done, but the work is important. “We have teen staff members at Nature Day Camp who had never worked outdoors before and thought that nature was not a space meant for them,” Rose says. “I said, ‘No, this park is yours too, and you don’t need to be a typical outdoorsy person to take up space here. It was not a mistake that I hired you; I chose you, and there is a reason that you are here.’ There’s a sense of belonging. After these conversations, staff who questioned whether they would work the entire summer have told me, ‘I thought about what you said, and you’re right: this is where I am meant to be.'"

Environmental education students participating in water sampling and arts and crafts.
Parks Levy commitments: Enhance park maintenance to keep parks clean and safe, including litter and hazardous waste removal, restroom cleaning, and playground safety (C5); AND Clean litter and hazardous waste in parks and natural areas, maintain grounds and landscaping, provide safety checks on play equipment, improve preventative and traditional maintenance (D4); Keep public restrooms open and cleaner (D5).

With Parks Levy funding, PP&R has increased day-to-day maintenance of parks and facilities. More open restrooms (those that are not closed due to extreme weather or being out of order) were visited for daily checks, cleaning, and repairs. PP&R also conducted litter and hazardous waste removal. In FY 2021–22 PP&R collected 3,107,384 pounds of trash. PP&R hired 23 of the 68 approved new park and natural area maintenance-related positions. These new positions will continue to expand PP&R’s capacity to remove litter and waste, clean restrooms, maintain landscaping, repair equipment in parks and community centers, and ensure playground safety.

Three people in safety vests pose for the camera while doing trail maintenance.

The increase in preventative work orders means that more work is being done proactively, which helps limit declines in asset condition. Additionally, labor hours spent on repair and replacement activities increased by 21% from the previous year, meaning that more responsive daily maintenance of PP&R  assets occurred. This maintenance helps keep assets in functioning condition, delaying the need for large-scale, capital maintenance.

As an operating funding source, the Parks Levy is not intended to pay for larger capital maintenance repair or replacement projects. With a deferred maintenance backlog of over $500 million, PP&R will need additional funding to address capital maintenance to prevent facilities from closing. PP&R is continuing its work towards a future where it can fulfill operations, capital maintenance, and capital growth service levels with sustainable funding.

PP&R spent $8.40 million of Parks Levy funding on these commitments—a portion of the $26.56 million total net expenses for park and operational maintenance.

Table of performance measures. Percentage of open restrooms visited for daily cleaning: 78% in FY 2020-21 (COVID and extreme weather meant that staff time was pulled from regular checks). 82% in FY 2021-22 with the Parks Levy. Percentage of work orders that are preventative: 8% in FY 2020-21 and 12% in FY 2021-22 with the Parks Levy. Staff hours spent on day-to-day repair and replacement of assets: 13,306 in FY 2020-21 and 16,079 in FY 2021-22 with the Parks Levy.
Parks Levy commitments: Plant new trees in communities where today canopy coverage is lower, to improve air and water quality, diminish the impacts of climate change, and provide wildlife habitat (D6); AND Protect Portland’s 1.2 million park trees by performing proactive maintenance, safety checks, hazard removal, and replacement of damaged trees in parks and natural areas (D7).

PP&R’s green assets, including Portland’s tree canopy, are critical to our community. They help provide clean air, reduce stormwater runoff, reduce heat, and keep Portland livable and resilient. However, the benefits of Portland’s tree canopy are not distributed equitably, with a lower tree canopy east of the Willamette River. This disparity affects the health and quality of life of Portlanders east of the river. On a summer afternoon, temperatures east of the Willamette can be 15 degrees hotter than west of the river. Thanks to the Parks Levy, in FY 2021–22 PP&R increased trees planted in priority neighborhoods. Priority neighborhoods for planting are determined using data to identify where canopy levels are lowest and where resources for tree planting are needed most to address existing inequities in urban canopy relative to race and income. More information can be found at Planting Priority.

A person in the basket of a heavy equipment vehicle cuts a branch off of a tree.

In addition to planting more trees, in FY 2021–22 PP&R began the process of building out systems for proactive tree maintenance in parks, including getting new positions approved. Without the Parks Levy, trees in PP&R parks only received emergency and reactive maintenance; PP&R had not previously had the resources to perform proactive maintenance. Now with the Parks Levy, PP&R will be hiring 5 new positions to work on the urban forest and 12 new arborists to assist with proactive maintenance. These positions will continue to plan for and establish proactive maintenance for park trees.

PP&R spent $1.81 million of Parks Levy funding on these commitments—a portion of the $6.41 million in total net tree-related expenses.

Table of performance measures. Annual trees planted in priority planting neighborhoods: 812 in FY 2020-21 and 1,467 in FY 2021-22 with Parks Levy. Arborist hours dedicated to park trees: 9,878 in FY 2020-21 and 7,842 in FY 2021-22 with Parks Levy (decrease for time spent on storm emergencies). Citywide canopy cover: 29.8% in FY 2020-21 and FY 2021-22 (surveyed every 5 years). Percentage of trees planted by the Urban Forestry Tree Planting Program in medium or large form: 95% in FY2021-22 with Parks Levy.
Parks Levy commitment: Modernize data systems to improve internal efficiency (D8).

Data management and prioritization is key to successful and efficient delivery of Parks Levy commitments. PP&R moved two major data system improvements forward in FY 2021–22. The system improvements are funded with General Fund and Parks Levy resources.

Icon of arrows from Recreation for All, Protect and Grow Nature, and Community Partnership icons pointing to "Intersections" title.

Intersections – PP&R’s commitment to modernize data systems applies to Recreation for All, Protect and Grow Nature, and Community Partnerships

Data can be a powerful tool to support transparency and decision making and to improve efficiencies. In FY 2021–22 PP&R purchased a new volunteer management database, in part with Parks Levy funds, that will support staff and provide metrics on volunteer numbers and partner engagement for analysis and inclusion. This software will support increased engagement with volunteer and partner groups (Community Partnerships).

In FY 2021–22 PP&R made a $5 million one-time investment to upgrade the Bureau’s maintenance work order system. This critical data set tracks all the work done and that needs to be done in parks and natural areas. While this work order system update is funded with General Fund, these resources were available because the Parks Levy funded additional direct service delivery in other areas. This investment in an upgraded maintenance work order system stretches across multiple priorities, since the system supports maintenance that keeps pools and community centers open (Recreation for All) and park and natural area maintenance (Protect and Grow Nature).

Thanks to the Parks Levy, PP&R is taking a big step forward with modernizing data systems that help staff do their work.


Community Partnerships icon of three hands piled on top of each other.

Community Partnerships

Community partnerships are critical to centering community in decision making, oversight, and to deliver an equitable parks and recreation system for all Portlanders. In FY 2021–22 PP&R had approximately $6.73 million in total expenses related to Community Partnerships; Parks Levy funding provided $2.20 million toward those expenses.

Parks Levy commitment: A community oversight committee will be appointed to review Parks Levy expenditures and to report annually to City Council. The Measure also directs the Bureau to provide for a performance audit to ensure that services funded by the levy are consistent with voter intent (D).

PP&R is prioritizing transparency and accountability in the delivery of the Parks Levy. The Parks Levy Oversight Committee was established July 1, 2021, to review information to verify general compliance with and progress toward the purposes of the Parks Levy, advise on transparency and communication strategies, and counsel on an independent audit process and annual report.

The oversight committee will report annually to City Council and the community regarding adherence to Parks Levy language, fiscal accountability, and transparency. The committee’s first report for Year 1 is available in fall 2022.

The committee is composed of five community members selected from an open public applicant pool and appointed by the PP&R director to serve two-year terms. Members meet quarterly and review information produced by PP&R staff. Members of the public are always welcome to attend Parks Levy Oversight Committee meetings, and meeting notes, the committee charter, and the bylaws are posted on the Parks Levy Oversight Committee’s webpage.

Parks Levy Oversight Committee members for FY 2021–22 are:

  • Alescia Blakely
  • Judy BlueHorse Skelton
  • Maria Velez
  • Paul Agrimis
  • Silas Sanderson

PP&R spent $100,879 of Parks Levy funding on this commitment and related transparency and accountability efforts—a portion of the $293,443 in total net expenses, including those for the oversight committee, Parks Levy communications, annual report, calculation of compression actuals, and other Sustainable Future Program initiatives.

A performance audit is planned to be conducted following Year 3 of the five-year Parks Levy.

The Parks Levy Oversight Committee Annual Report is written in response to this FY 2021–22 annual report and PP&R’s FY 2021–22 activities.

Parks Levy commitment: Prioritize services for communities of color and households experiencing poverty, including equity-centered engagement and outreach, community partnership grants, and increased engagement with volunteer and partner groups (D9).

PP&R implemented new programs, initiatives, and prioritization efforts in FY 2021–22 to center underserved communities—specifically Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQIA+ people, youth, older adults, people living with disabilities, and people living with low incomes. Some examples of this work include the use and implementation of the Equity and Anti-Racism Lens; the Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland strategic planning process; the new Community Partnership Program; Pay What You Can and Access Discount pilots; and early registration and multiple registration opportunities.

A group of kids playing in sand and water.

The Parks Levy is committed to increased engagement with volunteer and partner groups. Maintenance and program staff in parks and community centers support volunteer events and engage volunteers in meaningful efforts, from natural area maintenance to youth sports. Because the Parks Levy has increased staff positions across PP&R, additional staff are available to manage and support volunteers. This volunteer work results in meaningful outcomes for PP&R and the community. In FY 2021–22, 1,100 youth learned about teamwork, gained confidence, and were physically active thanks to volunteer basketball and volleyball coaches. Volunteers working in gardens helped 19,000 rose bushes bloom from May to November. And with the support of PP&R staff, people living with disabilities had access to fun and rewarding opportunities as volunteers. Overall, close to 330,000 hours of volunteer work meant better maintained parks, engaging programming, and strong community partnerships.

PP&R spent $2.10 million of Parks Levy funding on this commitment—a portion of the approximately $6.44 million total net expenses for community engagement and equity services.

Use of Equity and Anti-Racism Lens in the Decision Support Tool

PP&R recognizes that Portlanders have not experienced the benefits of parks and recreation equally and is committed to changing that. In 2021 PP&R developed the Equity and Anti-Racism Lens, a critical-thinking approach to undoing institutional and structural racisms. The Equity and Anti-Racism Lens evaluates burdens, benefits, outcomes, and authentic engagement with underserved communities, specifically Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQIA+ people, youth, older adults, people living with disabilities, and people living with low incomes.

PP&R uses the Equity and Anti-Racism Lens to intentionally create equitable outcomes in programs, services, and decision-making processes. Specifically, starting in fall 2021 PP&R embedded the Equity and Anti-Racism Lens in a new Decision Support Tool, a pilot to provide a common framework to evaluate budget choices and investment decisions through an integrated lens. The Bureau developed the tool with PP&R staff and community members with the intention of collecting data to provide better context to decision making, and the tool continues to be used in budget processes.

Parks Levy–funded budget requests detailed information for each principle of the Equity and Anti-Racism Lens. In the initial Decision Support Tool pilot, independent reviewers within the Bureau read and scored the narratives. The proposals’ Equity and Anti-Racism Lens scores were provided to decision makers for the formation of the budget. Proposals selected for funding were also shared with the Budget Advisory Committee and Parks Levy Oversight Committee.

By applying the Equity and Anti-Racism Lens to budget decisions, PP&R continues to pursue more equitable outcomes by bringing equity data front and center during decision making and delivering on the Parks Levy commitment to prioritize investment and services for underserved communities.

PP&R also uses the Equity and Anti-Racism Lens for day-to-day operational decision making. For example, park  maintenance is prioritized using Equity and Level of Service scores when work is assigned. Equity scores show the percentages of youth, residents of color, and households with low-income levels that live near the park. Level of Service scores reflect how well an area is served, highlighting where there are parks with lower servicing than average. Repair and maintenance teams use these scores when addressing maintenance needs to ensure that all parks, particularly in East and Southeast Portland where Equity and Level of Service scores are low, are well serviced.

Community Partnership Program

We can better serve more people by working together. As part of PP&R’s commitment to community partnerships and to prioritize services for underserved Portlanders, PP&R created the Community Partnership Program, building off PP&R’s existing Teen Collaborative Initiative (TCI) grant opportunity.

A group of kids in a music class playing ukulele.

In March 2022 PP&R asked partners and local organizations to submit statements of interest for financial support of programs that expand PP&R’s capacity to reach underserved communities and center equity, particularly programs that work to better serve communities PP&R is centering (Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQIA+ people, youth, people living with disabilities, and people living with low incomes). These identified communities align with and include priority communities identified in the Parks Levy. In Year 1 PP&R leveraged the success of the TCI grant and prioritized programming serving youth.

PP&R is awarding approximately $1.28 million to 20 organizations—eight grants through the TCI grant program, 11 through the Community Partnership Program, and one to the Portland Parks Foundation’s small grant program. These partner organizations will provide programming and services between July 2022 and June 2024. The grants will provide targeted financial support to partner organizations that bring knowledge, expertise, resources, and a focused approach to serving culturally specific communities and youth populations. These grants will complement PP&R’s current investment in community grants and agreements of more than $2.62 million annually. In addition to funding, grant recipients can request rental credits for space, which allows grant programming to be held at PP&R facilities and community centers free of charge.

Funding from the Community Partnership Program and TCI grants will allow PP&R to expand services and programming, particularly in areas where community partners are already working with key audiences. These growing community partnerships mean that PP&R can better serve priority communities.

Table of performance measures. Total volunteer hours: 328,181 in FY 2021-22 with the Parks Levy. COVID limited the number of events, group sizes, staffing, and pauses in program operations.
Icon of arrows from Recreation for All, Protect and Grow Nature, and Community Partnership icons pointing to "Intersections" title.

Intersections – PP&R’s commitment to prioritize services for communities of color and households experiencing poverty applies to Recreation for All, Protect and Grow Nature, and Community Partnerships

As PP&R strives to become an anti-racist organization and align with Parks Levy commitments to voters, the Bureau is centering underserved and marginalized communities, specifically looking to address inequities in Portland’s parks and recreation system. PP&R’s Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland framework prioritizes the voices and the needs of underserved communities, specifically Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, immigrants and refugees, LGBTQIA+ people, youth, older adults, people living with disabilities, and people living with low incomes. Specifically, the Parks Levy commitment to “Prioritize services for communities of color and households experiencing poverty, including equity-centered engagement and outreach, community partnership grants, and increased engagement with volunteer and partner groups” intersects with all services, activities, and programs PP&R provides.

PP&R prioritizes underserved communities in many ways, including:

  • Applying the principles of the Equity and Anti-Racism Lens in the Decision Support Tool for budget decisions. By including the Equity and Anti-Racism Lens in the recommendation framework for budget decisions, PP&R is pursuing more equitable investments to deliver on the Parks Levy commitment to prioritize investment and services for underserved communities.
  • Use of the Capital Project Prioritization Tool in making capital project selections. The Bureau includes an equity score in its project selection process to prioritize projects that serve higher percentages of youth, residents of color, and households with low-income levels.
  • Centering underserved voices in engagement. The Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland strategic framework calls for an ongoing cycle of listening and learning with community to drive its strategy. As PP&R strives to become an anti-racist organization, listening and learning from underserved communities and culturally specific and community-based organizations is essential to address inequities in the parks and recreation system.
  • Expanding partnerships. PP&R is working to expand partnerships through community engagement with partner organizations, funding opportunities via the Community Partnership Program grants, and opportunities such as early registration for partner organizations. In FY 2021–22 PP&R shared the early registration opportunity with more than 150 partner organizations.

These prioritization efforts impact every aspect of PP&R’s work, from allocating funding through an equity lens to ensuring that underserved communities are centered in PP&R services and programs. Prioritization of underserved communities reaches across the Parks Levy priorities and contributes toward the goals of Recreation for All, Protect and Grow Nature, and Community Partnerships.

Parks Levy commitment: Provide park and recreation services to diverse populations including communities of color, seniors, teens, households experiencing poverty, immigrants and refugees, and people living with disabilities (C2).

PP&R is actively working to provide services, programming, and events to diverse populations. In FY 2021–22 PP&R successfully delivered park and recreation services to a wide variety of users and implemented initiatives such as early registration, Community Partnership Program grants, and work order prioritization to directly serve communities of color, seniors, teens, households experiencing poverty, immigrants and refugees, and people living with disabilities.

A child playing with their scooter and bubbles.

PP&R provides park and recreation services to diverse populations through programs, activities, maintenance in local parks, and more. Examples of how PP&R provides opportunities specific to the populations listed in the Parks Levy commitment include but are not limited to:

  • Communities of color. PP&R operates eleven Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) Community Schools. At the PP&R SUN sites, all located in North and East Portland, more than 65% of the students served are people of color or people from culturally specific communities. SUN School programming supports improved student achievement, attendance, behavior, healthy development, and academic success as well as increased parent and family involvement.
  • Communities of color. PP&R’s Aquatics team set up partnerships with Black Swimming Initiative and WaterStrong to bring drowning-prevention swim events to North Portland neighborhoods. Children 6 months and older and their parents and caregivers learn basic water safety and swimming skills and the principles of water stewardship.
  • Seniors.Lifelong Recreation offers recreational, educational, and wellness opportunities for adults age 60 and older. Activities include excursions and van trips, health and wellness, arts and crafts, music and dance, sports and fitness, and hiking and walking.
  • Teens. TeenForce offers free trips, classes, drop-in activities, events, and volunteer and service outings for teens citywide, all year long. In FY 2021–22 TeenForce Passes were used 22,778 times for free events, activities, programming, and more.
  • Households experiencing poverty.Access Pass and financial assistance programs offer up to 90% off program fees. In FY 2021–22 PP&R provided $1,112,217 in financial assistance. In addition, Free Lunch + Play provides free summertime meals and activities for kids in  neighborhoods where 50% or more of youth qualify for free or reduced school lunches.
  • Immigrants and refugees. More than 20% of community gardeners prefer a language other than English, speaking or signing more than 20 different languages. Over the past year PP&R’s Community Gardens Team has expanded its library of translated documents, provided interpretation services over the phone and at in-person events, and offers outreach materials in 12 different languages.
  • People living with disabilities.Adaptive and Inclusive Recreation (AIR) programs offer community-based recreation activities, trips, and leisure services designed for teens and adults who live with a disability and/or special needs. PP&R also offers inclusion services to provide meaningful access to all PP&R registered classes and activities to people living with disabilities.

This commitment intersects with almost all other Parks Levy commitments, and the funding associated with those commitments also supports this work.

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland Data Disaggregation

Portland voters supported a Parks Levy that would provide services to diverse populations, including communities of color, seniors, teens, immigrant and refugees, people living with disabilities, and households experiencing poverty. To measure how well PP&R is serving these groups, PP&R needs to collect demographic data about users and participants. However, PP&R has not had the systems in place to comprehensively collect all this data and is now building data tools to better understand who is served.

In 2022 PP&R began building the Actions & Results (A&R) Framework as part of Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland. This framework is being developed to document PP&R’s actions and the outcomes that different communities experience because of those actions. At both the action and outcome levels, PP&R will identify performance measures across different populations where appropriate. The A&R Framework includes guidance for disaggregation and was developed in partnership with PP&R’s Equity and Inclusion team.

By establishing mechanisms and enhanced systems by which PP&R can collect demographic data from users, survey respondents, registrants, and others, PP&R can evaluate if the actions taken provide parks and recreation services to diverse populations highlighted in the Parks Levy commitments. 

Feature Profile: Open Signal—Staying Connected

Dharini “Tammy” Balajee has been an active participant in PP&R’s Lifelong Recreation program for 12 years. Prepandemic, she especially enjoyed the monthly Supper Club and van trips to Astoria and other sites of interest.

“When I moved here from the Midwest, Portland Parks & Recreation introduced me to the city and all it

Portrait photo of Tammy Balajee with quote: "The Lifelong Recreation staff has been so wonderful. They connected me with the TV exercise and a lot of other park and recreation programs."

has to offer,” Tammy says. “I have always felt welcomed and included in the Lifelong Program. The class I really liked before COVID was badminton at Mt. Scott Community Center. I also participated in lawn bowling at Westmoreland Park and line dancing at East Portland Community Center.”

COVID shutdowns canceled Tammy’s outings and programming. It was a tough adjustment. “Living alone, these activities were a good outlet for me to go out and meet other people and exercise,” she says.

In summer 2021, with the support of the Parks Levy, PP&R was able to pivot and offer free virtual programming to help fill the gap left by canceled in-person programs. The Bureau partnered with Open Signal, a Portland media arts center that provides five cable channels programmed with locally produced content, to offer people without a computer, like Tammy, programming through their television. One-hour Stay and Play videos geared toward adults aired twice a week for one hour on Open Signal.

“I like the cardio classes because it helps me with my heart,” Tammy says. “I also enjoy the yoga and Pilates.”

The Parks Levy is supporting efforts to provide park and recreation services and programs to diverse populations and Tammy is thankful to have had options to continue to engage with PP&R through the pandemic.

“PP&R helped me really get oriented here,” she says. “I’m all for the parks and recreation programs. Hopefully they will continue the way they used to.”

Tammy is planning on returning to the restarted outdoor and in-person programs soon. “The Lifelong Recreation staff has been so wonderful. They connected me with the TV exercise and a lot of other park and recreation programs.” 

Icon of arrows from Recreation for All, Protect and Grow Nature, and Community Partnership icons pointing to "Intersections" title.

Intersections – PP&R’s commitment to provide park and recreation services to diverse populations applies to Recreation for All, Protect and Grow Nature, and Community Partnerships

Providing park and recreation services to diverse populations, particularly priority communities, is central to all operational activities that the Parks Levy supports. This commitment applies to all three Parks Levy priorities (Recreation for All, Protect and Grow Nature, and Community Partnerships). Here are some examples of this work in action.

Recreation for All: Recreation programs, including teen programming and Free Lunch + Play, and opportunities such as early registration and financial assistance aim to serve the diverse populations highlighted in this commitment. PP&R is piloting practices such as financial assistance models to reduce cost as a barrier and early registration opportunities for partner organizations that serve PP&R’s priority communities to prioritize services for communities of color and households experiencing poverty.

Protect and Grow Nature: PP&R’s increased daily care and maintenance of parks, natural areas, facilities, and assets will serve all Portlanders. To specifically serve the diverse populations listed in this commitment, the Parks Levy added maintenance worker positions in East Portland, where there are geographically higher concentrations of communities of color and households experiencing poverty. PP&R also prioritizes maintenance for underserved populations by scoring park maintenance needs based on Equity and Level of Service scores, taking into account parks and recreation facilities receiving lower service levels and the percentage of youth, residents of color, and households with low-income levels near the park or facility. PP&R is also prioritizing tree planting in neighborhoods with higher concentrations of communities of color and households experiencing poverty.

Community Partnerships: PP&R will support partners by providing services to the diverse populations through the Community Partnership Program grants. In addition, PP&R seeks to engage these diverse populations through early registration opportunities. PP&R continues to expand partnerships with organizations that serve diverse populations, including those listed in the Parks Levy commitments.

A crowd sitting and watching an outdoor movie at sunset.

Appendices

Appendix A: Parks Levy Commitment and Code

PP&R is tracking progress on fifteen commitments listed in the November 2020 voter pamphlet and approved by Portland voters. Exhibit C and Exhibit D were included in the original resolution (Resolution No. 37498) and voter pamphlet (see Ballot Title and Executive Summary section above). The fifteen commitments each have a code from their exhibit letter and order in which they appear in the exhibit.

CodeCommitment
C1Enhance and preserve parks, rivers, wetlands, trees, and other important natural features in urban areas for the benefit of all Portlanders and wildlife.
C2Provide park and recreation services to diverse populations including communities of color, seniors, teens, households experiencing poverty, immigrants and refugees, and people living with disabilities.
C3Increase opportunities for communities of color and children experiencing poverty to connect with nature.
C4Prevent cuts to recreation programs, closures of community centers and pools
C5Enhance park maintenance to keep parks clean and safe, including litter and hazardous waste removal, restroom cleaning, and playground safety.
D1Protect water quality and wildlife habitat, control erosion, remove invasive species in 8,000 acres of natural area.
D2Deliver recreational programs, including, but not limited to, environmental education and access to nature for youth, summer camps, family-friendly movies and concerts, fitness and arts classes, teen- and senior-focused programs, life-saving swim lessons, and a summer playground program serving free lunches to children experiencing hunger.
D3Remove financial barriers for low-income households by ending current dependence on recreation fee revenues, allowing an equity-focused delivery of community events and programs and reducing the likelihood of further cuts to recreation offerings.
D4Clean litter and hazardous waste in parks and natural areas, maintain grounds and landscaping, provide safety checks on play equipment, improve preventative and traditional maintenance.
D5Keep public restrooms open and cleaner.
D6Plant new trees in communities where today canopy coverage is lower, to improve air and water quality, diminish the impacts of climate change, and provide wildlife habitat.
D7Protect Portland’s 1.2 million park trees by performing proactive maintenance, safety checks, hazard removal, and replacement of damaged trees in parks and natural areas.
D8Modernize data systems to improve internal efficiency.
D9Prioritize services for communities of color and households experiencing poverty, including equity-centered engagement and outreach, community partnership grants, and increased engagement with volunteer and partner groups.
DA community oversight committee will be appointed to review Parks Levy expenditures and to report annually to City Council. The Measure also directs the Bureau to provide for a performance audit to ensure that services funded by the Parks Levy are consistent with voter intent.
Appendix B: Leveraged Funding Model

To maximize Parks Levy funds and deliver on the Parks Levy’s goals and commitments, PP&R is using a leveraged model to fund Parks Levy–eligible costs. This means that the Bureau uses the full allocation of General Fund resources and before tapping into Parks Levy funds, which allows PP&R to maximize the Parks Levy funds’ purpose of supporting park operations and ensuring incremental increases to services and activities.

In practice, the General Fund is used first and then Parks Levy funding is spread across Parks Levy–eligible services that support delivering on voter commitments. This model preserves Parks Levy funding by making it the last money to pay for Parks Levy–eligible costs. The result is a group of Parks Levy–eligible services across the Bureau that all have an equivalent blend of resources and are partially supported by the Parks Levy.

The graphic below illustrates how Parks Levy resources are preserved and how PP&R is able to maximize its use to deliver on voter commitments. General Fund underspending in non-Parks Levy–eligible service areas is applied to the group of Parks Levy–eligible services. This means that less Parks Levy funds are needed at that time, and Parks Levy funding is preserved to continue to incrementally increase services and programs.

This model means that no singular activities, positions, or programs are funded exclusively by the Parks Levy. Instead, the Parks Levy fiscally supports a percentage of PP&R operational expenses.

Graph illustrating the Leveraged Funding Model where funding unspent in General Fund only categories results in less Parks Levy funding spent.
Appendix C: Total Expenses and Parks Levy Portion by Commitment

PP&R uses codes to identify services offered (Functional Areas). To analyze the link between FY 2021–22 expenses and the fifteen Parks Levy commitments, each Functional Area was matched to a commitment. This table shows the amount of expenses (both total and Parks Levy portion) by Parks Levy commitment. Total expenses are the net expenses of a Functional Area and include reductions by associated revenues. Each commitment falls into a primary larger priority (Recreation for All, Protect and Grow Nature, or Community Partnerships). The total expenses and Parks Levy portion for each larger priority are also included. In fiscal year 2021–22 (FY 2021–22) the Parks Levy received $44.69 million in revenues, of which PP&R spent $19.11 million ($18.73 million on PP&R programs and services, $379,962 on reducing financial impact to the Portland Children’s Levy caused by compression under Oregon property tax law) leaving $25.58 million in the Parks Levy fund to be spent in future years.

*Total expenses are net expenses and include reductions from associated program revenues.

Parks Levy CommitmentTotal Expense*Parks Levy Portion
Recreation for All$17,079,992.47$5,050,567.00
Prevent cuts to recreation programs, closures of community centers and pools (C4).$6,393,906.90$2,153,676.00
Deliver recreational programs, including, but not limited to, environmental education and access to nature for youth, summer camps, family-friendly movies and concerts, fitness and arts classes, teen- and senior-focused programs, life-saving swim lessons, and a summer playground program serving free lunches to children experiencing hunger (D2).$10,686,085.57$2,896,891.00
Remove financial barriers for low-income households by ending current dependence on recreation fee revenues, allowing an equity-focused delivery of community events and programs and reducing the likelihood of further cuts to recreation offerings (D3).N/A
(included in net
expenses for other
commitments)
N/A
Protect and Grow Nature$36,757,914.29$11,470,915.00
Increase opportunities for communities of color and children experiencing poverty to connect with nature (C3)$1,408,494.97$445,866.00
Enhance park maintenance to keep parks clean and safe, including litter and hazardous waste removal, restroom cleaning, and playground safety (C5).
Clean litter and hazardous waste in parks and natural areas, maintain grounds and landscaping, provide safety checks on play equipment, improve preventative and traditional maintenance (D4).
Keep public restrooms open and cleaner (D5).
$26,559,594.77$8,397,281.00
Enhance and preserve parks, rivers, wetlands, trees, and other important natural features in urban areas for the benefit of all Portlanders and wildlife (C1).
Protect water quality and wildlife habitat, control erosion, remove invasive species in 8,000 acres of natural area (D1).
$2,379,899.05$817,194.00
Plant new trees in communities where today canopy coverage is lower, to improve air and water quality, diminish the impacts of climate change, and provide wildlife habitat (D6).
Protect Portland’s 1.2 million park trees by performing proactive maintenance, safety checks, hazard removal, and replacement of damaged trees in parks and natural areas (D7).
$6,409,925.50$1,810,574.00
Modernize data systems to improve internal efficiency (D8).N/A        (project-level)N/A
Community Partnerships$6,731,752.92$2,203,565.00
Provide park and recreation services to diverse populations including communities of color, seniors, teens, households experiencing poverty, immigrants and refugees, and people living with disabilities (C2).N/A
(included in net
expenses for other
commitments)
N/A
A community oversight committee will be appointed to review Parks Levy expenditures and to report annually to City Council. The Measure also directs the Bureau to provide for a performance audit to ensure that services funded by the Parks Levy are consistent with voter intent (D).$293,443.02$100,879.00
Prioritize services for communities of color and households experiencing poverty, including equity-centered engagement and outreach, community partnership grants, and increased engagement with volunteer and partner groups (D9).$6,438,309.90$2,102,686.00
Total Parks Levy Eligible Program and Service Expenses$60,569,659.68$18,725,047.00

Paid to Portland Children’s Levy to reduce financial impacts caused by compression under Oregon property tax law: $379,962.00

Total Parks Levy Funding Expended: $19,105,009.00

Appendix D: Parks Levy Expenses for FY 2021–22 by Service Area and Organizational Structure

This table shows the total expense and Parks Levy portion for FY 2021–22 at the service (Functional Area) and work group (Fund Center) level. PP&R uses codes to identify Functional Areas. Fund Centers are codes used to identify operating budgets, aligned with PP&R’s organizational structure.

To analyze the link between FY 2021–22 expenses and the fifteen Parks Levy commitments, each Functional Area was matched to a commitment. That commitment is noted in this table by the code (see Appendix A for key). Total Expense is the net expenses of the Functional Area/Fund Center combination and includes reductions by associated program revenues. The Parks Levy Portion of Expense is the amount of the Total Expense funded by the Parks Levy.

The list of specific line-item expense details is available and downloadable as the:

Functional Areas Eligibility for Parks Levy Funding

The eligibility of a Functional Area, or service category, to receive Parks Levy funding was determined by a review of all 150 Functional Areas against the Parks Levy resolution (Resolution No. 37498), specifically Exhibit B.

PP&R consulted with the Office of the City Attorney to establish compliance and eligibility for Parks Levy use. The following principles were applied:

  • Exhibit B of the resolution was used to determine the full set of Parks Levy eligible activities.
  • Parks Levy funding is then specifically allocated and used to reimburse a sub-set of those eligible activities that are public facing, user-end services.
  • The sub-set of eligible activities includes pass-through funding to third parties that provide Parks Levy eligible services. Each pass-through agreement is reviewed for eligibility.

In general, those Functional Areas that are determined to be eligible and that are receiving Parks Levy funding are operational services (no capital activities or expenses) that support the fifteen Parks Levy commitments.

Appendix E: Summary of Parks Levy Annual Report Performance Measures

Additional information about the following performance measures, including supplementary context and interpretation of each measure, is included as part the body of this report.

Recreation for All

Performance MeasuresFY 2020-21FY 2021-22 (with Parks Levy)Notes
Annual Scans for TeenForce PassesN/A, not collected due to COVID impact22,788The FY 2021-22 number is influenced by the continued impact of pandemic-related public health guidelines. Specifically, indoor facilities were not open during summer 2021 and had limited access for the remainder of 2021 due to the Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19.
Total estimated attendance181,590874,780Programs and facilities were severely limited in their ability to operate in the first half of FY 2021–22 due to the Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19. Programming was able to increase slowly over the remainder of the year but remained lower than in previous years, likely due to the difficulty programs have faced in hiring casual staff to provide registered activities.
Total volunteer hours (Recreation)N/A, not collected due to COVID impact174,596COVID-19 limitations impacted volunteer events. In addition to limiting in the number of volunteer events, group size restrictions, limited staffing, and pauses in program operation resulted in lower total volunteer hours.

Community Partnerships

Performance MeasuresFY 2020-21FY 2021-22 (with Parks Levy)Notes
Total volunteer hoursN/A, not collected due to COVID impact328,181COVID-19 limitations impacted volunteer events. In addition to limiting in the number of volunteer events, group size restrictions, limited staffing, and pauses in program operation resulted in lower total volunteer hours.

Protect and Grow Nature

Performance MeasuresFY 2020-21FY 2021-22 (with Parks Levy)Notes
Number of acres of invasive weeds treated annually836874.55While a slight increase over FY 2020–21, the FY 2021-22 value reflects ongoing COVID-19–related challenges and previous reduced staffing in the Protect the Best Invasive Vegetation Management Program (PTB). The Parks Levy will be increasing staffing for PTB in the near future.
Total volunteer hours (Nature)N/A, not collected due to COVID impact150,411COVID-19 limitations impacted volunteer events. In addition to limiting in the number of volunteer events, group size restrictions, limited staffing, and pauses in program operation resulted in lower total volunteer hours.
Total participants in Environmental Education programming1,6082,667Programs and facilities were severely limited in their ability to operate in the first half of FY 2021–22 due to the Delta and Omicron variants of COVID-19. Programming was able to increase slowly over the remainder of the year but remained lower than in previous years, likely due to the difficulty programs have faced in hiring casual staff to provide registered activities.
Percentage of work orders that are preventative8%12%
Staff hours spent on day-to-day repair and replacements of assets13,30616,079
Percentage of open restrooms visited for daily cleaning78%82%The unprecedented events in FY 2020–21 (e.g., COVID, extreme weather) meant that staff time was taken from the regular work routine and may result in lower-than-expected values.
Annual trees planted in priority neighborhoods8121,467
Arborist hours dedicated to park trees9,8787,842Decrease in hours is due to the variability of arborist work. Storm and emergency management results in arborists de-prioritizing non-emergency work in parks to handle effects of severe storms.
Citywide canopy cover29.8%29.8% (2020)Citywide canopy coverage is surveyed and updated every five years.
Percentage of trees planted by the Urban Forestry Tree Planting Program that are medium or large formN/A, new performance measure in FY 2021-2295%
A group of kids running in the forest.