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Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland

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Image shows three photos: a woman plays in a swimming pool with two young children, a camp counselor high fives two young girls, and a mother shows her child a leaf.
Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland is an effort to build systems, tools, and a planning framework that links Portland Parks & Recreation's (PP&R) strategy and investments to outcomes in the community.
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Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland Report

In 2020, PP&R reimagined the way we work. We put underserved communities at the center of our process and committed to an ongoing, iterative cycle of improvement that will transform the way we make decisions and get things done. We're proud to share our first Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland report.

We have included in this report:

  • An overview of the work we've done with community to refresh PP&R's mission, vision, values, and equity and anti-racism commitment
  • How the community can engage in the parks and recreation system
  • New organizational statements that guide the bureau's work
  • An assessment of how the parks and recreation system contributes to community outcomes and where there are disparities

What is Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland?

PP&R is changing the way it plans and makes strategic decisions. Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland calls for an ongoing cycle of listening and learning with community to drive its strategy. Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland will be responsive and transparent and will allow PP&R to share decision-making with underserved communities.

This new way of operating is a big change, and it will take time to create the partnerships and trust needed to succeed. PP&R welcomes the chance to have regular, meaningful community conversations with the community.

Who Are We Centering?

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland prioritizes the voices and needs of underserved communities, specifically Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, immigrants and refugees, LGBT2SQIA+ people, people with disabilities, youth, older adults, and people living with low incomes. 

Why Engage Underserved Communities?

PP&R is grateful for the time and knowledge people have shared with us through past listening and partnerships. The community's investment in and input about the parks and recreation system has shaped new parks, designed new programs, and informed new policies.

As PP&R strives to become an anti-racist organization, we will prioritize listening to and learning from underserved communities, including culturally specific and community-based organizations. We will strive to address inequities in the parks and recreation system. 

What Tools Did We Build?

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland will build systems, tools, and a planning framework that links strategy to community outcomes. PP&R has recruited work teams to create and provide input on each of the tools below. All teams, except the Listening and Learning team, included community representatives from culturally specific and community-based organizations.

Tools include:

  • Listening and Learning  Process - An ongoing commitment to listen and learn from the community and document community insights over time.
  • Actions and Results Framework– A strategy framework to ensure PP&R’s actions support community outcomes and are measurable and transparent.
  • Decision Support Tool – A transparent and common way to evaluate choices and investment decisions. PP&R will use the tool to inform budget decisions, design programs, and develop policies. 

Listening and Learning Process

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland calls for an ongoing cycle of Listening & Learning to drive its strategy. It will be responsive and transparent and will allow PP&R to share decision-making with underserved communities.

In 2021 and 2022, PP&R used listening and learning in the community to update its mission, vision, values, and equity and anti-racism commitment.

Mission, Vision, Values, and Equity and Anti-Racism Commitment

PP&R created a co-design team to work on new mission, vision, values, and equity and anti-racism commitment. The team included staff and community members from community-based and culturally specific organizations.

In 2021, PP&R completed its first wave of listening and learning to both inform its planning processes for Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland overall, and to hear from the community regarding priorities to include in the bureau’s new foundational statements.

After considering past community input and information received during the project’s first wave of community listening and learning, the Co-Design team worked together over three months to draft statement options. Those options were shared with the community in 2022 at a series of listening and learning events.

The Co-Design team came back together in winter of 2022-23 to hear community feedback on the drafts and craft final statements. The Co-Design team sent final organizational statements to PP&R’s senior management team for approval. Once approved, PP&R’s new mission, vision, values, and equity and anti-racism commitment were shared with the Portland Parks Board and Parks Commissioner Dan Ryan.

Actions and Results Framework

PP&R’s new mission, vision, values, and equity and anti-racism commitment anchor the bureau’s Actions and Results Framework, which links strategic actions to community outcomes through performance.

PP&R recruited a Co-Design team to work on creating the strategic framework in 2022 and early 2023. This work happened in conjunction with a broad range of PP&R staff, including Division leadership and teams who defined their strategic actions and performance measures as part of the framework.

The Actions and Results Framework is anchored by the bureau’s new vision statement, which includes the goal of working with community members to achieve equitable outcomes in:

  • Accessible, safe, clean, well-maintained public spaces
  • Healthy ecosystems and climate change resilience
  • Learning, play, and discovery
  • Mental, emotional, and physical wellness
  • Community and civic connection
  • Jobs that support growth and belonging

Disaggregating data is very important to this effort, as it often tells a more complete story of who is and is not being served by the parks and recreation systems. 

The Actions and Results Framework sets the stage for the bureau to begin making better decisions for future resource allocation. But, like all the work in Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland, Actions and Results work will be ongoing, with a regular cadence of community input and updates

Decision Support Tool

In 2021, PP&R piloted a Decision Support Tool as part of its fiscal year 2021-22 Fall Budget Monitoring Process, where the bureau allocated dollars from the Parks 2020 Operating Levy to staff, programs, and services that supported levy commitments.

The Decision Support Tool, now in its third version, helps PP&R analyze budget proposals based on bureau budget values, commitment to levy outcomes, demographic service area, and questions from the PP&R’s Equity and Anti-Racism Lens. 

PP&R will continue to refine the Decision Support Tool for use in future budget development.

How does Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland Relate to Past Planning Efforts?

A robust series of plans, including the Parks 2020 Vision, 2017-2020 Strategic Plan, and the Five-year Racial Equity Plan, have guided PP&R. As we considered what it would take to create a more equitable parks and recreation system, we knew that we would need an integrated and adaptable approach to planning. 

Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland will have a continuous cycle of listening and learning, making investments, and measuring community outcomes. A commitment to learning will improve how the parks and recreation system serves the people of Portland while holding PP&R accountable to the community.


Portland Parks & Recreation’s developing civil rights page offers information related to making programming more accessible and inclusive.