Portland Parks & Recreation, Partners, Secure Major Grant for Cully Park:

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Project Spearheaded by Verde

(Portland, OR) –

Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R), Verde and the Let Us Build Cully Park! coalition announce they’ve secured a major Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) grant towards the building of Cully Park. The OPRD has just awarded $473,000 via a Local Government Grant Program (LGGP) grant towards the construction of the future park at NE 72nd Avenue north of Killingsworth. The grant is a significant boost for the unique public-private partnership that is making

Cully Park possible, resulting in a developed, 25-acre park in the Cully neighborhood - an area deficient in parks and green spaces.

405 families who currently do not have access to a park or natural area (defined as a half-mile walk) will be served by Cully Park.

Let Us Build Cully Park! (LUBCP), a non-profit coalition of more than 15 community-based organizations, has raised more than $3.5 million dollars for the park’s construction. The OPRD grant will add an additional $473,000 towards building the park. Part of the $3.5 million came from Commissioner Fritz’s February 2014 designation of $1.25 million in System Development Charges (SDC) – money raised from development fees, rather than General Fund tax dollars – to support Thomas Cully Park’s construction. SDCs are funds paid by development to support the increased infrastructure required when homes and businesses are built.

“The Cully neighborhood is unique; it is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Portland, perhaps the state,” notes City Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “Cully neighbors don’t currently have sufficient access to parks or natural areas. We are delighted that OPRD saw the need for this major grant, and the benefits it will provide. The unique public-private partnership between PP&R, Verde and Let Us Build Cully Park shows that this agreement leverages public investment to go even further. The grant provides us with the funds necessary to build the park. Verde and the LUBCP coalition provided have the extensive organizing and economic development to support both the community and the park effort.”

“This is great news for the many diverse people and organizations that call Cully home,” says Alan Hipólito, Executive Director of Verde, the lead organization in the Let Us Build Cully Park! coalition. “With this award, OPRD has made powerful investment in a community-based project. We are excited by the continuing commitment by the State of Oregon to redevelop this former landfill, and are very thankful for our great partnership with Portland Parks & Recreation. Together with these and other partners, we are bringing the benefits of park-building to the Cully community: open space for our neighborhood, environmental education for our youth, contracts for our local businesses, and dollars into the pockets of low-income people.”

60% of residents in the future Thomas Cully Park’s service area are people belonging to traditionally underserved communities, and 45% are considered low income (annual household income of $40,000 or less). In Central Northeast Portland, nearly two out of five households are not within ½ mile of a park or natural area. Data show that Central Northeast is second only to the area east of I-205 in terms of the greatest need for parks and natural areas in Portland.

“Cully is home to some of the most dedicated and motivated community advocates in the City,” adds Commissioner Fritz. “I am proud to work with our partners towards our shared goal of completing Cully Park.”

History of Cully Park

The Cully Park property was a sand and gravel mine, then a construction landfill, and is now in the process of becoming a park. The City of Portland purchased the 25-acre Thomas Cully Park property in 2002.

Working with the community, in 2008 PP&R created a master plan for Cully Park to guide future developments. This master plan was adopted by City Council. In 2011, PP&R was approached by Verde, in coordination with the ‘Let Us Build Cully Park!’ coalition (a coalition of more than 15 community-based organizations) to partner with them in a new model to develop Cully Park. In June 2012, Portland City Council approved an agreement between Verde and Portland Parks & Recreation for developing the park.  Since that time, Verde has successfully raised more than $3.5 million dollars (including in-kind donations) to implement Phase I of the Thomas Cully Master Plan (Thomas Cully Park will be built in multiple phases). Their total estimate for completing Phase I is $6,671,845. The community garden at the site was installed in 2012, and remaining improvements planned by Let Us Build Cully Park! include pathways, dog off-leash area, playgrounds and picnic areas, gathering garden area, youth soccer field, basketball court, parking lot, restroom, north slope restoration, and improvements to NE 72nd.

Implementation of Phase II of the master plan would include construction of multiple sports fields, improvements to access from NE Killingsworth, and building a parking area off of NE Killingsworth & 75th.  Students from nearby Scott School helped design the adjacent NE 72nd Ave. Community Garden, which opened in 2012, and have had input on the park’s playground design.  A newly proposed feature, the Native Gathering Garden, offers unique opportunities for honoring and educating about indigenous cultural values and ethics through holistic, culturally-significant garden design and maintenance.

Challenges Remain

As Portland Parks & Recreation commits to new parks in communities where none currently exist and to expanding other parks, many existing parks are at a crossroads. For decades, operating funding has been cut or remained flat forcing PP&R to postpone rehabilitation and maintenance in every neighborhood throughout the city. PP&R has unfunded maintenance needs totaling about $365 million over a ten-year period. From aging playground replacements to leaking roofs, the list of needs is huge, and grows every year that we don’t address it. The beautiful parks we love to visit are being held together by thousands of volunteers and wonderful employees going above and beyond the call of duty.

System Development Charges (SDCs) used to create new parks are restricted to expanding capacity only. They cannot be used to maintain or repair existing facilities. SDCs are insufficient to address the hundreds of park projects needed by our rapidly growing neighborhoods – an additional need of $480 million.

Today, Commissioner Fritz will ask Portland City Council to refer a Parks Replacement Bond to voters, in order to fund critical system-wide improvements. The current parks bond is expiring; a replacement bond would fund the most severe needs of the park system – without raising tax rates.

“Investing in new parks now is the right thing to do,” she says. “For more than a hundred years, Portlanders built our parks system through a series of legacy investments. Now, we don’t have funding for the needs in growing neighborhoods, nor for maintenance of existing facilities. It’s time for Portland to begin to think about what our legacy will be. Will it be a legacy of increased equity and increased commitment to our region’s uniquely beautiful parks and natural areas? I hope so.”