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Portland Parks & Recreation, Verde, Secure Major Federal Grant for Thomas Cully Park

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(POSTED APRIL 21, 2014)

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 $500,000 grant towards the building of Thomas Cully Park. The half-million dollars comes in the form of a Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grant from the Department of the Interior, awarded by the National Parks Service, and will go towards developing the future park in Portland’s Cully neighborhood, one of the most diverse areas in the state of Oregon.
The grant is a significant boost for the unique public-private partnership that is making Thomas Cully Park possible, resulting in a developed, 25-acre park in the Cully neighborhood (on a former brownfield at NE 72nd Avenue, north of Killingsworth) - 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 Thomas Cully Park.

"This critical investment in the Cully neighborhood of northeast Portland will help build a new playground, walking trail and soccer field, creating spaces for kids and families to get outside and enjoy their community," says Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)  "I will continue to fight for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports programs like this, driving community development in places that need it most, improving access to the outdoors and restoring wildlife habitats across the country."

“This grant fits perfectly with the city’s philosophy of complete neighborhoods,” Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said. “A complete neighborhood includes good streets, schools, jobs, shopping … and, of course, parks and recreation. The entire Cully Neighborhood will benefit from this project.”
The LWCF grant will pay for restoring wildlife habitat, support development of an accessible playground, a walking trail with exercise equipment, scenic overlooks, an off-leash dog area, Intertribal Gathering Garden (open to the public), and a youth soccer field at Thomas Cully Park.

“This grant is a huge boost for Thomas Cully Park, and to the community partners who are so deeply engaged with making the park a reality,” says Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “We are so pleased to have great support from our congressional delegation, led by Senator Ron Wyden. With fewer federal funding opportunities we are thankful that he and his staff recognize the immense value of this project and the impact it will have on the Cully community.”

“We’re tremendously excited and honored that our community’s hard work and vision are being realized, “says Alan Hipólito, Executive Director of Verde, the lead organization in the Let Us Build Cully Park! Coalition. “This federal investment in Cully Park is a strong recognition of the power of our community-based model for Park development, and a testament to the continuing partnership and unwavering support we enjoy with Portland Parks & Recreation. We are fortunate to do this good, hard work – with our community, our state, and our many partners and supporters. When Cully Park opens, it is going to make a real difference in the lives of the many diverse people and organizations that call Cully their home.”

The grant, part of a new competitive grant program called the LWCF Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership, is one of eight awarded nationally. According to the Department of the Interior, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has invested revenue from federal offshore oil and gas royalties into more than 40,000 outdoor recreation facilities and conservation projects in every state, for more than 50 years.

"Right now, in Central Northeast Portland, nearly two out of five households are not within a fifteen minute walk of a park or natural area -- standing in contrast to a standard most Portlanders experience," says Portland Parks & Recreation Director Mike Abbaté. "This grant gets us one step closer to bringing the kind of access to parks that our Cully neighbors deserve. Thomas Cully Park will transform a landfill into a place of healthy activity through sports and recreation. We are honored to work with Verde and the Lets Build Cully Park! Coalition."

Let Us Build Cully Park! (LUBCP), a coalition of more than 15 community-based organizations, has raised more than $4.85 million dollars for the park’s development (including this federal grant of $500,000). An Oregon Parks & Recreation Department (OPRD) grant in 2014 added $473,000 towards building the park. Part of the funds raised 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 project has set ambitious goals for community participation, target business contracting, workforce diversity and local hiring.

“The Cully neighborhood is unique; it is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Portland, perhaps the state,” notes City Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “Yet Cully neighbors don’t currently have sufficient access to parks or natural areas. 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 more 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.”

60% of residents in the future Thomas Cully Park’s service area are people belonging to traditionally underserved communities, and 45% are people who are experiencing low incomes (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 Thomas Cully Park.”