What’s Next for Portland Parks & Recreation

News Article
A photo of an empty swimming pool.
The future of Portland Parks & Recreation.

Dear friends, partners, and customers:

Although Multnomah County has begun reopening, your public pools, community centers, and most of our recreation programs will remain closed and canceled.

It is heartbreaking to write this, but many of the current closures will continue beyond summer 2020, and not because of public health restrictions.

Unlike many other City services, Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) relies on fees from customers who attend swim lessons, exercise classes, and summer camps.

With facilities and programs closed since early March, we have missed months of the revenues that allow us to provide the recreation experience Portlanders cherish. This financial domino effect means that, as things stand today, we are likely unable to open pools and community centers, or offer classes, camps, and swimming lessons in Summer 2021 and beyond.

This reality is hard to accept, but we are hopeful that this moment can be the beginning of a new era for our parks and recreation system, an era that is more equitable and more sustainable, and where cost isn’t a barrier for community members.

We’ve known the inequities and challenges of our fee-based model for some time. But COVID-19 created a new, urgent need.

In the near future, we will ask City Council to refer an operating levy to the November 2020 ballot. With additional funding from a temporary levy, we would:

  • Center equity in the delivery of our programs and services
  • Restart recreation to open pools, community centers, classes, and camps for summer 2021 and end our dependence on fees so cost is no longer a barrier to community members
  • Improve access for all Portlanders by making our parks cleaner, safer, and more welcoming
  • Grow nature by restoring natural areas, planting more trees, and taking better care of trees in our neighborhood parks

We are working with community members, culturally specific organizations, and nonprofit partners to refine the specifics of how levy funds would be used. And we want to hear from you as well. Please reach out to us here or email us at parksbureaudirector@portlandoregon.gov.

We will continue to share more news with you in the coming weeks. We are excited about this opportunity to bring more long-term stability to our community’s parks system. Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, and stay hopeful.

Mayor Ted Wheeler
City of Portland

Director Adena Long
Portland Parks & Recreation