Portland Parks & Recreation delivers on promises to Levy voters with enhanced park services

News Article
Voter-approved Parks Levy makes PP&R services possible citywide; first Annual Report released

(Portland, OR) –

On Wednesday, October 26, 2022, City Council voted unanimously to accept the 2021-22 Parks Levy Annual Report and Executive Summary, and the Parks Levy Oversight Committee Annual Report.

Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) worked to deliver on key voter commitments in the first year of the five-year Parks Local Option Levy (Parks Levy). Thanks to Parks Levy funds, PP&R kept community centers and pools open, served about 875,000 program participants, and increased the maintenance of parks, natural areas, and park trees in Portland.

A view from behind a group of musical performers on stage at the first annual East Portland Arts Festival in summer 2022. A huge crowd is in the background as the sun shines in a park on a sunny evening.
A view from behind a group of musical performers on stage at the first annual East Portland Arts Festival in summer 2022. The festival was made possible by the 2020 Parks Local Option Levy.

The Parks Levy also allowed PP&R to grow as an organization, hiring 1,416 full-time, part-time, seasonal, and casual staff in the fiscal year 2021-22. With Parks Levy funding, the Bureau added 142 new full-time equivalent positions and restored hundreds of jobs. Thanks to this increased capacity, PP&R was better able to meet the program and service needs of Portlanders.

The Parks Levy is a five-year levy. Year 1, ending June 30, 2022, established the foundation needed to meet the commitments made to voters. PP&R is continuing significant recruitment and hiring for Parks Levy-funded positions, purchasing additional equipment, and allocating new workspaces.

“As we continue to deliver on the commitments we made to voters, we will see stronger partnerships, improved processes, and positive community outcomes over the life of the Parks Levy,” says PP&R Director Adena Long.

Despite the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and difficulties filling open positions, PP&R delivered critical services and beloved programs to the community between July 2021 and June 2022.

“[Portland Parks & Recreation] has been responsive to the interests of our group,” said Judy BlueHorse Skelton, a Parks Levy Oversight Committee member. “We loved that the report includes actual stories from community members and staff, and we are excited about continued engagement strategies to center the voices of underserved communities.”

“I want to thank City Council,” continued BlueHorse Skelton, “for their continued support of the Parks Levy and look forward to future years of success.”

Some highlights made possible through the Parks Levy include:

  • PP&R brought back summer programming in a COVID-responsive way. Parks Levy funds also allowed PP&R to pilot new financial assistance models and registration processes to reduce barriers to programs. In the first year of these new models, PP&R provided $1.11 million in financial assistance to about 8,000 people–more than double what was provided in previous years.
  • PP&R treated 875 acres of invasive weeds, collected 3,107,384 pounds of trash, and increased the checking and cleaning of open restrooms. PP&R also created 85 new positions to increase tree maintenance in parks and natural areas. These positions will expand PP&R’s capacity to meet park and natural area maintenance needs across the city.
  • For the first time ever, and thanks to the Parks Levy, PP&R is proactively maintaining trees in Portland’s parks and natural areas. PP&R also planted 1,467 trees in neighborhoods designated as priority areas, an 81 percent increase from the prior year.
  • PP&R’s Recreation programs had an estimated 875,000 attendees, more than 173,000 free meals were served to youth and families through Free Lunch + Play, SUN Community Schools, and after-school programs, and almost 23,000 Portland youth used TeenForce passes to access PP&R programs free of charge. Participation in Environmental Education programs increased to 2,700 from 1,600 the prior.
  • PP&R created the Community Partnership Program, a grant opportunity building on PP&R’s existing Teen Collaborative Initiative. Through this program, PP&R awarded $1.28 million to organizations providing youth and teen-focused programming.
  • The Parks Levy Oversight Committee (PLOC) was also established to advise PP&R on key elements of the Parks Levy. The PLOC submitted its own report to City Council in response to PP&R’s 2021-22 Parks Levy Annual Report and expressed support for the Parks Levy’s first year.
  • With Parks Levy funding, PP&R was able to bring back a full slate of Summer Free For All programming, including Free Lunch + Play to fill the summer meal gap when school is out, Mobile Free Lunch + Play, Concerts in the Park, Movies in the Park, the first-ever East Portland Summer Arts Festival (see attached photo), and the Washington Park Summer Festival.

“It is wonderful to realize the successes of the Levy to this point,” says Portland Parks Commissioner Carmen Rubio. “More to come in the years ahead, but for now, I would like to thank the residents of our city. Because of their support, PP&R was better able to meet the program and service needs of our community.”

More info is at Portland.gov/parks/parks-levy

The 2021-22 Parks Levy Annual Report is available at portland.gov/parks/parks-levy#toc-annual-reports