Commissioner Ryan Directs Project at George Park to Proceed

News Article
This effort is an innovative partnership between the City, Portland Parks Foundation, and The Kidz Outside
Published

(Portland, OR) –

Vibrant Communities Commissioner Dan Ryan announces improvements coming to North Portland’s George Park. Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) is partnering with the Portland Parks Foundation (PPF) and well-known North Portland advocacy group, The Kidz Outside, to develop a concept plan for the park’s redevelopment. George Park is located at the intersection of N. Burr Avenue and N. Fessenden Street.

Commissioner Ryan has allocated $3 million in Park System Development Charges (SDCs) to the George Park project. Park SDCs are one-time fees assessed on new development; they are not General Fund tax dollars. SDCs help ensure that, as the city’s population grows, its quality of life keeps pace with its infrastructure needs. The $3 million allocated by Commissioner Ryan will be used to improve and expand park features and capacity. 

George Park in North Portland, as seen on an overcast day in February, 2024.

George Park in North Portland, as seen on an overcast day in February, 2024.

“As Portland Parks & Recreation continues to develop a more equitable park system capable of meeting community needs, blending and leveraging resources to support growth and preservation citywide is critical,” says Commissioner Ryan. “It’s wonderful to have engaged and passionate partners like The Kidz Outside.”

The Kidz Outside was founded in 2019 as an effort to reimagine George Park, which, due to its location, has the potential to serve as an important gathering space for youth and families. The park is situated between four public schools: Sitton Elementary, James John Elementary, George Middle School, and Roosevelt High School.

The Kidz Outside has mobilized community support and government resources to contribute to the George Park transformation. Examples of the park’s current limitations include  a play structure in need of replacement, insufficient lighting, and a lack of investment in the accessibility of the park for individuals with disabilities. Noted local leader Donovan Scribes of The Kidz Outside has contributed  ideas and feedback for potential improvements.

“For five years, we have been gathering input from the community to reimagine this park that for five years North Portland has said feels like the “forgotten” park of the neighborhood,” Scribes said. “This is what Black-led civic power looks like. We have worked hard to bring all these parties to the table to help realize a vision that is informed for and by community from the start, not after the fact. We need to see more of this in Portland.”

Recognizing funding challenges, PP&R’s primary fundraising partner the Portland Parks Foundation will focus on replacing failing playgrounds in various parks, including George Park. PP&R will use SDCs to build new parks and to expand existing parks assets like lighting, playground expansions, basketball courts, trails and paths, and other necessary park amenities such as benches, drinking fountains, and picnic tables.

Portland Parks Foundation Executive Director Jessica Green expressed excitement for the collaboration. “We’ve had years of conversations with The Kidz Outside,” says Green. “The Portland Parks Foundation is thrilled to team up with them and include George Park as one of the parks receiving PPF support for a new playground.”

State Representative Travis Nelson is seeking funding from the State to bolster the investment from the City. “George Park is in a neighborhood that has long felt left behind from the rest of the city,” says Nelson. This park needs to feel like a safe place for my constituents to gather, play, and relax. This is why I am asking the legislature to allocate $750,000 to this project.”

“This effort at George Park is a great example of how community advocacy and public/private partnership can come together to enhance playgrounds, promote safety, and bring additional resources to a much-needed public space in North Portland for the benefit of thousands of Portland’s young people and their families,” says Portland Parks & Recreation Director Adena Long.

Once the plan is finalized, PP&R will design and move forward with park improvements that have been identified as priorities through upcoming community engagement efforts. With funding and partnerships identified, the bureau expects work to begin later this year.

A Sustainable Future
PP&R is facing a major maintenance backlog of around $600 million. This amount has been identified but remains unfunded. In recent years, several assets have failed and had to be closed or removed to protect the public. Without new, stable funding, the bureau predicts that one in five PP&R assets will fail in the next 15 years.

PP&R continues to work with Commissioner Ryan, who is looking forward to more conversations about supporting maintenance at the levels needed to prevent future closures, and how we as a community can make that happen. PP&R and Commissioner Ryan’s office are exploring various ways to help close this funding gap, while still managing risk, through the Sustainable Future program.

For more information about PP&R funding, visit: www.portland.gov/parks/funding-sources

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