Portland Park Rules (Title 20) Update Project

Two Portland Parks Rangers talk with a community member
Portland Parks & Recreation is responsible for stewarding nearly 12,000 acres of property at over 280 developed parks. Keeping these spaces safe and enjoyable for visitors is key concern. This project will update park rules and Park Ranger authority to match community needs and expectations.
Supporting safety in parks

PP&R employs a dedicated team of 30 full-time Park Rangers and up to 17 seasonals to respond, patrol, and resolve park user concerns and issues. Park Rangers are non-sworn, non-law enforcement safety personnel, and are authorized to enforce city code for park rules.  

Park Rangers support the Portland Police Bureau by reducing the need for police intervention on civil, non-criminal issues occurring parks. These are most often related to issues impacting the visitor experience or damaging park resources, like trash dumping, permit disputes, drinking or drug use, behavior issues, and other nuisance problems that do not involve threats or weapons. 

Last year alone, our Park Rangers responded to over 3,000 calls for park concerns. They were able to proactively resolve almost 11,000 park rule issues, and 98% of calls were resolved without police intervention. 

Sending the right responders to parks
A Portland Park Ranger kneeling and handing a sticker to a child

As stewards of our public park spaces, PP&R is working with our other public safety partners in the city to reach community goals in ensuring the right responder is sent to the right call. To that end, Park Rangers have a role to play in ensuring all visitors feel safe and that visitors feel confident that our teams have the tools they need to resolve civil, non-criminal issues in parks. 
Park Rangers respond to calls from the public, as well as provide proactive patrols, for issues that would typically be considered civil and low priority for Portland Police.  

What are some of the issues Park Rangers handle? 
  • Drinking or Drugs in Parks - Public spaces like parks are a great place to relax, but smoking and drinking are not permitted to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all users. 

  • Fires and Fireworks - This rule reduces the risk of wildfires, damage to park resources, and preserves our natural areas. 

  • Permit problems - We help ensure visitors holding events in parks or attempting commercial activities have appropriate permits, and direct them to our permit center as needed. This helps reduce conflicts between other users, neighbors, and our maintenance teams. 

  • Dumping - We investigate dumping by businesses and homeowners on park property. 

  • Dock Rule Violations - Portland's docks and boat landings are maintained for recreational use only. We enforce City Code's limits on length of moorage to keep these facilities available for use by the public.

  • Drones - Outside of designated areas, drones and other remote-controlled vehicles can cause disturbances for other visitors and the park environment.

  • Offroad Vehicles in Natural Areas - Portland's natural areas are for conservation and ecological restoration, not recreation. We patrol to keep these spaces to make sure they are unperturbed.

  • Damage to Park Plants - Removing, damaging, or defacing plants in our parks is unlawful. From the tallest fir to the bushes of the International Rose Test Garden, we ensure these park assets are kept whole. 

  • Behavior Issues - Rangers are trained in de-escalation, first aid, and trauma-informed communication to ensure that behavior and mental health crises in parks are dealt with safely and responsibly. We also issue a majority of the city's referrals for services.

What are the current challenges for community safety and enjoyment in parks? 
  • When confronted with a park rule violation Park Rangers may only issue ejections and exclusions requiring the offender to leave the park for a set amount of time. We rely on Portland Police to issue citations and the District Attorney to prosecute. This outcome does not always result in compliance or restitution for park damage.

  • Ejections and exclusions are not appropriate for every issue and leave PP&R uncompensated for any damage to park property. 

  • Many sections of Title 20 contain ill-defined terms, unclear wording, or outdated provisions that have generated confusion for both Rangers and park visitors about what is allowed.

What do these rule changes mean for park visitors?

In addition to editing and organizing park rules for clarity, PP&R will be updating sections of code that are outdated or have not kept pace with technology. In addition, we also have some sections of code that are incompatible with other recent law changes.

  • Updating codes related to fireworks.

  • Updating codes related to e-bikes and e-scooters to improve clarity and allow for flexibility.

  • New language on structure encroachments and temporary placement of property.

  • Permission for Director to issue administrative policies on park rules in some cases.

  • Updating rules on sitting, lying, or sleeping to match state law.

  • Updating code to reflect plain language, instead of challenging legal language.

  • Granting authority for Park Rangers to issue civil penalty citations in some cases.

Project FAQ
Project next steps and public comment