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Portland Parks & Recreation Releases Recommended Draft Plan for the South Park Blocks

Press Release
The Recommended Draft emerges from three phases of robust public involvement that began over two years ago, including extensive community engagement and outreach, and is the first effort to create an integrated, holistic plan and design to guide decisions about the twelve South Park Blocks.
Published

(Portland, OR) – Ahead of a July 7 Council date, Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) released the Recommended Draft Master Plan for the South Park Blocks. The South Park Blocks are beloved public spaces, hosting vibrant community events and programs for Portlanders and visitors throughout the year.

This is the first effort to create an integrated, holistic plan and design to guide decisions about the twelve South Park Blocks as a whole. While there is currently no funding identified for most of the elements, the City Council will meet on July 7 to consider this plan to guide future work and funding decisions.

The Recommended Draft emerges from three phases of robust public involvement that began over two years ago, including extensive community engagement and outreach. You can read more about the process here.

“This plan offers a comprehensive vision to sustain and enhance this beloved downtown destination for generations,” says Portland Parks Commissioner Carmen Rubio. “The plan reflects Portland values: it creates inclusive public spaces, helps fight climate change, and celebrates our city’s rich cultural history.”

“Rows of tall trees, native plantings, and colorful roses would remain key features of the South Park Blocks,” says Portland Parks & Recreation Director Adena Long. “Additionally, the Master Plan includes proposed updates to make the iconic destination more welcoming and accessible. PP&R and I are proud to present this plan that combines vibrant community contributions with the technical resources needed to guide the future stewardship of the South Park Blocks.

Inclusive Public Spaces

The Recommended Draft provides a vision that speaks to our shared cultural history. The downtown park blocks are treasured by many as historic spaces tied to the early development of what we know today as the City of Portland, and to great cultural institutions. Yet it is also true that the South Park Blocks were Native land long before they were home to early Portland, or to the Portland Art Museum or the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Our city and those venerable institutions could not exist without white settlers displacing indigenous communities via a process defined by both cultural and physical violence.

Landscapes reflect many different cultures, perspectives, and experiences, and we heard community members asking for more opportunities for reconciliation and healing through the landscape. Portlanders asked for better representation of diverse cultural histories and identities in art and other South Park Block features, and rehabilitation of spaces to be more accessible to people of all ages and abilities. These are defining characteristics of the Recommended Draft.

Broad Stakeholder Engagement

PP&R sought opinions and technical feedback from a wide array of stakeholders throughout the planning process. The 12-block greenspace stretches north from the campus of Portland State University (PSU), and serves as a gathering place both for residents and for people patronizing area businesses and cultural institutions. A full list of participating stakeholders can be found on page ii of the plan, but include the City of Portland’s Urban Forestry Division and Bureaus of Transportation, Planning and Sustainability, Environmental Services, and Development Services; Trimet; the Regional Arts and Culture Council and cultural institutions like the Oregon Historical Society and Portland’5 Centers for the Arts; the Pacific Northwest College of Art and various PSU constituencies; the Portland Farmers Market; and the Portland Business Alliance and Downtown Clean & Safe.

A Tree Canopy That Reflects Our Values

The Master Plan’s tree succession strategy provides a long-term guide for replacing trees when they naturally reach the end of their life spans. The long-term vision both preserves the canopy of elm trees and adds more species diversity. This promotes resiliency, honors Indigenous traditions and values, and reintegrates native species present on the landscape before European settlement. No trees are proposed for immediate or proactive removal.

Next Steps:

June 2, 5:30 – 8:00 PM: Community Advisory Committee (CAC) Meeting on the Draft Plan

The community can view a presentation on the Draft Plan by project staff and discussion by members of the committee. Please register: Barbara.hart@portlandoregon.gov

July 7, 2:00 – 5:00 PM: City Council Hearing on the Draft Plan
The community is invited to provide comments as part of this public hearing. To learn more about how you can testify and provide comments to the Portland City Council please visit the Engage with City Council web page.

Contact

Mark Ross

Media Relations/Public Information Officer

Will Howell

Communications Director (Rubio)