"Diversity, Harmony, Community - Together WE can make a difference!”

Download the Wilkes East Neighborhood Fall 2020 Newsletter here!

Download the Wilkes East Neighborhood Fall 2020 Newsletter here! Wilkes East Neighborhood, Gresham Oregon USA. Diversity, Harmony, Community- Together 'WE' can make a difference.

2020 Fall Newsletter

"Diversity, Harmony, Community -
Together 'WE' can make a difference!”

Read it now!

Fall 2020 Newsletter

Inside This Issue:

  • Virtual School Challenges
  • WENA Board Elections Nov 9th
  • Wilkes East Land-Use Update
  • Holiday Gatherings & Covid-19
  • Online Scammers; Elder Fraud
  • Tips to Prepare For Winter

Download your copy here. (includes active web links)

Newsletters are a regular publication of the Wilkes East Neighborhood Association. They are hand-delivered to over 1,500 residences and businesses in our area 3 times per year, timed to correspond with our regular meetings.

View archive   |   Policy & Ad Rates

Got a story or tip to share?
Wilkes East residents are encouraged to submit articles and tips for the newsletter. Articles should be limited to 300-500 words and may be subject to editing Include a related photo. Send by email to chair@wilkeseastna.org, or by postal mail to: 17104 NE Oregon St • Portland OR 97230.

Volunteers Needed
Newsletters are hand-delivered to Wilkes East residents and businesses by neighborhood volunteers. There are always routes that need delivery people. Routes are small and many. We can always use your help.
To volunteer contact chair@wilkeseastna.org.

Measure 26-218 is bad for Gresham neighborhoods

Measure 26-218 is bad for Gresham neighborhoods. Info here!

Metro's proposed Clackamas to Columbia River connector will impact school zones and pedestrian traffic on Northeast 181st Avenue

By Mike Elston, President
North Gresham Neighborhood Association

As President of the North Gresham Neighborhood Association, I'm informed about development plans that impact our neighborhood. Recently I became aware of a Metro proposal that'll increase traffic from Clackamas to the Columbia River ("C2C"), largely by routing it down Northeast 181st /182nd. Although the scheme has apparently been in development for years, Metro and the city of Gresham are only now involving North Gresham citizens — at a point where it's nearly a done-deal.

We have a number of concerns about C2C we feel aren't being heard by Metro. We strongly believe this will have the effect of transforming 181st /182nd into another 82nd Avenue. It will certainly increase traffic, which is already a nightmare during rush hour. That, in turn, will negatively impact the three schools along its proposed route as well as pedestrian access to the MAX and to our area's one grocery store.

We're at a loss to understand how this benefits North Gresham (and maybe that's why we weren't informed about the plan until it was too late to have much impact). Metro claims it'll provide jobs, but they're temporary employment during construction and not permanent.

In our view, this only benefits the higher-income residents of Happy Valley at the expense of Gresham's north-end, lower-income neighborhoods.

Funding for the C2C would be provided by the passage of Metro bond measure M 26-218 in November, and our only chance to delay C2C and permit more time for citizen feedback is for the measure to fail.

We therefore, ask for your help. Join us in voting NO on Measure 26-218, November 3, 2020.

Learn More
Link to the September 10, 2020 “Open house” recorded meeting via Zoom:
Presentation of slides:
It would appear some initial road construction has already started in Clackamas County (172nd/190th connection), as well as nearby at NE 181st and Glisan (Tree removal and road widening).

Update: What's happening with the Gresham Overlay Project?

Update: What's happening with the Gresham Overlay Project? The update is designed to allow development while streamlining the process and minimizing negative impacts to our natural resources, property, public health, and public safety for the Gresham community. Get involved. Make a difference. Info here!

We are reaching out to let you know about the City’s “Environmental Overlay Code and Map Update” project, which will update Gresham’s environmental protection regulations. The update is designed to continue allowing development while streamlining the process and minimizing negative impacts to our natural resources, property, public health, and public safety for the Gresham community.

Why are we reaching out to you now?

  • To let you know we are changing the code and where we are in the process.
  • To give you a heads-up that we will have more information and opportunity for you to give us feedback and ask questions soon (September 9th).

What does this mean for you?

  • You can learn why Gresham’s natural resource areas are important.
  • You can find out if your property is located in an environmental overlay area and what this means.
  • You can learn about the proposed updated code and to use it to protect the community’s valuable natural resources.

How can you get involved?

  • Aug 2020- Staff review of draft code
  • Sep 09, 2020- Draaft code ad maps available for public reiew
  • Sep 17, 2020- Public work sessions
  • Oct 2020- Incorporate comments and writing reports
  • Nov 23, 2020- Planning Commission
  • Dec 15, 2020- City Council Hearing

Draft Code sections plus updated maps for Hillside and Natural Resource overlay areas within the City will be available for public review throughout September. In addition to public Zoom sessions, staff will be available to receive your feedback, answer questions, or provide clarifications about this project through the end of September via email at: Overlays@GreshamOregon.gov.

Property owners who fall within the environmental overlay areas will be notified of the proposed code and map changes and meeting dates by mail in September and again in late October. At that time interested parties will have the opportunity to submit formal comments until the December 15th Council Hearing.

Information about the project, including project timeline and links for engagement activities in September, can be found on the project website. Sign up to receive project updates at https://t.e2ma.net/click/8mffbc/ghow07/smg30k.

Download the Wilkes East Neighborhood Summer 2020 Newsletter here!

Download the Wilkes East Neighborhood Summer 2020 Newsletter here! Wilkes East Neighborhood, Gresham Oregon USA. Diversity, Harmony, Community- Together 'WE' can make a difference.

2020 Summer Newsletter

"Diversity, Harmony, Community -
Together 'WE' can make a difference!”

Read it now!

Summer 2020 Newsletter

Inside This Issue:

  • An Inclusive Neighborhood
  • Columbia View Park Concept
  • Nature-Deficit Disorder
  • Coping During the Pandemic
  • Importance of Our Parks
  • Albertina Kerr Housing Update

Download your copy here. (includes active web links)

Newsletters are a regular publication of the Wilkes East Neighborhood Association. They are hand-delivered to over 1,500 residences and businesses in our area 3 times per year, timed to correspond with our regular meetings.

View archive   |   Policy & Ad Rates

Got a story or tip to share?
Wilkes East residents are encouraged to submit articles and tips for the newsletter. Articles should be limited to 300-500 words and may be subject to editing Include a related photo. Send by email to chair@wilkeseastna.org, or by postal mail to: 17104 NE Oregon St • Portland OR 97230.

Volunteers Needed
Newsletters are hand-delivered to Wilkes East residents and businesses by neighborhood volunteers. There are always routes that need delivery people. Routes are small and many. We can always use your help.
To volunteer contact chair@wilkeseastna.org.

Building An Inclusive Neighborhood Starts With Antiracism


Building An Inclusive Neighborhood Starts With Antiracism

Sarah Jacobson, Board member

The recent deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Arbery and George Floyd, along with weeks of subsequent protests, have shined a national spotlight on racism in America. It has left a lot of us wondering “What is my role and responsibility in perpetuating or dismantling racism? How can I help? How can I reduce harm?”

If you are asking yourself these questions, you are not alone. Acknowledging racism exists is easy, but dismantling it is hard. Racism is more than individual prejudices but a society wide dynamic that occurs, often unintentionally, at a group level. There is no easy or quick fix here. It will take a lot of work to remove the systems of oppression that we have created over centuries and be able to heal and move forward as a country. This work begins at home.

Whether you are an activist with a robust plan to address racial equity or someone who is just coming to terms with the true extent of racism in our country, there is an opportunity to create a more inclusive neighborhood right here. Everyone deserves the right to feel safe in their home and their community, but the reality is, not everyone does. So, what can we do to change that? Below are three suggestions to start creating a more inclusive neighborhood.

Know Your Neighbor
If you have attended a local Race Talks, led by retired PPS teacher and administrator Donna Maxey, you already know one of the best ways to create inclusion in your neighborhood is to know your neighbors. Not just know their name but KNOW them. Maxey recommends starting with the three neighbors on either side of you and on both sides of the street. That is approximately 12 neighbors!

While I talk to my neighbors pretty regularly, the recent COVID-19 lockdown made me realize I had very few of their phone numbers. This was a wake-up call for me that I didn’t know my neighbors as well as I would like. Of course, we are currently facing the added challenge of ongoing social distancing, but try to get out and connect with neighbors while maintaining healthy boundaries.

Avoid Assumptions
We are all influenced by our life experiences and our world at large. We have all received subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, messages about what skin color means in our society. Because this messaging is constantly being thrown at us through the media, it takes a lot of work to mitigate the effect and undo negative thought patterns. It is important to actively avoid assumptions about other people because they are based on preconceived notions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class, religion and other layers of identity rather than facts. If you see someone in the neighborhood you don’t recognize, avoid making assumptions about who they are and why they are there. Remember that a stranger is only a stranger until you get to know them.

Connect Across Differences
We are naturally attracted to people with whom we share similarities. Similar age, family structure and outdoor hobbies can be a simple way to form a connection with a neighbor. These are all examples of surface level traits- things we can visually see about someone before we even get to know them. You have a boat, me too- let’s be friends! It is normal to connect based on surface level commonalities, however, creating an inclusive neighborhood means also intentionally connecting across differences. There are so many factors that make each of us the unique person we are and that is a beautiful part of the diverse community we live in. The more we learn about someone else below the surface, things we wouldn’t know just from appearances, the more we might find that we have in common. Don’t let surface level differences deter you from connecting with your neighbor.

Connection, community and sense of belonging are all important aspects of human nature. When we are able push our comfort zones just a little to create that new connection, we all benefit. Building an inclusive community isn’t about being a perfect neighbor, nobody is perfect. It is about accepting that nobody is perfect but everyone is worthy. As Dr. A. Katrise Perera, Gresham-Barlow Superintendent, recently said during Gresham’s Conversation on Race and Reconciliation, until we can say Black lives matter, we can’t say all lives matter. The more we can set aside our own unique story and understand our community at large, the better we can work towards equity and justice.

City of Gresham: Input on Columbia View Neighborhood Park’s Concept Plan

Tina Osterink, City of Gresham
Natural Resource Planner

In the spring of 2019, the City of Gresham began a process initiated by the City Council to identify potential recreation improvements for six undeveloped parks throughout the city. The parks identified for future improvements were two community parks and four neighborhood parks, including Columbia View Neighborhood Park.

This exploration of future improvements was initiated by the city to understand community desires for each park, capital costs for potential improvements, and maintenance needs if developed. Community feedback will help prioritize which park improvements will be implemented as funding becomes available.

Staff and a consultant team conducted on-site meetings, surveys and an open house throughout 2019. Community feedback was used to develop high level concept plans for all six undeveloped parks. The plans include a range of design and facility options for each park, including Columbia View Neighborhood Park.

Based on analysis of Columbia View’s unique existing conditions and feedback during public engagement meetings, the following concept plan was developed.

Columbia View neighborhood Park's Concept Plan
Columbia View Park's Concept Plan

Community feedback throughout 2019 noted opportunities for the park may include play structures for kids, designated off-leash dog areas, improved accessibility for all ages and abilities, education displays, and picnic areas. Constraints include maintenance, safety concerns, a lack of trash receptacles, and concerns with attracting too many people to neighborhood park. Additional feedback from nearby neighbors during a virtual meeting held in June 2020 is as follows:

  • Keep this neighborhood park in a natural state with limited upgrades.
  • Supportive of trails to improve access and a community garden but wanted staff to consider either eliminating the shelter and courts or at least move those items towards the school.
  • Consider natural long-lasting materials for an ADA perimeter path around the park.
  • Dog park located under chestnut trees hurt dog paws and in what is now informally known as “the fetch it zone”.
  • Some would prefer an off-leash area vs. fenced dog leash area.
  • Consider placing amenities closer to H.B. Lee Middle School but engage the school first.
  • Concern with picnic shelter location on upslope portion of park that interferes with backyard privacy and could contribute to real or perceived safety concerns.
  • Lack of police access into the SE portion of the park near potential amenity placement.
  • Further explore feasibility of providing secondary access off NE Pacific St.

During the June 2020 meeting, staff stressed the importance of balancing input from nearby neighbors with meeting the equity, opportunity and access needs for community members who live within the quarter-mile walking and biking service area.

Next steps in the outreach process include meeting with Community Based Organizations to gain their input on the concept plan for Columbia View Neighborhood Park, online review of the concept plan report from July 13 – August 31 and then convene on August 10 at the Wilkes East Neighborhood Association Meeting (online via Zoom).

Additional information can be found at the Parks Planning website and you can reach out to Tina Osterink at Tina.Osterink@GreshamOregon.Gov or by phone at (503) 618-2392.

Project website where the concept plans and draft report can be viewed: https://greshamoregon.gov/Parks-Planning/

Nature-Deficit Disorder

Heather Newcomb, Neighbor

I visit Columbia View Park every day. I walk the four blocks with my two toddlers and large dog to the park for our daily dose of nature. Every few months, we visit the closer Pat Pfeifer for the playground or go to Nadaka to play in the sand, but Columbia View offers a unique setting that I choose over the others. This park is more special because it provides an immersive nature experience. With Columbia View’s expansive sight lines, my neighbors and I are able to enjoy the park simultaneously whilst keeping quietly to ourselves as we wish. Here we calm our minds, explore the trees that look like forts to my children, listen to the birds, and pick flowers. We walk large loops and rest under the trees. The thick canopy provides shade from the sun in the summer and a dry area from the rain in the winter. This park is our third place — our second home.

(Read more below the break)

Two hours a week — In a 2019 study of 20,000 people, the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter found that those who spent two hours a week in nature were substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well being. Those two hours could come in one dose or over several, but there were no benefits to the participants who did not meet the minimum of two hours.

Spending time in untampered green space has also proven to decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression, ADHD, and other conditions. I myself use the park each day to ease anxiety symptoms. With our filled schedules, it is critical to have this advantage of untouched green space nearby our homes. People do not have time to drive out to the Gorge regularly, which is also becoming increasingly crowded on weekends. As a mom, I find it is prohibitive to load the kids into the car every time we want to venture out.

Currently, the city of Gresham seeks to develop more amenities within Columbia View Park. They have reached out four times to seek feedback from the community. At each instance, I personally have heard an outcry from our neighborhood. Many ask to let this unique and special landscape remain an untouched green space. At each subsequent step, however unfortunately, more and more elements have been added to the city's plan.

The current proposed design includes a cement walkway, a fenced dog park, cement courts, picnic shelters, and a community garden. This is far too many things for such a small space and apparently a cookie cutter design reiterated for several parks in the city. The plan did not take into consideration police sight lines to the picnic shelter, unrealistic secondary access points through neighbors’ property, the grade of the land, or the expanse of ground people would have to traverse carrying gardening tools. Further, it will destroy Columbia View’s unique natural landscape and green feeling, and raise the risk of overnight trespassing, drug use, and drinking directly next to HB Lee Middle School.

Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, who have been studying the effects of nature on the brain since the 1970s, say that in city environments, neighborhood streets, the classroom, and at work, people strain to use more of the brain. In nature, people relax their minds, pay attention more broadly, and exert less mental effort. This leads to an overall healthier body and mind. The amenities the city plans will diminish the unique restorative qualities of our neighborhood green space at Columbia View Park. It will make the neighborhood less desirable. It will make the park a destination for those who live outside the neighborhood, increasing vehicular traffic and congestion.

If you value the irreplaceable dose of restorative nature in our neighborhood park, I urge you to reach out to Tina Osterink from the City of Gresham (tina.osterink@greshamoregon.gov), our city council members (greshamoregon.gov/Meet-the-Council), and attend our August 10th Wilkes East Neighborhood Association meeting to insist our feedback is heard!

The neighborhood association is interested in your feedback and your continued support on the Columbia View Park development plan. Please follow this link tinyurl.com/wenasurvey to provide us with an email to receive updates and let us know your own thoughts on what the park might look like.

Albertina Kerr Workforce & Inclusive Housing Update July 2020

Albertina Kerr Workforce & Inclusive Housing Update July 2020. Info here!
Albertina Kerr Workforce & Inclusive housing project. NE Holladay at NE 162nd Ave, Gresham. Click to enlarge

Jeff Carr, CEO Albertina Kerr

Since the last update I shared in this newsletter a lot has changed in our world with the onset of the Coronavirus. While this has delayed our timeline somewhat, we have continued the planning and development process and the following progress has been made:

  • Albertina Kerr has exceeded our private fundraising goal of $1.2 million
  • Albertina Kerr submitted our application to the City of Gresham Metro Housing Bond NOFA on June 3rd and expect to receive notifi-cation of awards in late July/August. The funds Albertina Kerr has requested from the City of Gresham are the final piece of the financing necessary for the project to be constructed.
  • Approval for the project was received from the City of Gresham Design Review Commission on June 3rd.
  • Drawings were submitted the last week of June to begin the permit review process.
  • The project has incorporated design innovations that will enable it to be “net zero”, which means we will produce all the energy needed to power the entire building on site through solar panels. This will be a significant accomplishment and be one of the most innovative “renewable energy” projects in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Assuming we receive a funding award from the City of Gresham before the end of the summer, our expected start of construction would be in late October/November. We anticipate a 15-month construction timeline, which would mean we would begin leasing and moving people into units the first quarter of 2022.

One question presented by a neighbor was about sidewalks on 162nd Avenue and Holladay. As part of the requirements from the City of Gresham, we will be widening the street and putting in sidewalks and a planter buffer between the sidewalks and 162nd the entire length of the Albertina Kerr property (east side of 162nd). In addition, a sidewalk will be installed on Holladay from 162nd Avenue to the new entrance onto our property on Holladay (south side of Holladay).

Importance of Our Parks & Some Suggestions

Lee Dayfield, Neighbor & Parks Activist

It’s a fact that people who live closer to parks report better mental health even if they don’t actually exercise there. This is particularly true for parks with a lot of trees, grass and other natural features, as studies show that exposure to nature can reduce stress and promote relaxation. The Wilkes East neighborhood is fortunate to have two such wonderful parks, Nadaka and Columbia View.

For any citizens of Gresham who have followed City Council meetings, Budget Committee meetings and many other committees, you should know we are in trouble. The City of Gresham was in a budget crisis before COVID19 and it is even worse now. I was at Nadaka recently doing a walk around with a City official who indicated the parks would be in even worse shape next year and staff may have to be cut to three people.

So if you care at all about our parks I would strongly suggest you start speaking up by letting the Mayor and City Council know. You can do this by going to the City’s website and emailing your elected officials. Email addresses for Mayor and Council are on the City’s website. Or send written testimony or ask to give oral testimony at the next City Council meeting. Email Susanjoy.Wright@GreshamOregon.gov and tell her you want to be notified of upcoming Council meetings so you can participate via Zoom by phone or computer. Her phone number is 503-618-2697.

Nadaka Update   We are very fortunate that Play Grow Learn youth have been working at Nadaka on Thursday mornings for about five weeks primarily removing invasives. If you see them at the park please say Thank You! Beginning in August I think that group will be joined by Rosemary Anderson Summer Works youth. If that happens the plan is to work at Nadaka two or three days a week. They are wearing masks and maintaining safe distances.

If you are someone who wants to get out and make a difference at Nadaka you are always welcome to remove invasives. You don’t need an appointment and you can spend as much time as you want. The forest is full of ivy which most people know what it looks like. If you are familiar with weeds you can work on the planted beds near the entry at NE Glisan. The mulched areas north of the play area as well as the rocks surrounding the sand pit at the south end of the play area are also full of weeds. You can’t miss the large piles of invasives at the north end of the play area on the east side of the road. All debris go there. There is also plenty of ivy in Columbia View Park that should be removed. It can be piled next to the trash can on NE 169th.

If you are on Nextdoor there is a brand new group called Our Parks, Our Future Discussion Group. It will be a group of Gresham citizens who can share ideas, learn about parks districts and get engaged with City Hall regarding parks.

Cultivating solutions for Gresham's parks

Youth volunteers tend Nadaka Nature Park as city parks funding woes take root

Cultivating solutions for Gresham's parks. Youth volunteers tend Nadaka Nature Park as city parks funding woes take root. Info here!
PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Germaine Flentroy Jr. lugs a bucket of water across Nadaka Nature Park while helping maintain the greenspace.

Source: Gresham Outlook, Jun 22, 2020
By Christopher Keizur

A group of youth made a troubling discovery one afternoon while volunteering at Nadaka Nature Park.

Vandals had ripped out a young tree planted to provide shade in the Nadaka meadow for a popular bench among those seeking a quiet way to spend the afternoon. The tree, which had been planted earlier this spring, had been carelessly tossed to the side.

So the youth got to work. They re-dug a hole and got the tree back upright. Then they lugged water across the park to give the tree the best chance for survival. The work in Nadaka is just one way youth counselors with nonprofit Play Grow Learn are giving back to their community.

"I'm so grateful you all are helping maintain this park, because the city isn't able to," said Lee Dayfield, the creative force behind Nadaka.

Their support comes at a crucial time for one of the most unique parks in Gresham. Funding officially dried up at Nadaka, 17615 N.E. Glisan St., on June 1 — marking a major shift in what was once touted as the model for future parks in the city.

What made it special was the ongoing bevy of activities happening within the space.

There were cleanups, partnerships with schools, bird walks and workshops on native plants and pollinators. Nadaka hosted an annual free community festival that celebrated Rockwood's diversity, and employed a group of "Park Ambassadors," who served as the face of Nadaka — educating visitors and ensuring the park stayed safe and clean.

Cultivating solutions for Gresham's parks. Youth volunteers tend Nadaka Nature Park as city parks funding woes take root. Info here!

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Nick Johnson, 20, lives only a few blocks away from Nadaka Nature Park.

All of it was made possible by chasing grants.

"We knew raising funds this way was not sustainable," Dayfield said. "We hoped the city of Gresham would fill in the gaps, but that didn't happen."

City staff, who are overstretched among the 56 parks with more than 300 acres of space, can only mow the grass and empty the trash cans at Nadaka. Funding is also a major issue in Gresham, leading many voices to call for innovative new ways to raise money for parks.

A new coalition has been meeting virtually and is outlining a formal plan. So far, more than a dozen organizations have joined, including Play Grow Learn. It's a diverse mix of people that are all united in seeking a better way to reinvest in the parks system.

Several short and long-term funding ideas have been earmarked, though nothing is at the stage to make a formal pitch to the city. So in the meantime, it will be groups like the Play Grow Learn youth who do the majority of the work.

"We are doing the stuff that otherwise isn't going to get done," said Anthony Bradley, executive director of Play Grow Learn. "We are showing what can be done at our parks on a small budget."

Problems at Nadaka

Cultivating solutions for Gresham's parks. Youth volunteers tend Nadaka Nature Park as city parks funding woes take root. Info here!
PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Play Grow Learn youth volunteers replant a tree in Nadaka Nature Park that had been ripped out by vandals.

Nineteen-year-old Rico Garland had never been to Nadaka before he found himself removing invasive ivy from the wooded-trail system as part of Play Grow Learn's Days at Nadaka.

But soon the East Portland teen fell in love with the park.

"It's great to help out the community," Garland said. "This place is so beautiful."

Nadaka is a 10-acre property acquired from the Camp Fire Columbia organization in 1995. It was purchased thanks to Gresham voters passing an open-spaces bond measure in 1990.

In spring 2015, Nadaka celebrated an opening to the public, featuring wooden play structures, a community garden, restroom, picnic shelter, walking loop and public art.

"All of this is because of the hard work of community members," Dayfield said. "We all volunteered because we love this place."

Dayfield poured a lot of herself into supporting Nadaka. She spearheaded the charge to transform her dream park into a reality, overcoming red tape and bureaucracy to found Friends of Nadaka to secure grants and other funding.

For many years the Columbia Slough Watershed Council, a Portland-based organization, had supported the Gresham park. But with changes to the board and executive director, the watershed council decided to focus on other projects.

That caused the funding to run out at the beginning of this month, leaving a beautiful green space with nothing to do. There is some hope for the park — nonprofit Outgrowing Hunger has stepped in as the new fiscal agent for Friends of Nadaka, and was able to capture a $25,000 grant from the East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District. That grant was secured thanks to a funding match from the city.

But still Dayfield, and other members of the parks coalition, are seeking more permanent answers for the entire community.

The problems began two decades ago with a pair of ballot measures passed in Gresham that hamstrung the city's ability to fund parks. The votes set a permanent property tax that was the second lowest in the state.

The fallout was immediate

In 1990, Gresham's property taxes paid for 100% of police and fire services. Now, those taxes are only able to foot 40% of those expenses. As a result the city had to get creative in filling in the gaps. With the priority being safety, police and fire get the lion's share, leaving parks to wither.

Cultivating solutions for Gresham's parks. Youth volunteers tend Nadaka Nature Park as city parks funding woes take root. Info here!
PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Germain Flentroy Jr. and Jim Labbe fill a device with water that will give a replanted tree the best chance at survival.

Ideas have been bandied about by the parks coalition.

One long-term answer would be to look into forming a parks district, which has the power to construct, reconstruct, alter, enlarge, operate and maintain lakes, parks, recreation grounds and buildings; acquire necessary lands; and to call necessary elections after being formed. It isn't easy to implement a parks district, necessitating city leadership lessening its control over greenspaces, a feasibility study and public vote.

Other solutions have been a new parks utility fee; increasing the existing Police-Fire-Parks fee that was enacted in 2012; or vying for an Operations Levy/Bond Measure, that would also collect from property taxes.

Perhaps the most immediate proposal is participatory budgeting, which involves the community in choosing how to spend funds.

The city could start small, setting aside $100,000 in the first year. Different groups would pitch proposals on how to spend that pot, eventually leading to a community vote on what to fund. The city could set up guidelines that would shape what sort of proposals could be considered, but otherwise it places the onus in the hands of the community to grow and develop parks.

If participatory budgeting proved to be successful, it could be expanded.

"We could scale up and better fund all of our parks," said Jim Labbe, a former urban conservationist with the Audubon Society of Portland.

Lending a hand

Cultivating solutions for Gresham's parks. Youth volunteers tend Nadaka Nature Park as city parks funding woes take root. Info here!
PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - A group of volunteers spent an afternoon replanting a tree that had been ripped out of the ground.

Germaine Flentroy loves to visit Nadaka Nature Park with his youngest children, ages 4, 6 and 9.

They fondly refer to it as "the water park" because one of their favorite activities is playing with a water spigot by the climbing structure. When the weather is nice the Flentroys will enjoy a picnic in the grass, scratching that camping itch put on hold due to restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

So for Flentroy, program coordinator with Play Grow Learn, setting up a program to maintain the greenspace was a no-brainer.

"We want to be involved in our parks beyond having conversations," he said. "We have to do our part to represent and teach kids of color."

Normally this time of the year, the youth involved with Play Grow Learn would be helming camps for homeless and foster children as counselors. With the pandemic, the nonprofit organization based in Rockwood pivoted to food boxes for underserved families and the park cleanups. It is the youth who would have been camp counselors that have dived into their new roles.

Every week, 8-10 volunteers spend a couple of hours weeding, picking up trash, and undoing damage done by vandals. They also water plants in need of attention. The youth are paid by Play Grow Learn for their time in the park, and it is being used as an opportunity to teach them and hopefully foster a love for horticulture.

Eventually, when COVID-19 restrictions loosen, Play Grow Learn will have a field trip day where it brings the younger campers to Nadaka for an afternoon of fun.

And soon another group of teens will begin helping at Nadaka. Rosemary Anderson High School's Summer Works Group will be doing forest restoration at the park.

"These types of programs send a message to the city that people care about our parks," Labbe said.

Until Gresham is able to figure out funding, it will be up to volunteers to continue caring for their parks.

"Nature is for all," Flentroy said. "It's a safe place where you can get healed."

This story first appeared in The Outlook. Support community newspapers. Subscribe at http://savinglocalnews.com

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