Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 16th, 2011 at 11:43 am
State Representative Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland) is sponsoring a bill (HB 2250) that would require the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission to enter into talks with the City of Portland about the possible state acquisition of Forest Park.
Here's the entire text of the (very brief) bill:
"The State Parks and Recreation Commission shall make reasonable efforts to arrive at an agreement with Portland Parks and Recreation to acquire Forest Park."
Greenlick lives adjacent to the park (it's also in his district) and during a public hearing on HB 2250 held last month, said the park's long-term health and stability is, "Extraordinarily important to me."
"It seemed to me we ought to try and see if Forest Park could become a logical State Park."
— Rep. Mitch Greenlick
In testimony in front of the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources on February 9th, Greenlick said Forest Park needs help and deserves special attention from the State. "It's not like other parks around the city," he testified, "it's a huge natural resource that simply needs to be kept in place."
Greenlick quoted a report by City Club last year that detailed how the City of Portland has failed to adequately maintain the park in light of budget shortfalls. "The bill is an attempt to protect the park and give it the resources that the City of Portland has not been providing."
Given the current state of the park, Greenlick said, "It seemed to me we ought to try and see if Forest Park could become a logical State Park."
If Forest Park became a part of the Oregon State Parks system, it would likely have access to a larger and more reliable funding stream (Measure 76/State Lottery funds were discussed at the hearing). More money and management resources could also hasten the development of improved bicycling opportunities in the park.
Tim Wood, the director of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), also testified at the February 9th hearing. He estimated that the cost of acquiring the park from the City of Portland would be about $20-64 million. Wood said he was neutral on the bill, but said he'd be "very much willing" to bring resources to this project if possible. However, Wood explained that the OPRD already has a priority list of potential acquisitions and Forest Park is not on it.
"Any acquisition beyond this priority list," Wood told lawmakers last month, "would require change to the list or coming up with additional monies... But if this bill moves forward there are significant fiscal implications for the department."
Zari Santner, Director of Portland Parks and Recreation, acknowledged that Forest Park needs help, saying, "There's no doubt this park needs more resources." However, she told lawmakers she doesn't feel a legislative measure is needed just to bring the two sides to the table. "We welcome the opportunity to work with state officials in coming up with ideas on how to do that [find more resources for the park], but my humble opinion is that the state legislature is not the best way to do that."
While the bill is provocative, it's not likely to be voted on. That doesn't bother Rep. Greenlick. For him, the purpose was just to start a conversation (sound familiar?) and to get people taking the park's future seriously.
Reached today for an update on the bill, Greenlick said he's agreed to hold off further action on the bill. Citing an informal agreement from the City of Portland and State Parks to discuss the issue of Forest Park's future, Greenlick said, "I am not wedded to a specific result, I just want people to take seriously planning for the next 100 years."