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Bill asks State of Oregon to consider acquisition of Forest Park

Posted by on March 16th, 2011 at 11:43 am

Forest Park-7

Much-loved Forest Park: better off in the
hands of the State?
(Photo © J. Maus)

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.”

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  • beth h March 16, 2011 at 11:48 am

    It’s certainly an interesting proposal, and not altogether shocking. Forest Park has been underfunded for years. Parts of the park are in danger of being loved to death if we don’t find ways to pay for vital upkeep. While this might change the conversation regarding bicycle accessinside the park, it’s a conversation that is overdue.

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  • wsbob March 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Sounds to me like a bad idea. Just one reason…the states budget for campgrounds is strapped. For a number of years already, it’s been closing campgrounds around the state. First priority, should be to re-fund those assets, so people have affordable, outside places to stay when they tour the state.

    Greenlick wants to tap state residents to underwrites costs for running Forest Park. I don’t have to think very hard to imagine what residents east of the Cascades, or even outside the Metro area would think of such an idea.

    Greenlick is again off the mark with the basic direction of his ‘conversation opener’, but I’d still commend him for bringing the issue up. Portland Parks and Rec hasn’t been a good guardian of FP. The city department has let the large parcel of natural land lay mostly lay fallow, even letting it decline, by not emphasizing and clarifying to Portland residents and strengthening their support for its role and purpose to the city of Portland and points beyond. Look to Washington County’s Tualitan Hills Parks and Recreation Dept for some good examples of how to support natural area park resources.

    Why Greenlick’s idea came to be having the state assume responsibility for FP, rather than Metro, is something I’m wondering about.

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    • Paul Souders March 16, 2011 at 1:00 pm

      “Greenlick wants to tap state residents to underwrites costs for running Forest Park.”

      Must…fight…urge…to write screed about NIMBYism and entitlement complex of zillionaire Forest Park neighbors…

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    • Another Doug March 16, 2011 at 1:24 pm

      Actually, State Parks has been developing and opening new campgrounds at about the rate of one a year.

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      • wsbob March 16, 2011 at 2:08 pm

        Another Doug…are you saying that Oregon has not been closing campgrounds? I was remembering from an Oregonian article some time back about some of them closing. Seems like some considered for closing were what’s called ‘primitive’ campsites. Haven’t been able to find the article though, or something else that details what’s been happening. Found one story hinting that the state might have tapped lottery money to keep some campgrounds open.

        At any rate, the state is pressed for money. Asking residents across the state to subsidize operation of what’s basically a Portland, or perhaps more realistically, a Portland/North Beaverton resource seems a bit much.

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  • Cora Potter March 16, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    It’s definitely a proposal worth exploring and seems like there could be many benefits to the rest of the parks system if we sold off Forest Park to an agency better equipped to manage it, then applied the revenues and maintenance budget say to – parks and undeveloped park land east of 82nd Ave.

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  • Carl March 16, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    I love this guy. Proposal: Bomb Clackamas. Just startin’ a conversation!

    It’s an interesting idea, though. Forest Park definitely seems to be more than Portland is willing to handle at the moment.

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    • q`Tzal March 16, 2011 at 2:58 pm

      Also “just starting conversation”: Rush Limbaugh, Fox news “anchors”.

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    • q`Tzal March 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm

      I just keep envisioning this senario where the state takes ownership and due to different rules the over-reaching adjacent land owners are able to force licensing and restricted access.

      Besides: proportionately speaking, since when did the State have more money than Portland?
      Does the State truly have the money to purchase land that is already designated as “park” Nd is curretly owned by thr gumn

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  • Mike M March 16, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    I can certainly see the benefits to residents of Portland to finding additional revenue to support this park. Forest park gets new money, and could theoretically take care of some deferred maintenance. All of the other parks in Portland would certainly benefit from the money freed up with Forest Park is off the local books.

    What I don’t see is the benefit to the rest of the people in Oregon. Most state parks are destinations that people travel to from further away. They are large facilities with no local funding source to tap. I fail to see how taking money from state parks all over Oregon to improve a Portland park will sit well with people who don’t live here.

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  • Cora Potter March 16, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    Forest Park is:

    1. A destination that many people travel to from far away
    2. A large facility
    3. Taps a local funding source, but probably shouldn’t.

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  • Brad March 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Very good idea. The Forest Park Conservancy will tell you that the city is doing a wholly inadequate job of maintaining the park. A larger pool of state dollars will do wonders to maintain the park’s trails and fund the much needed work of mitigating invasive species that are literally choking the forest to death. Becoming a state park also puts rangers into the space to enforce the rules, defend against illegal trail cutting, poaching, etc.

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  • Charley March 16, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    It might be better managed by the state, but it’s really a city park. I kind of feel like that’s asking the state to pick up our mess.

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    • Art Fuldodger March 16, 2011 at 4:57 pm

      yes, Forest Park deserves better, and the resources the State Parks could bring are appealing. But why would they want to? Beyond the $20+ million purchase price mentioned, they’d inherit a whole host of management headaches: bike access, dogs off leash, invasive species, homeless camps, foire dangers, parking in neighborhoods, rich neighbors who aren’t shy about lawyering up, and so forth. While I’m sure State Parks has dealt with these types of issues, I can’t imagine they’ve done it on this scale of magnitude. Or that they would want to.

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  • dwainedibbly March 16, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    A bad idea. Sure, there is the potential that the State might do better, but there is also the potential that it could do a lot worse. Am I the only one who can envision a future State budget crisis and the park gets sold to developers? I’m new to Oregon, so maybe I don’t understand all of the issues, but it seems like local control is highly desirable for something like a park.

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    • Brad March 16, 2011 at 6:01 pm

      I trust the State of Oregon to preserve the land as park space before I’d trust the city. Oregon has a long tradition of holding parkland sacred and free from development.

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  • Rol March 16, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    What’s with this guy? There ought to be an eponymous expression to describe these wacky bills he keeps submitting. Kind of like how Eldridge Gerry got to be the namesake of “gerrymandering.”

    “He sure Greenlicked those bike trailers didn’t he?”

    “Every year John Conyers Greenlicks a bill for slavery reparations for African Americans.”

    Or focusing on the fact that it never makes it out of committee: “Did your bill get voted up?” “Nah, it Greenlicked in committee.”

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    • Greg March 16, 2011 at 7:51 pm

      Ha! I like it.

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  • Racer X March 16, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    This is a great idea – it could be the city’s local match for the CRC (getting Vancouverites onto light rail or paying a toll to get to their Portland jobs).

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  • Matt March 18, 2011 at 11:25 am

    State Parks = Lottery Dollar funding… Nuff said.

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    • wsbob March 18, 2011 at 1:21 pm


      Personally, I’m not big on the idea of relying of on those kinds of funding sources to operate public resources. Or, of commonly going to the big federal money pots to build things locally. Seems better to retain as much local control as possible, by working as hard as possible to fund our own stuff.

      If Portland residents were helped to better understand, appreciate, and be able to better enjoy the great thing they have in Forest Park, a far improved system for operating it could naturally come about.

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  • chas davis March 22, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Let’s not turn our state parks budget into a slush fund.

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