The Portland Parks & Recreation bureau is bracing for budget cuts that could have a significant impact to marquee paths citywide.
There are two line items in the budget advocates are focusing on: One of them would slash funding for path maintenance; the other would offer a much-needed boost for the beloved Eastbank Esplanade.
Key budget process dates
- April 30th: Mayor releases budget
- May 10th: Public hearing at City Hall
- May 16th: Council action to adopt budget (after more public testimony)
Completed in 2001, the Esplanade is nearing its 20th birthday. The path is a crucial part of the bike network as it provides the safest — and in some cases, most direct — north-south access between the Lloyd Center and the Central Eastside. Parks has requested $500,000 in “one-time” funding from the General Fund and an additional yearly boost of $250,000. Not only do the aging structures need continued scheduled maintenance, but Parks says the impact of illegal camping sites along the path have diverted existing funds from other uses.
Here’s the salient snip from the budget (from Package (PK) 32 on page 32):
Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade Maintenance Reboot – $500,000 General Fund One-Time and $250,000 General Fund Ongoing Addition
For the past few years, there have been an increasing number of homeless camps and illegal structures, as well as more debris piling up in various locations along the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade. Increased traffic along the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade has required maintenance crews to devote more time than usual removing materials from numerous camp sites along the riverbank (Steel Bridge to Hawthorne Bridge), and as a result, neglecting basic park maintenance responsibilities such as horticulture.
One-time funding is requested to fund specific work on maintenance needed on the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade. The work would include General Fund one-time support for limited-term staff, installing vandal-proof lighting, staff support to improve landscaping, irrigation, deteriorating walkways, and overall degradation of facilities. Ongoing funding is requested for two Ranger positions to patrol the area and help to reduce vandalism and homelessness activity, and staff to support increased cleanup and maintenance.
Expected Results: The Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade is one the most utilized trails in PP&R’s system. Recent trail counts indicated over 400 users per hour near the Burnside Bridge crossing. This proposal could have significant impact for improving users’ experience as well as an investment towards reducing long-term maintenance needs.
The other item in the budget we’re following is PK 19, the “Regional Trails Service Reduction.” This item would take $52,000 out of the annual Parks budget that’s currently used to do standard upkeep and maintenance on all of our regional paths. Here are the details from the budget:
PK 19 Regional Trails Service Reduction – ($52,000) Ongoing Reduction
This reduction package reduces park maintenance services for all the regional trails:
Columbia Slough Trail
Willamette Greenway Trail
Waud Bluff Trail
Peninsula Crossing Trail
Specific reductions and elimination of service include:
Closing the parking lot and trailhead restroom at SE 45th/Johnson Creek Boulevard (Springwater)
Reducing maintenance activities (litter pick-up), sign replacements and repairs, vegetation pruning and general inspection from four times per month to 1-2 times per month.
Reducing repairs of damaged pavement surfaces
Eliminating garbage cans along regional trails and in all natural areas
Reduction in reporting and cleaning homeless camps
Parks says the latest user counts (from Metro) taken in September 2017 show that there are over 30,000 people who walk and roll on these paths. “The regional trails system has been impacted significantly by Portland’s increasing homeless population,” they state in their budget. “This proposal would further limit our ability to maintain the regional trails system and respond to impacts from campers.”
The good news is we still have a chance to influence the budget. Bureaus have already submitted their budgets and now Mayor Ted Wheeler and City Council members are hearing from the public at a series of hearings. Between now and April 30th, Wheeler will draft his budget. May 10th has been set as a public hearing in City Hall.
If you rely on these paths and want to keep them safe and smooth, please speak up about these budget items. Use the City Budget Office online comment form and send an email to Mayor Wheeler via his website.
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