Portland Parks will invest $15 million to fully fund the Steel Bridge Skatepark

2019 rendering of skate park and plaza as seen from NW Everett.
(Image: DAO Architecture)

“The skatepark near the Steel Bridge will be a world class attraction.”

– Ryan Hashagen, Steel Bridge Skatepark Coalition

The Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) bureau will use $15 million in Parks System Development Charges (fees paid by developers) to build a skatepark near the Steel Bridge just west of Waterfront Park. The news was announced this morning by Parks Commissioner Dan Ryan, who said the investment will be enough to “fully fund” the Steel Bridge Skatepark.

The site has been eyed by advocates since 2001 when Portland’s first skatepark was built at Pier Park in St. Johns. The idea for a park in the 35,000 square-foot parcel bound by NW 1st, Everett, and Naito Parkway was first formalized as the “crown jewel” of 19 facilities in Portland’s 2008 Skatepark System Plan. In 2011, Portland-based DAO Architecture developed a plan for the site (available here) under the guidance of the City of Portland and an advisory committee. BikePortland has covered this project several times since an effort to re-launch the idea was first announced in early 2019.

At least two previous attempts to build this park fell through, but it seems the urgency around downtown revitalization — combined with growing popularity in skating since the pandemic — was enough to finally get it over the hump this time around. Beyond the need for funding, the project is additionally complex because of overlapping jurisdictional boundaries. The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) manages the city streets, TriMet light rail vehicles use one of the overpasses, Union Pacific Railroad operates a line nearby, PP&R is in charge of the riverfront paths, and the Oregon Department of Transportation owns the ramps on and off of the Steel Bridge.

Three years after skateboard and Old Town neighborhood advocates coalesced around a renewed push for the skatepark, a diverse group of advocates held a symbolic groundbreaking at the site. Among them were staff from The Street Trust, who strongly support the project because of how it will encourage non-motorized transportation. The location is also a key link in the bike network that has long been eyed as a gap by PBOT. Once the skatepark is complete, improved connections between paths in Waterfront Park, Naito, and the NW Flanders neighborhood greenway will finally be realized.

In recent years, the site has been home to a large encampment of people who made the grassy lot their home. In March of last year, a fire under the bridge tied to the encampments caught Commissioner Ryan’s attention and appears to have also lit a fire under finally getting the skatepark built.

The design of the park includes a roof so that it can be used during rainy weather. Here’s more about the vision for the site from DAO Architecture:

The park’s design creates a unique urban landscape, weaving together skatable and non-skatable fingers of terrain. These intertwined, traversing fingers create a public realm that’s dynamic and challenging for skaters, yet contains safe havens for pedestrians and spectators, thus blurring the line between a traditional, segregated skatepark and an urban plaza. The park is a sculptural urban space, optimized for skating, which integrates infrastructure, architecture, landscape, and art.

The roof canopy’s origami-like form emerged from the folded nature of the site’s groundplane and connects symbolically to the district’s Asian cultural history. Long-span, folded-truss structural frames are supported by a minimal number of unobtrusive supporting columns constructed of COR-TEN plates and wire mesh, recalling the industrial appearance and lightness of the adjacent Steel Bridge. Long-span, translucent-fiberglass roof cladding provides natural light to the surface below. An integral, thin-film photovoltaic membrane provides a measure of shading, while capturing solar energy to power the park’s lighting and electrical systems. The inverted-canopy roof-forms serve as stormwater gutters, leading to columnar downspouts that empty into engineered planter boxes, which retain stormwater on site. A remnant freeway-ramp remains as an artifact but is repurposed as an additional pedestrian overlook for viewing the action in the skating bowls beneath.

In his statement today, Commissioner Ryan said, “When we have more places to play, there is a better quality of life for our city. Transforming part of Old Town into a citywide recreation destination will be a tremendous asset for our businesses, neighbors, and visitors from all over.”

And Ryan Hashagen, director of Steel Bridge Skatepark Coalition promised the new park would be a “world-class attraction. “It will breathe life and energy into Old Town,” and, “will activate the area by providing a recreational space for people, inclusive of all backgrounds and abilities.”

PP&R Director Adena Long echoed those sentiments by calling the project, “an appealing way to enliven and improve this area of downtown.”

From here, PP&R says they’ll begin property acquisition, public outreach, and a design process this coming spring. Stay tuned to learn about opportunities to share your feedback.


Video below is a short interview with Ryan Hashagen at Bike Happy Hour on Wednesday, January 3rd that was posted to Instagram Friday January 5th:

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Nick
Nick
3 months ago

Who’s making this park? Cause some architecture firm is gonna make a whack park that nobody likes. This should be built by skaters for skaters.

Alex Bargmeyer
Alex Bargmeyer
3 months ago
Reply to  Nick

Probably hasn’t gone to bid yet, but I would imagine the prime contractor would hire a reputable skatepark contractor to build it.

Matt
Matt
3 months ago
Reply to  Nick

Skateparks can be fun for BMX and dirt jump bikes too. I hope the designers build it with features that can be enjoyed with those as well as skateboards.

maxD
maxD
3 months ago

This is great news! Is there a chance that this will include a safe/direct crossing across Naito between Flanders and the Steel Bridge bike path?

Ryan H.
Ryan H.
3 months ago
Reply to  maxD

Yes! PBOT staff has been patiently coordinating with Union Pacific on a safe Flanders Greenway crossing of Naito at the North end of the skatepark site.

Quint
Quint
3 months ago
Reply to  Ryan H.

It recently got additional funding through the ODOT STIP program, and should be constructed in the next couple years.

jakeco969
jakeco969
3 months ago

 Current state law requires that SDC resources can only be used for improvements that will expand the capacity of the parks and recreation system. In other words, SDC money cannot be used to fix or maintain current assets.

Seems like this is the ongoing big problem Parks is having. A little surprised more effort hasn’t gone into changing the law so funds can be used where they are actually needed, such as maintenance. Surely some of the political energy that banned (since paused) menthols can be used to provide results for more of a majority of the citizenry.

“When we have more places to play, there is a better quality of life for our city,” says Commissioner Ryan. 

Really?!? Play is better than actual problems being rectified? Continually amazed at the large amount of good people in Portland vs. the quality of the elected officials that somehow get themselves elected.

Will
Will
3 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

The restrictions on SDC use come from US Supreme Court rulings, so a local or statewide law won’t be able to change them.

jakeco969
jakeco969
3 months ago
Reply to  Will

State law creates a framework for local SDCs and specifies how, when, and for what improvements they can be imposed. Under ORS 223.297 to 223.314, SDCs may be used by cities, counties, and special districts for capital improvements related to: • water supply, treatment, and distribution; • waste water collection, transmission, treatment, and disposal; • drainage and flood control; • transportation; or • parks and recreation.

ORS 223.297 to 223.314

December 17, 2020

Could you cite the reference you are using? I saw some issues from late 2023 that the Supreme Court was looking at, but they didn’t seem to be taking away from the state.

Will
Will
3 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Nolan v. California Coastal Commission
Dolan v. City of Tigard
Koontz v. St. John’s River Management District are the relevant USSC cases.

They set the conditions that extractions must have an essential nexus (be clearly and directly linked to the impacts of the development), must be proportional, and apply to fees (not just land takings).

jakeco969
jakeco969
3 months ago
Reply to  Will

Thank you for the citations!
I’m just not thrilled that all this time and resources (that apparently needed to be used for the skate park or not all and have been in collection for awhile ) were used on essentially a limited use area. I guess things were looking rosier back when though.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

This is planning 101 in most planning programs nationwide – you have to have a plan in place before you ask for exactions (taxes, fees, access, or land) on how you are going to spend the money or use resources, to avoid corruption in general, but specifically (from the key cases Will cites), to make sure your local land use master-plan controls are not arbitrary nor racist – that current land owners can know ahead of time what is coming so they can legally appeal decisions by others, including jurisdictions/government and other land owners.

Caleb
Caleb
3 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

While I won’t argue against fixing problems before making more space for play, you misinterpreted that last line, because he wasn’t comparing play to “actual problems being rectified”.

jakeco969
jakeco969
3 months ago
Reply to  Caleb

You’re absolutely right, he didn’t mention problems at all.
Let them eat cake perhaps?

Candi
Candi
3 months ago
Reply to  jakeco969

Yes, last time I heard the Parks Bureau had no money to fix anything in the parks so how did $15M just appear out of nowhere?? Hpw come state law does not let them fix anything only add more…which then cannot be maintained?

Kay
Kay
3 months ago

It’s about time this skatepark got funded!! I can’t wait to see more space for skaters in the city!

EP
EP
3 months ago

This is great to see, that blighted area will be so positively transformed by this! I also really like the plaza aspect, with routes for pedestrian (and hopefully bike) through-access.

But, when does the project actually start getting built? Once they close the Burnside skatepark in ~2027 for the Burnside bridge replacement project, there will be a lot of people looking for a spot to skate by the river. Having a constant supply of skaters will definitely help activate that space, if it’s built and not mired in red tape.

Lazy Spinner
Lazy Spinner
3 months ago
Reply to  EP

Ummmm…what makes you think that the finished skatepark won’t be tagged and blighted within 24 hours of opening?

rick
rick
3 months ago

Why not remove the unused freeway ramp that’s at the northwest corner of where NW Everett meets Naito Parkway?

PdxPhoenix
PdxPhoenix
3 months ago
Reply to  rick

the plan images looks like they plan to.

rick
rick
3 months ago
Reply to  PdxPhoenix

It needs to be removed. That space is needed for this park. It is the entrance to the park considering so many people are over on the waterfront year-round especially during spring by the cherry blossom trees.

zuckerdog
zuckerdog
3 months ago

Fantastic news –
Great work Steel Bridge Skatepark Coalition

Logan
Logan
3 months ago

Cool! Always down for neat stuff like this

Steve B
Steve B
3 months ago

Way to go Steel Bridge Skatepark Coalition! Cheers to Ryan and company for the hard work and creativity that went into pushing our public officials to follow through on their (until today) unkept promises. This is going to be a gamechanger for skating in Portland and for improved activation of this liminal space. Makes me proud to call Portland home 🙂

Mason
Mason
3 months ago

So excited to hear that this long-running project is finally going to leave paper and enter reality 🙂
The hard work of all of the advocates for this park is so greatly appreciated!

Doug Hecker
Doug Hecker
3 months ago

Meanwhile they continue to block access to Beggars Tick and other features like “Knapp falls” because Parks are unable to maintain them for safe access. It’s also weird that parks was playing the “we need more money” card and here we are 15 Mill later with skatepark drawings. Everyday it becomes clearer and clearer that the downtown and the wealthier hoods get the action. Meanwhile east county gets stolen cars that take months to get rid of in our parks.

Jeff S
Jeff S
3 months ago
Reply to  Doug Hecker

Doug, you apparently don’t understand the parameters of this program. Perhaps this will help explain how SDCs are allocated for Parks:
https://www.portland.gov/parks/parks-system-development-charges-sdc

Doug Hecker
Doug Hecker
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff S

I’m not sure I’d like to know every snippet of bureaucracy in this town. Id probably lose my mind over it. That being said, the city has created an access issue at a few parks so I guess they can sleep better creating new ones and put the other ones on the back burner. It’s weird because the RIP will affect more growth in SE and PARKS have essentially closed off two parks. Thanks for the witty reply but a silly program name for one time park developments may justify this skate park but it doesn’t help me feel better about what is going on. I can’t help to wonder how the PR person, Mark Ross, will spin this travesty. He’s great at collecting 6 figures and not actually answering any questions.

Rod B.
Rod B.
3 months ago
Reply to  Doug Hecker

Nothing in East Portland? You might double check on this. Powell Butte was a recent huge investment, and there is also the new Gateway Discovery Park, Lewitt View Park, and the upcoming Parklane Park expansion and Mill Park major redo. Many tens-of-millions of dollars. Meanwhile, Inner Southeast has been generating lots of Parks SDCs with all the new apartments along streets such as Division, but has been patiently waiting for a hoped-for community center at the old Washington-Monroe school property.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
3 months ago
Reply to  Rod B.

East Portland, with a quarter of the city’s population, has only one community center.

Rod B.
Rod B.
3 months ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Good point. East Portland also has only one library. The area definitely needs more of both. They don’t build communities the way they used to….

MK
MK
3 months ago
Reply to  Rod B.

This might be a dumb question, but I’m just curious where does “East Portland” refer to? I’m assuming it isn’t actually the entire east side, since I can think of several community centers and libraries on the east side in general, plus I imagine more than a quarter of the city’s population lives there, but I was looking at the map on Nextdoor to see if there is literally a neighborhood called “east Portland” and didn’t see it, so just wondering where exactly it pertains to?

blumdrew
3 months ago
Reply to  MK

Generally, East Portland refers to places east of 205 (or east of 82nd). More specifically, land that was annexed into the city after ~1980 tends to be in the “East Portland” bucket, despite not obeying strict boundaries. This is most of Portland east of 82nd, but including Brentwood-Darlington while excluding Lents. Lents was an independent city and annexed early due to its location at the intersection of PRLP Springwater Interurban line and the Hawthorne/Foster interurban/streetcar line

Doug Hecker
Doug Hecker
3 months ago
Reply to  Rod B.

Nice, seems like a fun game to play. “WHO WILL GET THE NEXT SDC.” I guess I’ll keep watching places south of Powell between 82nd and 182nd go by wayside. Thanks for the info. Had no idea this sdc was a thing. A nice distraction from regular maintenance.

Sid
Sid
3 months ago
Reply to  Doug Hecker

Most of the good new skateparks are on the east side.

Grant
Grant
3 months ago

Where is the money for ongoing maintenance like trash removal, lighting, landscape, signage, graffiti removal going to come from? What is that estimated to cost taxpayers per year?

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
3 months ago

This will turn into another encampment quickly.

jered
jered
3 months ago

Can you cite any other skateparks in Portland that have become encampments? I have not seen any encampments at our local skateparks. Skaters tend to protect what we have…

JR
JR
3 months ago

Geez, I understand the ignorance of not knowing how SDCs work, but there’s a lot of haters out there about what is essentially great news. Anyone who has been through Old Town in the last few years can appreciate that they need every little bit of help to revive that section of town. Glad to see this finally coming through!

Matti
Matti
3 months ago

Seems overly luxe to me. Save some dollars and build a functional, tough-as-nails park that will support the activity that skaters need. Fancy canopies will just encourage camping.

Mike
Mike
3 months ago

For an accurate rendering you should include graffiti literally everywhere on that thing

Sid
Sid
3 months ago

Keep Evergreen and their scooter friendly moonscapes far away from the bidding process

Sid
Sid
3 months ago

Oh nooo the rendering has a guy grabbing stinkbug on a FS air

memad
memad
3 months ago

Nestled amongst tents because folks can’t afford a roof over their heads in Portland anymore. But hey, the pdx skateboarding bourgeoisie is doing ok.