Commissioner Amanda Fritz announces funding towards enhancing Portland Parks & Recreation’s Errol Heights Park

System Development Charges from development revenue go towards realizing SE Portland park’s vision!

Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz announces she is designating $5.3 million in funding towards transforming Errol Heights Park into the hybrid natural area and developed park envisioned in the 2005 park Master Plan. Errol Heights Park comprises more than 14 acres between SE 45th to 52nd Avenues and from SE Harney Street to SE Tenino Street in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood. The Woodstock and Ardenwald/Johnson Creek neighborhoods are also adjacent to the south and west of the park.

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1,477 households are within a half-mile walking distance of Errol Heights Park, making this project one which significantly enhances parks services to area neighbors.

Funding for the next step in Errol Heights Park’s development comes not from General Fund Tax dollars, but from System Development Charges (SDCs).  These are one-time fees assessed on new development. SDCs help ensure that Portland’s quality of life keeps pace with our growing and changing city by providing additional parks and recreation facilities needed to accommodate growth. Park SDCs are restricted by law towards expanding capacity only (rather than to maintain or repair existing park facilities).

“I’m excited that Errol Heights Park will now have even more opportunities for recreation and relaxation,” says Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “The park has a unique combination of assets, including a Portland community garden and a natural area. Moving forward on transforming a portion of the site into its long-desired developed park will enhance the neighborhood and the livability of our city.”

The current allocation of $5.3 million will allow Portland Parks & Recreation to realize the first phase of desired improvements to the park and natural area. While it is yet to be determined what improvements will be included in Phase 1 (pending upcoming public involvement with the community), some funds will be used to improve the streets around the park.

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Improvements in Phase 1 of the Errol Heights Master Plan may include:

  • Additional and improved paths
  • Enhancements to the natural area portion of the park
  • A grass lawn and new plantings
  • Street improvements
  • Amenities for play and/or sports
  • A picnic and/or gathering area
  • A Portland Loo or other restroom facility

Other phases to realize the park’s full vision may be possible in the future, depending on funding. Commissioner Fritz and PP&R aim to achieve the full vision of the Errol Heights Master Plan, but recognize that the full park development will need to be completed in phases. Public involvement and the design phase of the park will begin by summer, 2017.

“Portland is growing fast, and more than ever, our neighbors need places to play, to pause, places where we can connect with nature,” says Portland Parks & Recreation Director Mike Abbaté. “The vision of Errol Heights Park is special in that it will be a place for both active play and for relaxing in a natural setting. We thank our Commissioner-in-Charge, our PP&R staff, and the Friends groups and volunteers who help enhance our parks and natural areas.”

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Volunteer groups such as Friends of Errol Heights, Friends of Trees and Johnson Creek Watershed Council have been dedicated stewards of the Errol Heights property for many years. A whopping 150 members of these groups came out to plant native trees and shrubs in a newly acquired parcel of the Errol Heights natural area on November 19, 2016.

“Having volunteered countless hours at Errol Heights over the years, my neighbors and I are delighted that Commissioner Fritz and Portland Parks & Recreation are moving forward to help the Errol Heights Park become what we’ve envisioned as a community,” says Paul Ciri with the Friends of Errol Heights. “This funding is a tremendous start on the road to realizing the park’s unique vision, one which has a wide appeal for all park visitors. We extend our sincerest thanks to the City.”

 Challenges Remain

As Portland Parks & Recreation commits to new parks in communities where none currently exist – and to expanding and enhancing other parks – many existing parks are at a crossroads. For decades, PP&R operating funding has been cut or remained flat, forcing the Bureau to postpone rehabilitation and maintenance in every neighborhood throughout the City.  Despite the 2014 Parks Replacement Bond, passed by voters with overwhelming support, the list of needs across the PP&R system is huge, and grows every year that we don’t address it.  PP&R has anticipated unfunded maintenance needs totaling nearly $250 million over the next 10 years. The beautiful parks we love to visit are being held together by thousands of volunteers and wonderful employees going above and beyond the call of duty. PP&R has additional and unfunded growth needs of approximately $472 million over the next ten years.

Photos: Volunteers with Portland Parks & Recreation, Friends of Errol Heights, Friends of Trees and Johnson Creek Watershed Council planted native trees and shrubs in a newly acquired parcel of the Errol Heights natural area on November 19, 2016. Native plants support a diversity of insects and wildlife, and provide cleaner air and water for all Portlanders. Photos are courtesy of Portland Parks & Recreation, Portland, OR.

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