Table of Contents:   


Parks and Open Spaces


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As population and density increase, more parks and open spaces will be needed.

Section Summary

Portlanders express a deep appreciation for parks and open spaces, believing that access to these places within the city contributes immeasurably to Portland’s livability. People appreciate the variety of recreational opportunities available at parks, including opportunities to play sports, take classes, hike on trails and experience wildlife within the city boundaries. Community members repeatedly mention the connection between parks and community, noting that parks create neighborhood pride and provide spaces for people to gather.

In terms of access, many Portlanders are impressed with how easily accessible parks and open spaces are. Others, however, would like to see accessibility improved, especially for people with disabilities, children and residents of low-income communities. Portlanders are concerned with equity in regards to parks and open spaces, calling for more parks and better-maintained parks in low-income neighborhoods. Looking to the future, Portlanders want current open spaces preserved and more open spaces created as the city’s population grows and becomes denser.

Summary of Main Ideas

  1. Parks and open spaces contribute immensely to urban livability.
  2. Parks help build strong communities.
  3. Every neighborhood should have a healthy park within walking distance.
  4. Portland needs to invest in parks and open spaces for the future.

Summary of Tensions and Disagreements

  1. How accessible are Portland’s parks and open spaces?
  2. How safe and clean are the city's parks?


  1. Parks and open spaces contribute immensely to urban livability.
  • Portlanders love the city’s parks and see them one of the primary ingredients of urban livability.
  • Parks and open spaces help make the city literally “green,” a feature that many Portlanders—both long-time residents and newcomers—greatly cherish.
  • People appreciate the large number of parks in Portland as well as their variety, ranging from Forest Park to Waterfront Park to smaller, distinct neighborhood parks.
  • Portlanders are proud of the community’s history of planning for parks and greenspaces and want to see that legacy of forward-thinking planning continued.
  • Many people associate parks with a healthy lifestyle for adults and particularly for children.
  • People appreciate the variety of recreational opportunities available at parks, including opportunities to:
    • Play sports (e.g. basketball, soccer, baseball, kickball);
    • Skateboard;
    • Take classes through community centers;
    • Garden in community gardens;
    • Hike on trails; and
    • Experience wildlife within the city boundaries.
  • People appreciate that parks and open spaces serve as natural habitat and corridors for wildlife (as one Portlander put it, “frog freeways”).
“I guess you could say, I love the parks. They’re just a great place to take my daughter and living right downtown there isn’t much grass, so it’s real nice to be able to go somewhere and run barefoot in grass and picnic with my family and friends.”

“Our amazing surroundings. The parks truly make Portland what it is…the only place where I see generations merge!”

Sample Strategies:

  1. Make parks pesticide-free.
  2. To the extent possible, preserve native greenery in all new parks and open spaces that are created.
  3. Create more bike trails that connect to parks.
  4. Install more fountains for children to play in.
  5. Create a special park for the homeless (others want the homeless removed from parks).
  6. “Provide better opportunities for citizens to help develop and maintain our parks and open spaces.”
  7. “Provide a variety of recreational opportunities for people of varying abilities.”

  1. Parks help build strong communities.
  • Portlanders believe that parks (especially neighborhood parks) help strengthen the community in the following ways:
    • Parks are a neighborhood asset and therefore build neighborhood pride and a sense of ownership;
    • Parks give neighbors a place to meet, intermingle and get to know each other;
    • Parks bring events into communities, such as concerts and celebrations; and
    • Community centers and recreation programs at parks provide constructive activities for neighborhood children and help elders stay engaged through classes and social activities.
“[I value] the parks, because they are community builders, gathering places, and give kids of all classes access to the same facilities…They also provide access to outdoor recreationhiking, biking—and they’re beautiful.”

“[In 2030] There are state of the art Community Centers like the Tualatin Hills Recreation located throughout Portland where residents of all ages can gather, learn, exercise, and recreate!”

Sample Strategies:

  1. Bring more concerts and community events to parks.
  2. Make recreation programs at parks free and/or more affordable.
  3. Create more activities for youth at recreation centers.
  4. Fund local art in the parks all over Portland.
  5. Create more community gardens in parks, so people can grow their own food and so children can learn how to grow plants.

  1. Every neighborhood should have a healthy park within walking distance.
  • It is important for parks to be “healthy,” cool, lush, green and well-maintained.
  • Some neighborhoods have parks, but their parks are dry, full of weeds, lacking in interesting plants and trees and poorly maintained.
  • Portlanders want access to healthy parks expanded throughout the city, so that residents of all neighborhoods have access to excellent parks.
  • Some respondents want to see all parks become pesticide free.
  • Areas that need more parks or better maintained parks include:
    • Eastside neighborhoods, which generally need access to more open space;
    • Areas with high concentrations of ethnic minorities and/or low-income residents;
    • Centennial;
    • David Douglas;
    • The Northeast Cully Neighborhood; and
    • The Northeast Williams/Albina area.
“[In 2030] parks will be part of everyone’s lives. There will be more options for fitness for people of all ages and abilities.”

“[In 2030] we have a vibrant waterfront community on both sides of the clean Willamette River. There is a good mix of parks and urban spaces in all quadrants of the city and all quadrants are easily accessible by an affordable light rail system.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. Incorporate sustainable design elements like water catchments to ease maintenance burdens and increase health of parks.
  2. Incorporate native plants, trees and flowers to combat weeds and other invasive elements in run-down parks.

  1. Portland needs to invest in parks and open spaces for the future.
  • Portland needs more parks and open spaces to prevent a growing population from stressing existing greenspace (they would like to maintain the current people to parks ratio).
  • We should also seek to create more trails, paths and skate parks as the population grows.
  • All current parks and greenspaces should be preserved and maintained (especially “wild areas” such as Mt. Tabor Park and Forrest Park).
  • The City should invest now in purchasing land for new parks and greenspaces. This land will only become scarcer and less affordable as the city grows.
  • In the future, more people will live in condominiums and apartments; it will therefore be even more important to have many parks and common open spaces.
  • Some people feel that future parks and open spaces (such as along the waterfront) can be integrated with commercial/restaurant spaces as is frequently done in Europe.
“Consider our green infrastructure as important as the streets, water, and other infrastructure elements. Provide adequate funding for our parks, as well as all the other infrastructure elements.”

“Artistically I would like to see a vast park covering underutilized freeway areas…in this park we could have perhaps the finest outdoor sculpture gardens for any metropolitan city in the US. The building of these gardens could be funded by developers of condo and apartment buildings along the perimeter of these 'park' areas…Imagine being able to bike from 82nd Ave. to the Lloyd District along winding park paths lined with sculptures.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. “Harness developers/development to truly assess and pay for its impact, including parks.”
  2. Implement a sales tax to fund parks;
  3. Ask businesses and private enterprise to contribute funds for parks;
  4. Create paid parking spots around parks, either in a lot or along the street. This will encourage walking/cycling and will raise funds for parks.
  5. Ask for realistic financing: Be honest about how much funding we need to provide the services we value most like parks. Reduce funding for other programs during times of recession, but keep funding strong for core programs.
  6. Put a Trails Bond Measure on the ballot for people to vote on.


  1. How accessible are Portland’s parks and open spaces?

    Many people are impressed with how easily accessible parks and open spaces are. Respondents speak of being able to access parks easily from work as well as from their places of residence.

    Others, however, feel that accessibility could be significantly improved, especially for people with disabilities, children and residents of low-income and minority communities. There are requests for more playgrounds, more available restrooms (clean, safe and open), more fountains for children to play in, and more recreational programs that are inclusive of those with disabilities. People also want to see access to parks improve in predominantly low-income and minority communities, some of which are currently lacking parks or lacking nice, well-maintained parks with good amenities and programs.

  1. How safe and clean are the city's parks?

    Opinions differ over whether or not Portland’s parks are safe or clean enough. A large number of people say they feel safe in their parks, but others speak of feeling unsafe. Of those with concerns, some do not feel comfortable taking their children to certain parks or open spaces because they are afraid of the types of unsafe or uncomfortable activities they will encounter there, such as gang violence, people experiencing homelessness living in parks and drug dealing (some complain about used needles littering park grounds). Opinions also differ as to the cleanliness of parks. Many praise their cleanliness while a smaller group feels that they could be cleaner.

“Regain our parks for families and hard-working individuals from the drifters, druggies, gang-type people inhabiting some of the them.”

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