Brooklyn fights to start up its own Summer Playground Program
Under the leadership of neighbor Ben Tarne, Brooklyn residents tried hard to prevent the historic Summer Playground Program at Brooklyn Park from being cut by the city due to budget concerns. However, in a May 15 letter from Portland Park & Recreation's Community Relations Manager Elizabeth Kennedy-Wong, those hopes were dashed.
Ms. Kennedy-Wong advised, "We agree that our Playground Program is one of the most important services PP&R provides to our community. These cuts are hard [but] we need to make sure that our resources are maximized. The number of children living in Brooklyn has declined, and there are fewer children who are low-income.
"There are other areas of the city where the number of children is increasing, and the need for programs based on economics is greater. This data led PPS to determine we would no longer offer the Free Lunch Program at Brooklyn Park. PP&R staff recommended that we prioritize providing the Playground Program in parks that also provide the Free Lunch Program. . .consistent with our commitment to equity [in] providing services to areas of the city that have traditionally been under-served for decades."
Consequently, on May 4, Brooklyn Park Program Director Craig Montag asked to meet City Commissioner Amanda Fritz for a personal tour of "the program that has been legendary in the community since 1957." Montag added, "The program is a very important part of this Inner Southeast community. All other close-in park programs have been cut in recent years: Westmoreland, Sellwood, Kenilworth, Powell, Woodstock, Abernethy, Clinton, Berkeley...only Brooklyn survives."
A May 22 reply from Fritz' office explained, "The decision to end city-funded summer activities for Brooklyn Park is not a reflection of how the program is valued by PP&R or by me. . . Your leadership and passion for the program is clearly evident through the amount of e-mails and letters of support I have received. 'Summer Free For All' has relied on supplemental 'one-time' General Fund [infusions] for several years. Council this year decided to size the program to match available ongoing resources."Fritz' letter continued: "At the Brooklyn Action Corps neighborhood meeting, many individuals indicated a capacity and willingness to support the program financially. While it will no longer be a program of PP&R, recreation staff leaders are willing to discuss how we could make access to the park available to support such an effort."
Ben Tarne continues to work on the issue by establishing a nonprofit program, "Friends of Brooklyn Park", to fund the Playground Program through private donations.
"We are hoping that the Summer Playground Program will occur later this year, possibly with reduced hours," he said on May 24.
Those interested in assisting the nonprofit project are urged to contact Tarne at 971/772-6578.