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City hopes team can change decade of funding frustration, improve parks & recreation

COURTESY PHOTO: CITY OF GRESHAM - Mayor Travis StovallA decade ago, Travis Stovall joined a task force dedicated to seeking solutions for Gresham's parks funding woes.

The Green Ribbon Task Force was created in 2010 to address the need for sustainable parks funding within the city. After investigating various funding methods, the task force put forward its suggestion — a parks district in East Multnomah County.

The idea represented an exciting way to bolster parks and recreation that had been withering for years. The task force wanted the city to implement a $0.25 property tax levy to generate roughly $2.1 million a year. They spoke of Gresham partnering with Fairview, Wood Village and Troutdale, which would have resulted in an annual payment of $31 to $53 for the average home in East Multnomah County.

But that idea was never put before voters as a ballot measure to save parks, with city officials citing a lack of support from the public. Thus, the city effectively ignored the work done by the Green Ribbon Task Force.

"I was disappointed they didn't move forward with the ideas," said Stovall, who has since been elected as mayor of Gresham. "At this point, we need multiple opportunities for council to work with and think of initiatives that would lead to (parks) ballot measures."

Now 10 years later, Gresham is convening another green team to investigate potential solutions to stop the continued hemorrhaging of parks and recreation.

During a Tuesday morning, March 16, meeting, Gresham City Council helped plan the Parks Community Advisory Group. The team would have up to 30 members, with a broad representation of the community and members who live or work in Gresham. The city wants to have 30% of participants be Black, Indigenous or people of color.

The Parks Community Advisory Group would create a vision and options for the future of Gresham parks and recreation — including two or three funding options and mechanisms to support them in an effort to avoid the failure the last time this was attempted.

"We really want to make sure council's expectations are clear to this group to avoid any frustrations," said Steve Fancher, director of environmental services and city operations.

The city hopes to find participants for the Parks Community Advisory Group in the coming weeks, and will be recruiting from local organizations and communitites.


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