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My View: City, community working together is best use of limited resources

Recently the Portland Tribune shined a light on Gateway Green, a community-led vision to build a world-class recreational area for off-road bicycle riding, hiking and more in East Portland (Project gives ‘green’ a chance in Gateway, Aug. 1). The inspiration of Ted Gilbert and Linda Robinson, Gateway Green represents a new model for building public/private partnerships in a time of limited public resources.

Over the past five years, Portland Parks & Recreation has pioneered this new model of public/private partnerships — one that rewards local initiative, stretches limited taxpayer dollars and benefits underserved neighborhoods throughout Portland.

For example, in North Portland, we worked with Cody and April Goldberg to create Harper’s Playground, an accessible playground for children of all abilities in Arbor Lodge Park. The Goldberg family raised more than $1 million in cash and in-kind donations to bring the playground to life, while the Parks Bureau managed the project and provided additional funding.

In East Portland, we launched the “E205 Initiative” to support small park improvements that have a big impact. Working with neighbors, community leaders and the Portland Parks Foundation, we have added amenities like gardens, playgrounds, paths, lights and new benches in 12 different locations.

We also invested in the growth of Leach Botanical Garden, developed new community gardens with the help of local champions, built the Ventura Park Pump Bike Track with the Northwest Trail Alliance and helped organize free concerts and movies in our parks through Summer Free for All.

In each instance, the Parks Bureau provided leadership, financial support, staff time and more. Community members shaped the vision, raised private funds and secured in-kind donations and services.

A key to our success has been the creative and entrepreneurial spirit at the Parks Bureau. They understand the value of partnerships and work hard to translate community-inspired visions into reality.

Each project is unique, and Gateway Green is no different. During the first few years of development, the bureau has served as facilitator, funder and strategic partner.

It drafted a partnership agreement with the Friends of Gateway Green, helped the Friends complete grant applications and participated in the Oregon Solutions process to develop a roadmap for moving forward.

The Parks Bureau negotiated a draft agreement with the Oregon Department of Transportation to obtain the 24-acre property, agreed in principle to pay $19,000 to acquire the property, coordinated the environmental review process and committed to pay for the ongoing maintenance once it is completed.

And most importantly, the Parks Bureau has dedicated significant staff time to the project, estimated to be in excess of 150 hours. This includes outstanding work by Parks Director Mike Abbaté and his team — Brett Horner, Todd Lofgren and Zalane Nunn.

Gateway Green is what a robust public/private partnership looks like in a time of limited resources. I hope businesses and Portlanders citywide get behind this innovative idea. The Friends of Gateway Green will launch a crowd-funding campaign this fall — visit for more information and to lend your support.

As the former parks commissioner, I’m very proud of the bureau’s work on Gateway Green. I look forward to working with new parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz, Portland Parks & Recreation, the Portland Parks Foundation and our East Portland neighbors to make it a reality.

Nick Fish is a Portland City Commissioner. He previously served as commissioner-in-charge of Portland Parks & Recreation.

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