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Portland mayor and parks director say community centers, swimming pools and programs may not open next year without more money because of pandemic.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Portland park playgrounds, community centers and swimming pools are closed because of COVID-19.Mayor Ted Wheeler will ask the City Council to refer a funding measure to reopen Portland parks to the November general election ballot.

A hearing on the measure is set at 2 p.m. July 22.

Although details were not immediately available, Portland Parks & Recreation has conducted a poll that shows support for a five-year, $44 million annual operating levy that would cost average homeowners $130 a year.

Several other funding measures are already in the works for the Nov. 3 election. They include a $4 billion Metro transportation funding measure, a $1.4 billion Portland Public Schools construction bond, and a Multnomah County pre-school funding measure that could raise up to $250 million a year.

Community centers, swimming pools, playgrounds and programs in Portland parks are closed because of the COVID-19 crisis. Wheeler and Parks Director Edena Long sent an email to parks users on Tuesday, June 30, saying they might not open next summer because parks fees have not been collected for months.

The late Commissioner Nick Fish was working on alternatives to the fee-based funding system when he passed away in January, months before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus closed the parks in March.

"Portlanders cherish our parks and recreation system. I am proud to continue Commissioner Fish's vision for financial stability, and excited to talk with my council colleagues about referring a levy to voters this November. With this additional funding, Portland Parks & Recreation will be able to center equity, restart recreation in time for summer 2021, make sure cost isn't a barrier for any Portlander, and improve the condition of our parks," said Wheeler, who oversees the parks bureau.

In the email to park users, Wheeler and Long said the bureau had already missed months of revenue typically brought in through swim lessons, exercise classes and summer camps that are likely to remain closed without additional revenue next year. "With facilities and programs closed since early March, we have missed months of the revenues that allow us to provide the recreation experience Portlanders cherish. This financial domino effect means that, as things stand today, we are likely unable to open pools and community centers, or offer classes, camps, and swimming lessons in Summer 2021 and beyond. This reality is hard to accept, but we are hopeful that this moment can be the beginning of a new era for our parks and recreation system, an era that is more equitable and more sustainable, and where cost isn't a barrier for community members," Wheeler and Long wrote.

The email did not say how much additional money is needed or where it should come from. A poll conducted between May 27 and June 2 suggested that voters prefer a temporary levy to a bond measure, both of which would be funded by property taxes.

The parks bureau also wants public feedback on the how to use the funds. Click here to take a survey or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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