Portland Parks & Recreation released a detailed statement about homeless issues and outreach at the Gateway Green property, as well as the long-planned construction of the park site. The full text is below.
"Starting today, Sept 19, Portland Park Rangers and area social service providers will be at the Gateway Green property for outreach efforts. It is heartbreaking, but there are people who are living on the property, as Portland is faced with a crisis around housing and people experiencing homelessness. Camping in parks and on park properties has always been, and continues to be, prohibited. Our parks and natural areas are simply not designed for people to live in them. But Rangers recognize that it is not a crime to simply be homeless. Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz has been clear – and police agree – that enforcement alone does not solve this complex societal issue. So as part of their jobs, Rangers who identify people camping in parks try hard to assist these individuals by forming relationships with them, and connecting them with resources and agencies such as JOIN. If people do not wish to accept such services, Rangers’ options are limited. Also note that we have more than 11,000 acres of parks and natural areas in the Portland Parks & Recreation system.
Other than trying to connect people living there with social services and to get them assistance, the other goal of the outreach is to inform people that Monday, 10/3 is the start of cleanup of any debris or structures at the Gateway Green site. Site cleanup will be done by the City’s contractor and is expected to take one or two weeks.
After cleanup, long-planned construction for the park site will soon be underway and a fence is going up shortly.
Other elements of the project timeline:
Portland Parks & Recreation is currently putting up “construction coming” signs too, and the fence may begin to be set up at the same time as the outreach takes place, as it might take 10 days to get the fence completely installed.
We expect major construction staging around Oct 10-12.
We expect the construction fence to be completed by Oct 14.
The construction of the off-road biking “Dirtlab” is expected to begin on 10/19 and consist of about 45 workdays. Future phases of construction over the next few years will enhance habitat and access to the site.
We encourage people to donate to the crowdfunding effort to help realize this unique public/private partnership. Our partner, the Friends of Gateway Green, received a Metro “Nature In Neighborhoods” capital grant which they are required to match. Donations accepted at http://www.gatewaygreenpdx.org/
The Friends group rightly points out that east Portland is one of the most diverse areas in our city, but it lacks the same access to parks and green spaces as the rest of town . The City acknowledges this fact, and aims to close this “play gap” via park projects including this partnership with the Friends of Gateway Green.
In regards to people on the site who are experiencing homelessness:
Portland City Council enacted a State of Emergency around homelessness last year. Our bureau is working with the Mayor's office in a coordinated way to help houseless folks get into shelter. Any observations of campsites should be submitted to the city’s campsite coordination program called One Point of Contact, a system designed to provide one designated place to share concerns about livability issues. We encourage neighbors to use this form if they observe campsites, and please feel free to share this info/site with your viewers.
Non-emergency security issues in parks specifically can be reported to our Park Ranger hotline at 503-823-1637. They respond to calls for services, prioritize them, and take action as appropriate and as resources permit. Please note that criminal activity and gross misuse of public space continues to not be tolerated. If you see a crime in progress please call 911.
In conclusion, Portland Parks & Recreation feels that Gateway Green will be an outstanding site for off-road cycling, as well as hiking, as a place to reflect, and other uses. The site’s topography, it’s existing tree coverage and convenient location are sure to make it a coveted destination. Both soft-surface and paved multi-use trails will offer equitable and versatile access to visitors, and it’s wonderful to have a strong partnership with the Friends of Gateway Green to make use of an underutilized space that is a remnant of freeway development.
We know how much developing the site means to neighbors and stakeholders, and that’s why we were so pleased to acquire the property two years ago. Our Commissioner-in-Charge of Parks, Amanda Fritz, has said that Gateway Green could be a key connection point for cycling within the city. It lies not only at the confluence of two major freeways, but at the intersection of the I-205 regional trail and the future Sullivan’s Gulch Trail. So there are a wide range of possibilities, and many reasons to be excited about Gateway Green right now."
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