Being at the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge, it’s no surprise East Multnomah County has some of the most jaw-dropping views around.
Its local parks and open spaces are just as picturesque.
But how much parkland and open space is enough for a city?
The national standard, created in the early 1960s, used to be 10 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents. However, that changed in the 1990s when the National Recreation and Park Association suggested that each city create its own standards to reflect growth patterns, said Bill Beckner, the association’s research director, in a Jan. 2014 article on Tampabay.com
Beckner said the reason for the change was it had become impossible for many smaller built-out cities with no more room for growth to meet the 10-acres-per-1,000 standard. On the flip side, cities that surpassed the standard saw their citizenry balk when the cities tried to acquire more parkland. Now many cites set their own guidelines.
So how do the cities in East Multnomah County measure up?
Gresham — This city of approximately 109,400 people has 27 parks spanning more than 300 acres and boasts 840 acres of natural areas. That’s about 2.7 acres of parkland per 1,000 people, or 7.68 acres of natural areas per 1,000.
Troutdale — Nestled along the scenic Sandy River, Troutdale has 14 developed parks and an undeveloped one totaling nearly 71 acres. It also owns almost 100 acres of natural areas and maintains another 85 acres that it does not own, for a total of 258.18 total acres in Troutdale’s parks and natural areas system.
With almost 16,500 residents, that’s a bit more than 4 acres of parkland per 1,000 people, or about 15.5 acres of natural areas per 1,000.
Fairview — This town of less than 9,200 people has 25 parks totaling approximately 443 acres, including a charming network of pocket parks in Fairview Village. That adds up to a whopping 49 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents.
Wood Village — A small hamlet of nearly 4,000 people, Wood Village has one 21-acre park as well as 25 community garden plots all within one-square mile. This is roughly 5 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents.
Each city has its own parks department that maintains the parks within its city limits. General fund dollars, typically from property taxes, are the main source of park funding, although park system development charges, intergovernmental revenue and grants also help out. Some cities, like Troutdale, also have a park improvement fund to expand parks and greenways. Money for Troutdale’s park improvement fund comes from system development charges paid by new residential development and interest income.
We, the volunteers behind The Springwater District, think we can all agree residents should have access to these parks and open spaces to enjoy the trails, picnic areas, and other recreational opportunities.
But are city park departments the best way to care for this public land? Perhaps a special district would provide more stable and efficient funding. That is what The Springwater District would like to explore.