Public antipathy overwhelming, but ‘they’re not listening’
State Rep. Mitch Greenlick is indignant over grandiose visions for a new Forest Park entrance along Highway 30.
Greenlick sponsored a 2015 bill providing a $1.5 million state grant to develop the plans, but the result isn’t what he had in mind.
“I saw it as a relatively modest parking lot with a visitor center, a parking lot, a place to drop off school kids and handicapped accessibility,” he told the NW Examiner.
Instead, Portland Parks & Recreation assembled photos of structures and facilities in parks around the country—including an aerial tram, a multistory interpretive center and restaurants—and asked the public to weigh in.
Some of the more extreme options were featured in the Examiner’s January cover story, “Forest Park yes, Disneyland no.”
“You gotta be kidding me—a zip line?” he said of an attraction he called “pretty crazy.
“I don’t know the purpose of those strange options,” he said. “No one thinks that’s a good idea.”
Greenlick, who has represented District 33 since 2002, tried to guide the process toward more modest goals. He served on a project advisory committee that he now considers to have been a wasted exercise.
“It was very, very frustrating,” he said of the meetings. “They wouldn’t tell me, ‘What do you want of committee members? If you want me to be window dressing, tell me.’”
Greenlick was unaware of some of the latest plans drawn up by the PP&R’s consultant, Dangermond Keane Architecture. When told that one of three schemes presented at a Feb. 18 workshop included a 60-space parking lot, he retorted, “Sixty spots? You gotta be kidding me. That’s crazy.”
Beyond that, none of the options would provide accessibility to Forest Park. Steve Dangermond explained at last month’s workshop that the grade is too steep to accommodate people with limited mobility.
Even before Greenlick vented his spleen, PP&R officials knew their proposals weren’t getting off the ground. A survey of 227 individuals revealed strong support for discreet, natural images and an overwhelming denunciation of over-built, destructive, commercial and expensive facilities.
Dangermond admitted as much at the workshop. The options his firm presented were “not well received by anybody,” he said.
The conclusion he drew from survey? “It’s about the park, stupid.”
Longtime Forest Park advocates, including Les Blaize, Marcy Houle and Catherine Thompson, had a hard time coloring within the lines at the workshop. They questioned the location of the entrance and suggested better sites.
PP&R spokesperson Elizabeth Kennedy Wong tried to cut off such topics, insisting that the site had already been chosen.
Thompson said a new visitor’s center will need staffing and a maintenance budget that can only draw from resources already so limited that the park suffers from neglect and an inability to police illegal uses, such as camping and mountain biking on hiking trails.
Wong said City Council will adopt an operating budget for the new facility. She conceded, however, that there are no guarantees of its adequacy in that the city that has been unable to adequately fund existing park facilities.
The project timetable calls for refining the design and plans through March and design refinement beginning next month. Construction is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2018 and finish in the fall of 2019.
Greenlick sees a consistent problem in PP&R’s handling of the project and offers a warning.
“I don’t think they’re listening,” he said. “If they come back and ask for more state funds, they will have to do better.”