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In an Olmsted frame of mind, the City Council sees a transportation study as the first step in making the famous park more accessible and free-flowing.

COURTESY: PORTLAND PARKS AND RECREATION - Among the many planned improvements to Washington Park, one will be the west Burnside entrance to the park.The rest of Washington Park has a 100-year plan.

The Water Bureau is burying the drinking water reservoir in Washington Park. Work should be complete by 2024. The new seismic reservoir and tourist-friendly reflecting pool should last 100 years.

The rest of Washington Park is now being planned for a 100-year long view as well. The Portland City Council recently approved a vision that would make Washington Park a "more bike and pedestrian-friendly, accessible destination," according to a media statement.

The newly updated Washington Park Master Plan is entering its beginning stages of becoming a concrete (and grass) reality.

Like many projects in Portland, it begins with a transportation plan called the Transportation Management Plan.

"The plan aims to make Washington Park more bike and pedestrian-friendly, and preserves and improves the park's ecological health," said a spokesperson for the Park.

The transportation study will go to the community engagement phase within six months.

"This new master plan will guide Washington Park towards an enhanced visitor experience for everyone, with less dependence on cars," Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz said in a statement.

"The park's natural areas will be improved and preserved, maintenance will be a key initiative, and Washington Park will become more transit-friendly and pedestrian-friendly."

The Transportation Management Study will "focus on understanding transportation and parking opportunities and challenges in the park," said the statement.

TriMet will continue to provide regular bus service to Washington Park, and Explore Washington Park continues to provide a free visitor shuttle within the park from April to October.

Parking in the park has become challenging, due to construction work around the reservoir, and general population and tourist number increases.

The number of people taking mass transit to Washington Park is up 66 percent since the free shuttle and paid parking began in 2014. Ridership on the free shuttle has increased 40 percent since service began.

"With three million visitors each year, Washington Park is Portland's most recognizable and iconic park," says Portland Parks & Recreation Director Mike Abbaté. "The new master plan will ensure its world class status for Portlanders and visitors alike. That begins with an improved visitor experience. Thanks to all of our partners, volunteers, Champions Committee, and all Portlanders, for their commitment to helping us shape Washington Park's vision."

A proposed new entrance off West Burnside would be at the corner of Northwest 26th Place, the site of a past, grand entrance to the park when it first opened. Part of the master plan revision calls for the entrance to be restored and reopened.

COURTESY: PORTLAND PARKS AND RECREATION - The Washington Park shuttle keeps cars out of the park.

The city did 18 months of public outreach to see what park users want. This included regular and ongoing consultation with key stakeholders including the Explore Washington Park Board and adjacent neighborhood associations and neighbors; public events; surveying park users; an online survey; culturally-specific focus groups conducted in Vietnamese and Russian.

The engagement was supported by the Champions Committee – a 16-member committee appointed by Parks Commissioner Fritz to oversee and advise on the plan's development.

Now the department has to come up with the money.

"Portland Parks & Recreation will be working with the Commissioner-in-Charge of Parks, Metro, and the community, to seek funding for implementing the projects outlined in the master plan update," said the statement.

Washington Park includes the Hoyt Arboretum, the Oregon Zoo, the International Rose Test Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Veterans Memorial and the Holocaust Memorial.

Today the park is 410 acres. It was formed in 1871 as 41 acres in the West Hills. In 1903 the city hired John Olmsted as designer. (He and his half-brother developed major parks and parkways plans for Portland and Seattle and the sites of the Portland 1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition.

From the beginning there was a strong theme of keeping pedestrians and traffic (horses and carts as early automobiles) apart.

WHAT'S THE TMP?

The revised Washington Park Master Plan calls for the creation of a Transportation Management Plan for the park, as a first step in implementing the master plan. The TMP would likely study traffic, attendance, parking, the proposed improvements in the master plan, and other similar factors that affect access in the park.

The non-profit transportation management association, Explore Washington Park (ExploreWashingtonPark.org), would carry out the study with the assistance of consultants, which would likely include traffic and public-involvement contractors.

Funds from Washington Park's paid parking revenue (which are around $2 million annually and are earmarked in a trust to go solely to parking and transportation-related projects in and around the park) would pay for the project, assuming it is approved by the Explore Washington Park Board. If or once approved, a public involvement strategy and a definitive scope of work will be developed.

SOURCE: Portland Parks & Recreation

Additional plans for Washington Park

Other elements of the master plan include:

n Managing and enhancing current park assets

n Improving access to and around the park

n Protecting and preserving Washington Park's natural areas and wildlife

n Improved safety for park visitors

n A new entrance off W. Burnside for people on foot and bike

n Maintaining the same amount of parking spaces while reducing congestion

n A garden plaza between the Portland Japanese Garden and International Rose Test Garden

n A garden plaza at the MAX station

n Offering clear park and wayfinding information at multiple park sites

n Enhancing the visitor experience for pedestrians and people on bikes, while ensuring the park is less car-dependent through a variety of improvements


Joseph Gallivan
Reporter, The Business Tribune
971-204-7874
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