Citizen-strollers in the North Park Blocks are scratching their heads. A large cyclone fence has appeared in the middle of the once open park, which stretches several blocks between Northwest Park and Eighth avenues. The fence effectively shuts a square block of the public park to everything from leaf-collecting to drug-dealing.

Signs that hang on the large, cagelike fence don't help clarify matters much. 'You may notice service cuts at this park, but we're continuing to do our best to make sure you still have a great day at the park,' a sign reads.

Despite appearances, the signs and the fence where they hang aren't connected. While the sign implies that Portland Parks & Recreation fenced the area because it can't care for it, the real reason is to simply let the area's grass grow back.

Carolyn Lee, a media specialist with the parks department. She compared the state of the grounds to the event-trampled turf in Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The fence will be up from four to six weeks.

Lee said similar signs have appeared in all of Portland's public parks since last July. She suggested that the signs may have been moved to the fence from stakes in the ground when the fence went up.

Some park watchers wondered if the department's communication skills could really be this bad, preferring to think that the bureau was engaging in some pre-election politicking.

As the fine print in the sign explains, voters will decide next week on Measure 26-34, a levy that would raise $49.4 million to fund maintenance, repairs and recreation programs.

The same measure received 70 percent approval last May but failed because there was less than a 50 percent turnout.

Ñ Michaela Bancud

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