City now only has field personnel to maintain parks

If Gresham's parks department was on life support, consider the plug officially pulled.

The last non-maintenance position has been eliminated effective Nov. 2. Ric Catron worked for the city for 14 years as a park planner. He now is working a temporary City Hall position on Gresham's community appearance project.

Catron's position was the only one left of the city's parks and recreation division - and during the last round of cuts it was transferred to the city's planning department. Now, only park field operations, consisting of one manager and a crew of six, is left.

For more than a decade, Gresham has chipped away at the department's budget as it struggles to fund city services on one of the lowest tax rates in the state - $3.61 cents per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value.

Charles Ciecko, a longtime regional parks manager who serves on Gresham's Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, said he understands the city's financial challenges.

'However, it is nonetheless disturbing that a city the size of Gresham can no longer afford anything more than basic park maintenance,' Ciecko wrote in a letter to the editor.

Catron has secured more than $3 million in grants for Gresham's parks during his tenure with the city, including grant-funded improvements to Pat Pfeifer Park, Linnemann Station, the Zimmerman House, a new skate park at Main City Park, as well as a $100,000 grant for a future gateway from the Springwater Trail to downtown Gresham called the Springwater Trail Spur project. The project calls for a 1,000-foot link connecting the Springwater Trail and downtown Gresham through Main City Park.

Most recently, Catron also ran the city's resurrected summer recreation program and oversaw community gardens at City Hall.

Two cuts to the urban design and planning department were anticipated as part of this fiscal year's budget, said Kia Selley, urban design and planning director/executive director of Gresham's urban renewal district.

The city merged two vacant management positions, creating Selley's position. The rest of the anticipated cuts came about through eliminating Catron's park planner position.

Urban planning still has two landscape architects and staff that can plan park projects, such as the Springwater Spur project, which is set for construction next year, Selley said.

'But we will be doing our work differently and looking for opportunities to be more efficient and more innovative,' she said.

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