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Gresham planning director takes job with city of Portland

Gresham's urban design and planning director is leaving for a job with the city of Portland.

Mike Abbaté's last day at Gresham City Hall is Friday, March 25. He'll begin his new job as a parks manager for Portland Parks and Recreation on Thursday, March 31.

Abbaté will oversee planning, design, construction and maintenance of parks facilities for Portland, which has $500 million in parks facilities assets - everything from swimming pools to community centers, he said. His new job does not include the city's recreation programs or natural area restoration.

Portland boasts about 150 parks and 13 community centers, compared to Gresham's 21 parks, five of which are undeveloped. Two of the 16 developed parks - the Gradin Community Sports Park and the Center for the Arts Plaza - were created while Abbaté oversaw Gresham's urban design and planning.

Both parks, however, were not without controversy. Some residents complained the city financed their creation through a line of credit. But park supporters said it was the only way to pay for the parks considering the city's parks department has been gutted by budget cuts for the past decade. The cuts have been so deep, Gresham no longer offers recreation programs.

Community groups have talked about the possibility of forming a parks district to fund parks in Gresham or East Multnomah County, but nothing has come of it.

Abbaté has a background in parks, parks issues and landscaping. Prior to starting as Gresham's planning services director in January 2008, he was co-owner of Greenworks, a planning and landscape architecture firm that has done work for Gresham and other Northwest cities.

In fact, Greenworks designed the Center for the Arts Plaza. However, when he was hired, Abbaté had to cut ties with the company to avoid a conflict of interest.

'It's been a great three years here,' he said of his time at Gresham City Hall. During his tenure, Gresham was named a Tree City USA, hired its first urban forester, held a community tree summit and is in the process of rewriting its tree-cutting ordinance.