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Parks bureau backs away from bond plan

Portland Parks & Recreation won’t ask voters to approve a parks bond in November, as some had expected — but it could be in the cards for next year.

Commissioner Nick Fish and Parks Director Mike Abbate announced as much to the parks bureau’s staff on Wednesday.

A letter by Abbate cited a recent public opinion survey funded by the Portland Parks Foundation. “We’ve listened closely to all those inputs, and understand from them that Portlanders are asking us to continue to stretch our dollars and past investments a little further right now,” according to the letter. “While Portlanders are not ready to invest in a Portland Parks bond effort this year, we are beginning a deeper conversation about the most pressing health and safety needs in our parks system, the maintenance functions we need to perform that will save money down the road, and how we preserve those special places, the parks and natural areas that make Portland unique, for the next generation.”

The survey revealed that nine in 10 respondents gave positive marks to the quality of the parks, programs, playgrounds and community centers; and two-thirds of respondents said the bureau “is probably efficient with the money they have.”

The parks bureau will launch a process to highlight for the public park investments, organize volunteers to continue advocating for the system, prioritize assets and decide where future investments are needed, and monitor the economy and public attitudes to find success with a future bond measure.

Specifically, parks leaders will be asking whether they should tackle several short-term fixes or invest more deeply in fewer facilities while others are taken out of service.

The last parks levy expired in 2009, and the last bond, passed about 19 years ago, expires in 2015.