Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


Cully Park one step closer to reality

COURTESY: LET'S BUILD CULLY PARK! COALITION - Transformation of Thomas Cully Park has already begun, thanks to the public-private partnership's efforts. Fundraising is still underway for the remaining $3 million needed to fund Phase 1 of the park. For the past four years, neighbors in Northeast Portland’s Cully neighborhood have been raising funds for a park of their dreams. This week they got a little closer, as Portland City Council approved a half-million-dollar grant to help develop the 25-acre Thomas Cully Park on a former sand and gravel mine and construction landfill at Northeast 72nd Avenue, north of Killingsworth Street.

The money comes from a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant from the Department of the Interior, awarded by the National Parks Service.

City leaders call it a significant boost for the public-private partnership that will create a park close to 405 families who currently don’t have access to a park or nature area within a half-mile of their home.

“We’re tremendously excited and honored that our community’s hard work and vision are being realized,” says Alan Hipólito, executive director of Verde, the community-based nonprofit group that is leading the efforts of the 34-member Let Us Build Cully Park! coalition.

“This has been a whole lot of work by a lot of people,” Hilpólito adds. “We’re really excited to see the finish line.”

Supporters have raised $6.1 million of the $9 million needed for Phase 1 of the project since 2012, and construction already has begun to take shape.

Hipólito says the goal is to secure the rest of the funds by the end of this year, at which point the park could see a 2017 opening. “We’re entering a period of significant opportunity,” he says. “We hope to secure investments in upcoming budget cycles, at the local, state and regional level.”

The latest grant will help pay for restoring wildlife habitat as well as developing an accessible playground, a walking trail with exercise equipment, scenic overlooks, an off-leash dog area, a youth soccer field and an Intertribal Gathering Garden that will be open to the public.

The Gathering Garden will offer opportunities for honoring and educating residents about indigenous cultural values and ethics through holistic, culturally significant garden design and maintenance.

So far, project leaders have restored the north slope of the site, planting on the landfill cap and converting it to wildlife habitat. They’ve rebuilt Northeast 72nd Avenue with stormwater management improvements and new trees. And they spread 70,000 cubic yards of dirt on the site last year.

Hipólito says it’s been the coalition’s goal all along to do more than just make environmental improvements, but also educate youth, improve health, create lobs and support local businesses.

Phase 2 of the project includes construction of multiple sports fields, improvements to access from Northeast Killingsworth and building a parking area off Northeast Killingsworth and 75th Avenue.

The funds, so far, for Phase 1 include nearly $5 million raised by the coalition; an Oregon Parks & Recreation grant of $473,000; and $1.25 million secured by parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz from parks system development charges (raised from development fees).

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., helped secure the latest chunk of funding, which is part of a new competitive grant program called the Land and Water Conservation Fund Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership. There were eight such grants awarded nationally.

Portland has been trying to develop the Thomas Cully property for more than a decade. The city purchased the 25-acre site in 2002, created a master plan in 2008, partnered with Verde in 2011, approved an agreement in 2012 with Verde for developing the park, and installed a community garden at the site in 2012.

Students from nearby Scott School helped design the adjacent Northeast 72nd Avenue Community Garden, and gave input on the design of the playground.

Sixty percent of residents within the future Thomas Cully Park’s service area belong to traditionally underserved communities. Forty-five percent earn a household income of $40,000 or less.

Central Northeast Portland has the second-highest need for parks and natural areas in Portland, after the area east of I-205.

@jenmomanderson