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City to plot improvements at popular Washington Park

PORTLAND TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - The International Rose Test Garden is one of the most popular features at Washington Park. Parks bureau leaders are updating the Master Plan to chart the park's future. Portland Parks and Recreation is revisiting its 35-year-old Master Plan for one of its most visited and beloved parks.

At about 145 years old, Washington Park is home to some of Portland’s favorite attractions, including the International Rose Test Garden, the Oregon Zoo, the Japanese Gardens, and lots of trails, memorials and other amenities.

With more than 3 million annual visitors and a plethora of attractions that reel in those visitors from near and far, Portland Parks and Recreation likes to keep a watchful eye to ensure smooth operation of the park.

The current Master Plan was created in 1981 to help guide operations, identify key issues and set long-term goals, some of which were implemented and some of which were not.

Now, the parks bureau wants to dive head-first into the 88-page document to plan for future improvements. The bureau is in the early planning stage now, simply collecting ideas.

In early 2017, the bureau will identify specific options, and then complete the new Master Plan by fall.

“Master plans help craft the vision for parks and make many recommendations for future amenities, uses and such,” says Mark Ross, media and community relations for Portland Parks and Recreation.

Neighbors, businesses and other city bureaus such as the Portland Bureau of Transportation and Water Bureau, and many other stakeholders, have ties to the park and nearby features or streets, he says.

“There is continued pressure on the park to serve many roles for many reasons,” Ross says.

Furthermore, with the introduction of paid parking in Washington Park a few years ago, the parks bureau promised the community that part of the revenue would go toward crafting a new Master Plan.

Any redevelopments that might emerge in the plan have yet to be determined.

“The focus of the plan is improving the users’ experience,” Ross says. “We’re looking at access — parking, trails, roads, transportation modes; landscape — gardens, natural area, fields; facilities — restrooms, places to eat; play areas; and park maintenance needs.”

Washington Park already has many venues, gardens, memorials and statues, but officials may look at adding a place to eat or grab a cup of coffee, or even a winter garden.

“These ideas have been floated in this preliminary stage, but please note that nothing is determined at this point,” Ross says.

However, there are several major issues that may be addressed:

• Parking and circulation problems

• Impacts to neighbors from overflow parking and event crowds

• The Zoo Railroad is not functional due to landslides

• Improvements needed to Kingston Drive

• Coordinated trails for bicycles and pedestrians

• Maintenance issues — roadwork and drainage

• South entryway improvements — plan developed but not implemented

• Expansion of the Rose Garden office

• Development of other entrances to the park

Major improvements since the 1981 Master Plan:

• Park shuttle — Moves visitors between the venues and park area for free

• TriMet MAX service to Washington Park

• OMSI vacated the park and the Portland Children’s Museum now occupies that building

• Increased trail construction and connections

• Rose Garden Store and public restrooms

• Hoyt Arboretum Visitor Center, offices, added acreage and maintenance facilities

• Conducted an analysis of disabled-access needs

• Provided a limited number of drop-off zones

• The city formed Explore Washington Park to coordinate transportation needs and amenities into and within the park

• Developed overflow parking areas at the Sylvan Interchange

• Maintenance improvements such as adding irrigation at the Rose Gardens and other areas

• Developed a family-oriented center with facilities also supporting large and small group picnics — Elephant House and adjacent children’s play area

• Built a one-way loop road around the Rose Garden and play area

• Reservoirs are being covered by Portland Water Bureau

• Resurfaced the tennis courts

• Put regulations in place for concerts at the amphitheater to make events less impactful to the neighborhoods

• Horticultural improvements throughout the park

• Addition of the Holocaust and Vietnam Veterans of Oregon memorials