To fund the project at Wilkes, Commissioner Rubio allocated $4 million in Parks System Development Charge (SDC) funding to complete a master plan for the site and pay for design and construction of the new park. The SDC, an obscure one-time fee assessed on new development, helps fund public projects to retain quality of life, including growth of the city’s parks system, and has its origins in past innovative advocacy by Portland Audubon’s urban conservation program. More than a decade ago, Portland Audubon helped lay the groundwork for allocation of SDCs for parks projects in East Portland, which helped begin a much needed shift to funding parks improvements in previously neglected and more diverse communities. This effort, led by Portland Audubon staff Bob Sallinger, Mike Houck, and Jim Labbe, is testament to Portland Audubon’s forward-thinking and intersectional policy agenda, which continues to bear fruit today. The new funds will leverage Metro’s previously allocated local share funds from the Parks and Nature Bond Measure that voters passed in 2019 (another Portland Audubon priority).
The Greening Wilkes collaborative includes partners Columbia Slough Watershed Council, Verde, Portland Parks, and Friends of Trees and has engaged the community surrounding Wilkes Creek in outer East Portland to restore, revitalize, and steward greenspaces throughout their neighborhood. As part of the project, each organization offers its own unique green infrastructure program to community members at no cost: planting trees in the public right-of-way, installing rain gardens and building wildlife habitat in residential yards, and restoring degraded habitat along Wilkes Creek. In addition to greenspace restoration, the joint project sponsors free events and incorporates workforce development opportunities for a host of community partners. The collaborative recently received its second year of funding from the Port of Portland’s Airport Futures fund, which funds projects that mitigate negative impacts from the Portland Airports operations.