Petition for Gresham City Council

More Funding for Parks and Recreation Programs in East County

We know that parks hold an intrinsic and innate value for Gresham residents, neighbors, children and visitors can enjoy. Our parks offer safe places for meditation, exercise, recreation and quality time with loved ones. These green spaces offer more than an open space, but an opportunity to partake in healthy hobbies that lead to a better quality of life we all seek. 

Our parks and recreational programs have not been adequately funded in Gresham. Since 2005, Gresham City Council has increased spending for police and fire 36% while slashing budgets for parks by roughly 26%. Our per capita funding for local parks is the lowest in the Portland-Metropolitan Region. Our Gresham/Rockwood children no longer have the same programming we had over a decade ago since we began seeing severe cuts to our parks district. Currently Gresham parks staff consists only of maintenance staff; there are currently no program staff.

The “landscape” of the greater Gresham community and East County region is perceived to be an outcome of the regional displacement which has moved people east. Immigrant/refugee communities and affordable housing combined have built a diverse and underserved and underestimated community. All of which ultimately adversely impacts social determinants of health and disproportionately impacts communities of color. 

Reliance on community organizations, county government and good hearted neighbors to provide much needed community services is not equitable, effective, adequate or sustainable. That is why the City of Gresham needs to renew its historic leadership in supporting people and parks by making new long-term investments in its parks and recreation system. This is why it is important: 

  • A more vibrant economy: Parks enhance property values, contribute to healthy and productive workforce and help attract and retain businesses. Property values also increase near parks and trails — developers and new companies locate where employees will have access to great schools and community amenities like parks and recreation services. A vibrant and connected system of parks, natural areas and open space is essential to creating a livable, prosperous community that retains, attracts and nurtures new business, fosters quality development and living-wage jobs. 

  • Community Health and Wellness Outcomes: Direct access to trails, parks and green spaces can promote better emotional and physical health. Children and adults are less likely to have weight problems, a precursor to diabetes and heart disease. Drug, alcohol and gang prevention are supported by outdoor activities for teens. Community gardens, play areas for children and healing gardens are components of “age friendly” livability.

  • Increased Community Engagement: With community engagement and smart investment, years of dwindling park funding can be turned around and the quality of our communities and economic prosperity dramatically improved. East County’s residents deserve the chance to vote for new investment in their local parks (since they haven’t had that opportunity in at least 15 to 25 years). Parks and recreation opportunities also encourage citizens to be engaged in their communities – as volunteers, stewards, advocates and students. When citizens get involved with their parks and recreation systems, their quality of life improves and they are more likely to be involved in other civic pursuits.

We are asking the following from the City of Gresham:

  1. Increase funding for parks & recreation: Most of the limited funding for parks is in the form of some maintenance and capital improvements. Unlike almost every other city in the region, Gresham provides little or no funding for educational and recreational programming in its parks, which directly serve children and families. We need new investment in parks and recreation that emphasize this type of programming in the community. 

  2. Complete a Parks District Feasibility study: Reinvest in assessing the City of Gresham’s needs, options, and opportunities. We must assess the current state of the city’s assets and deficits. To restore historic service levels and address the needs of a growing and increasingly diverse population, we would like an updated version of the 2010 report Our Parks, Our Future: Finance Feasibility Study, City of Gresham, Oregon.

  3. Support the Metro Bond Measure: Gresham and East County has historically benefitted from this regional bond measure because it has purchased and protected hundreds of acres of high value open space in East County. For the next Regional Natural Areas Bond, the City of Gresham should push for a larger local share and work closely with the community in determining priority projects.

It is critical that the City of Gresham find innovative ways to engage the entire community in setting these priorities and developing and implementing projects. Because much of the community has not had adequate opportunities to engage in setting priorities and developing past plans, we encourage the council to consider utilizing decision making processes that are truly accessible to the least served and least represented members of the community. 

We appreciate your commitment to building a vibrant future for the residents of Gresham. To further advance that goal, please join us in supporting this effort by signing below. 

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to