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Portland Parks & Recreation Free Lunch + Play 2020 (photo courtesy PP&R)
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 19 February 2021

On Wednesday, Portland City Commissioner Carmen Rubio proposed Parks & Recreation’s (PP&R) Fiscal Year 2020-21 Supplemental Budget ordinance to the city council, and it was unanimously approved.  

City Council also approved an interfund loan to let PP&R access resources from the Parks Local Option Levy (Parks Levy). Portland voters passed the Parks Levy in November 2020, and resources would typically not become available until November 2021.   

With Levy resources, PP&R’s recreation program will transition from a model that depended heavily on charging fees to a service-driven model that focuses on racial equity and eliminates cost as a barrier for Portlanders who need programming the most. 

Budget centers racial equity

“This budget charts a new approach for Portland Parks & Recreation,” said City Commissioner Carmen Rubio. “It centers racial equity and lays the foundation for a sustainable future where all Portlanders feel safe and welcome in our parks system and where everyone can access programs that bring us together, help us heal, and make our whole community healthier.” 

“I want to thank Portland voters for investing in their parks system through the Parks Levy,” says PP&R Director Adena Long.

“We will use these community resources to provide recreation programming for kids, families, and older Portlanders in safe, outdoor, physically distanced settings across the city this summer. We will help our community reconnect, exercise and play, and learn and grow. And none of this would be possible without Portlanders’ investment in parks, thank you.”   

Programs designed around COVID-19 safety

PP&R’s primary goal is to keep our community healthy and to protect the public from the spread of COVID-19. PP&R designed summer programming to meet public health guidance and to be flexible as conditions change.  

PP&R will keep the public updated about summer programming plans throughout the Winter and Spring as more details become clear.  

The free lunch program will be offered, as well as outdoor day camps, and many other activities. 

  • Free Lunch + Play: PP&R will serve over 100,000 meals to alleviate hunger in our community by continuing a critical, decades-long program of distributing free meals to enjoy in parks or take home. Families will also receive free art and music activities at Free Lunch + Play sites.  
  • Summer Camps: Outdoor day camps, sports and art camps will be available at 20 locations across the city. 
  • Environmental Education: Nature day camps (info below), guided Ladybug Nature Walks, and family programs will connect young Portlanders to our natural environment.  
  • Nature Day Camps for ages 5-12. The PP&R Environmental Education program will offer summer day camps full of hiking, exploration, nature-based activities, and more; groups of campers will adhere to COVID-19 guidelines with other participants of similar ages. Camps offer job opportunities as nature educators for qualified people aged 16 and older. 
  • Environmental Education jobs and volunteering – the next generation of environmental leaders start with us. Paid work programs, volunteer naturalist training, and more. The Teen Nature Team (TNT) is a free program for middle school students connecting young people to nature, environmental careers, and college programs. The Youth Conservation Crew (YCC) provides jobs and training for a diverse population of 14-19 year-olds in the Portland area. 
  • Fitness in the Park: Expansion of outdoor fitness programs, including yoga, exercise, and Zumba classes. 
  • Swimming: Outdoor pools will open in Summer 2021 for life-saving swim lessons, water fitness classes, lap swims, and swim team activities. Indoor pools will only open if public health conditions allow.  
  • Community centers: Outdoor programming is prioritized to protect public health; community centers will provide staging for outdoor events and access will be limited. 
  • Arts centers: The Multnomah Arts Center and the Community Music Center will offer outdoor camps and classes.  
  • Art performances: Free art and music activities at Free Lunch + Play sites and small-scale pop-up performances will be available across the City.  
  • Gateway Discovery Park: Art and cultural activities will be hosted all summer long at this East Portland park. 
  • Splash Pads: Interactive (play) fountains and park splash pads (water play features) are anticipated to re-open.   
  • Lifelong Recreation (formerly known as Senior Recreation): Virtual programs and outdoor activities will be available to older Portlanders.  
  • Teen Force: Outdoor, drop-in programs designed for young adults will be provided in coordination with Free Lunch + Play events.  
  • Stay and Play video series: Free arts, fitness, education, and music videos will help Portlanders stay active and connected to PP&R throughout the summer. Videos are available at Portland Parks & Recreation’s YouTube channel.  
  • Virtual Programming: PP&R’s Adaptive & Inclusive Recreation (AIR), Lifelong Recreation, Portland Parks Preschool, and Arts & Culture programs will offer live virtual programming online.  
  • SUN Community Schools: SUN Schools, a collaboration between Multnomah County and PP&R, will offer outdoor summer camps. 

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