In a press release, Portland’s Culture and Livability Commissioner Dan Ryan and Portland Parks and Recreation Director Adena Long Ryan thanked neighbors and project stakeholders for their input and advocacy, saying the deciding factor on the location was equity.
“The new aquatic facility will address historical gaps in access and service quality for North Portland communities,” said Ryan. “The area north and west of Portsmouth hasn’t had a major parks public infrastructure project like this in decades. The Northgate Park site will be accessible and transformative for a densely populated neighborhood with a significant number of neighbors who earn low incomes.“
North Portland’s diverse and growing population is currently without a public pool. That means approximately 70,000 people – including roughly 18,000 people of color and roughly 11,000 people earning low incomes – are currently without a place to learn to swim, do water aerobics, or exercise. The new aquatic center will fill that gap in service.
“I speak on behalf of the Pacific Islander community,” says Portlander Ronnie Faavae. “We are in full support of the aquatic center [being built at] Northgate. This area has been a home for our community, and this asset will bring joy and opportunity to ‘true’ North Portland.”
Derrell Wheeler, a project advisory committee member, said: “As a 25-year St. Johns resident, OHSU nurse, and head swimming coach at Roosevelt High School, I’m delighted and look forward to having a site where our community can enjoy all the health and safety benefits pools provide.
“The North Portland Aquatic Center at Northgate Park is a life-changing project that makes me proud to live in a place where we can all pull together to create something wonderful!"
Ryan and Long said the other two sites considered, Columbia Park and University Park, will also receive improvements. The specifics of those park enhancements will be informed by further community engagement but could include the replacement of the old Columbia Pool building with new park amenities at Columbia Park and sports fields improvements at University Park.
The community-driven site criteria were:
“For too long our kids have had to leave their community in order to have the amazing opportunities others have readily available to them,” said Herman Greene, Portland Public Schools Board Member (Zone 4).
“Having this aquatics center at Northgate Park provides exposure, access and opportunity to our community, our school swim programs, and more. More importantly, it sends a message to our families and community—that we are investing in their future.”
Jenny Eckart Hoyt, another member of the project advisory committee., said, “I’m very excited for the project to keep moving forward, and for Northgate Park to be the future home of one of the biggest projects in Portland Parks and Recreation‘s history.
“I’m so proud to witness the inclusive and collaborative process thus far. As a mom of a child with significant disabilities, I’m grateful that nostalgia and familiarity were not factors in this process. Projects that will be used for the next 100 years need to be approached with the lens of being accessible to people who have been underserved for far too long.”
Marshall Haskins, Portland Public Schools senior director of athletics said he is very excited about this announcement..“Northgate Park is central to many schools, and we can work with the Parks Bureau to incorporate swim lessons into our PE [physical education] classes to eliminate the swimming proficiency gap for children of color—in addition to building strong aquatics programs in the community.”
Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero said he fully supports the decision. “All Portland children deserve access to joyful, engaging, and safe experiences. Portland Parks and Recreation is essential to the health and livability of families and neighborhoods.
“This new aquatic center ensures North Portland children have direct access to water safety classes and lifelong recreation opportunities.”