With nearly two of every five households in Central Northeast Portland farther than one-half mile from a park or natural area (second only to the area east of I-205 in the greatest need for parks and natural areas in the city), Portland Parks & Recreation has committed slightly more than $1 million for the first-phase construction of Thomas Cully Park on a 25-acre parcel located at Northeast 72nd Avenue just north of Killingsworth Street.
Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz made the announcement in early February, noting that more than 400 families will benefit from the new park in a neighborhood Fritz characterized as, “unique, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Portland, perhaps the state, and, perhaps, because of this diversity, Cully is home to some of the most dedicated and motivated community advocates in the city.” The announcement came a week after Fritz earmarked a significant city investment for two new parks in East Portland.
Fritz said the $1.25 million earmarked for Thomas Cully Park will come from system development charges, money raised from construction development, rather than General Fund tax dollars. Almost two-thirds of the residents in the future park’s service area are people belonging to traditionally under-served communities, and almost half are considered low income (annual household income less than $40,000), according to Fritz.
The site of the future Cully Park, a sand-and-gravel mine before it was a construction landfill, was purchased by the city in 2002. Working with the community in 2008, PP&R created a master plan for Thomas Cully Park that was adopted by Portland’s City Council a year ago. The estimate for beginning Phase I work was pegged at almost $4 million.
A community garden at the site was installed in 2012. Remaining improvements include pathways, dog off-leash area, playgrounds and picnic areas, tribal gathering area, a youth soccer field, basketball court, parking lot, restroom, north slope restoration and improvements to Northeast 72nd Avenue. Phase II would include multiple sports fields, access improvements from Northeast Killingsworth Street and a parking area off Northeast Killingsworth and 75th Avenue. Students from nearby Harvey Scott School helped design the Community Garden and have contributed to the park’s playground design.