Columbia Pool on parks budget chopping block

Civic Affairs

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland’s parks department is facing deep cuts to its budget, including the potential closure of multiple facilities that many residents say is unacceptable. 

Mayor Ted Wheeler unveiled his proposed budget on Wednesday for the fiscal year that starts on July 1. Even though the city is expected to collect a record $577.3 million general fund dollars, the proposed budget still calls for cuts in some bureaus. 

One of those bureaus is Parks & Recreation. 

Wheeler’s proposed budget suggests cutting more than $6 million from the department and closing some facilities like the Columbia Pool — North Portland’s only indoor pool. 

According to the parks department, the pool costs about $770,000 to operate every year and the bureau collects less than half of the needed funding through program fees like swim lessons. Parks & Rec said the pool is also in need of major repairs, including a new roof, that would cost around $5 million. 

A "Save Columbia Pool" sign in North Portland, May 2, 2019. (KOIN) 

The Friends of Columbia Park wants to save the pool it calls a “‘vital community resource” used by thousands every year. 

Grace Weston, who swims at the pool, said the facility is important for the neighborhood, “especially an underserved neighborhood like this.” 

“People communicate here and make friendships and people even meet outside here,” said Weston. 

“There is a lack of information for a lot of us to understand why it’s closing,” said Rachel Burdon, the president of Friends of Columbia Pool. 

The Kenton Neighborhood Association launched the Save Columbia Pool campaign and has been putting up signs to bolster the cause. 

The mayor’s proposed budget calls for funding to keep the pool open through the summer of 2020. It’s unclear when, exactly, it’s projected to close. 

Columbia Pool is the only indoor pool in North Portland, May 2, 2019. (KOIN) 

Other parks department assets on the chopping block include the Laurelhurst Dance Center, the Multnomah Arts Center and the Fulton, Selwood and Hillside community centers. 

The proposed cuts are due to a projected $6.3-million budget deficit in Parks & Recreation for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. 

Wheeler said increasing personnel costs are the reason that cuts are needed and that the city council has rejected suggestions to increase fees to keep certain facilities open. 

The next budget town hall meeting will take place May 9 at the World Forestry Center on Southwest Canyon Road. City Council may make some changes after the hearing and approve the final budget on May 22. 

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