PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is calling for some major additions to Laurelhurst Park, which is raising questions about the homeless crisis.
KOIN 6 is learning the mayor directed Portland Parks and Recreation to create pickleball courts and a skate ramp in a spot known for homeless camping.
Currently, it is unclear if this directive from Wheeler is a strategy to stop the homeless camping the mayor’s office not answering that question.
Drastic changes have taken place to the area over a 24-hour period. On Monday, city-contracted clean-up crews removed a homeless camp, then PBOT showed up early Tuesday morning with equipment to turn a section of Oak Street into a pickleball court.
Just beyond the pickleball courts, Parks and Rec says they’ll build a skate ramp and bicycle course.
With direction from the mayor’s office, a spokesperson for Portland Parks and Rec says they’ve taken over management of the section of Oak Street to “add park amenities to increase recreational opportunities for Portlanders.”
Mayor Wheeler’s office provided KOIN 6 News with a rendering of the project but didn’t answer when asked about the reason for this directive.
KOIN 6 is working to find out if this is an unprecedented move — the Parks and Rec spokesperson says they can’t recall if or the last time a Portland mayor made a similar directive.
Several people passing by the construction on Tuesday were curious and surprised when they learned the news.
“I don’t know if the perception to the public is that it’s Laurelhurst and not everywhere else, that it’s a solution just for this neighborhood instead of a bigger solution for all of homelessness in the city,” said Annette Shaff-Palmer, who lives in the neighborhood. “Lents deserves a solution, Laurelhurst deserves a solution, downtown deserves a solution, it’s not just this neighborhood.”
Parks and Rec says the project also includes adding more benches, trash cans and bike racks.
Mayor Wheeler’s office did say that campers were given notice a week in advance that the camp would be removed and they were given the option of going to a shelter.