PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Some of Portland’s parks entered a dark chapter this week after Portland Parks and Recreation began its plans to remove and replace 243 light poles throughout 12 parks in the city.
Although the city says safety is what’s guiding this replacement project, some people say safety is their first concern now that the lights are out.
Steve Law, board chair of The Friends of Mount Tabor Park said they are worried about public safety of those walking, biking, running and spending time in Portland’s parks.
“We still have a problem with rape. We have a lot of shootings in Portland. People feel safer. If there’s lighting,” he said.
Law said Daylight Savings came just in time for park goers this year as lights began to go out in parks around the city this week, but managing the dark remains uncertain.
“Is it more safe to not have lanterns that hypothetically might tip over if someone really put a lot of pressure on them? Or is it safer to have lighting so that people can see?” he asked.
According the bureau, the city will begin removing a portion of the light poles that “have been identified as having structural anchoring issues which could pose life and safety hazards to the public.”
They also said they’re working toward replacing the lights as quickly as possible.
But as the agency looks to source more funding, they confirmed they’ve only secured $5 million of major maintenance funds to remove poles that pose a safety risk – while the project is estimated to cost nearly $15 million.
Law said he understands the city needs money for maintenance and safety.
“We kind of think ‘Don’t take the lanterns down before you get the money,’” he said.
With Mount Tabor projected to need more than 200 lamp posts replaced, park patrons like Dan and Rachael say they’ll miss the lights.
“I typically come here around sunset time and sometimes forget my headlamp, so I guess I would have to really make sure I have a head lamp,” Rachael said. “And it kind of gives it character and I like seeing the lampposts. I’m kind of sad about it.
Meanwhile, Dan said “there’s actually kind of a nightlife here, and the lights do provide an ambiance to that.”
To help ensure safety, Portland Parks and Recreation says they plan to prioritize park rangers at impacted sights and will close parks at 10 p.m.
But those on the ground like Law feel the process is moving too fast and without enough public input.
“Portlanders don’t listen to that. You can close the gate so they can’t drive in, but they’re going to be here anyway,” he said. “They’ll come when they have time, when they want to come, so we have to accommodate them.”