Our Story

Cully Park’s mission and vision is founded on commitments to advance social equity and to engage community in improving environmental quality.

In 2000, City of Portland Parks and Recreation acquired a 25‐acre landfill in NE Portland’s Cully Neighborhood, designating it as the location for a new park: Cully Park. Nationwide, many landfills have been safely redeveloped into parks, so the site was a clear opportunity address Cully’s lack of parks, healthy open space and habitat. 2008, a Master Plan was completed, but Portland Parks and Recreation had no funding to build the Park. Community action and outside resources were needed to bring a park to Portland’s most park‐deprived neighborhood.

In response, Verde (a Cully‐based nonprofit) launched the ¡Let Us Build Cully Park! campaign, working with Portland Parks to create a public‐private partnership to develop Cully Park.

A Public‐Private Partnership.

2012, Portland City Council approved the partnership, meaning that Verde could fundraise for, design and construct Cully Park: community garden; new access via NE 72nd Greenstreet; off‐leash dog area; parking lot; play area; trails; fitness course; overlook; habitat restoration; picnic areas; youth soccer field; and the Native Gathering Garden. Together, Verde and Portland Parks raised over $13 million to build Cully Park.

Site History

From the 1950s‐1980s, the site was operated as a sand and gravel mine. Once the sand and gravel were depleted, the site became the KFD landfill that accepted construction, industrial and non‐putrescible municipal waste. In 1994, KFD’s owner filed for bankruptcy, and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) received $545,000 as part of the bankruptcy settlement. DEQ used these to conduct post‐closure activities at the landfill, including operation and maintenance of the active gas collection system. DEQ designated KFD as an orphan project in 1999, designed and installed a new methane control system, and implemented upgrades to the landfill cover, site drainage, and site security. Portland Parks & Recreation acquired the site from DEQ with the intention of developing it as a park that would accommodate a variety of active recreational uses and to serve neighborhood needs. The methane control system is managed by Portland Parks with assistance from Metro Regional Government and DEQ.

Portland Oregon

Can a landfill really be a park? Yes! Cully Park is not the only example of a park built over a landfill. Nationwide there are many examples, and many more to come as land for parks, green space, wildlife and recreation becomes harder and harder to acquire in urban areas.

The site has been slated for park development by the City of Portland since 2002. In 2006, at the urging of the community, Portland Parks & Recreation worked with the community to complete a Master Plan for park development at the site. Completion of the master plan gave the green light to further development of the park.

In 2010, the Let Us Build Cully Park! coalition brought together Cully residents, community‐based organizations, environmental professionals and government agencies to design and conduct a thorough examination of the site’s environmental conditions.

In this examination, we looked for pollution that could be harmful to people’s health, with a focus on the most vulnerable members of our community: children, the elderly and people with diseases. First, we examined the location for the Cully Park Community Garden. Second, we examined the Full Site.

Portland Oregon

Verde worked with community members and the Portland Brownfields Program to examine the environmental conditions at the Community Garden site (click here for an info sheet).

The community garden assessment took place in two phases:

  • Phase I. A historical records search that examined past uses of the community garden site. Please click on the following links for more information: Phase I Executive Summary (35 pages); Phase I Report (550 pages).
  • Phase II. Sampling and analysis of the site’s soil to assess its suitability for a community garden. The findings indicated it is safe to proceed with development of the Community Garden. Please click on the following link for more information: Phase II Results (24 pages).

Portland Oregon

Verde worked with community members, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality/DEQ, and the Oregon Health Authority/OHA to conduct a Human Health Risk Assessment of the Full Site. This assessment is required by the State of Oregon before a brownfield can be returned to productive use. DEQ and OHA fully funded the Assessment, an in-kind contribution valued at over $135,000.

The Human Health Risk Assessment took place in two phases:

Phase I. Phase I examined past uses of the site through community interviews and an historical record search. Donating its services to the project, GeoDesign (a local environmental engineering firm) performed the Phase I examination and prepared the Phase I report.

Phase II. Phase II examined the Full Site’s air quality and soil quality. Verde organized a Community Involvement Committee/CIC, made up of Cully residents and organizations, as a way to engage Cully residents and organizations in Phase II. OHA secured a grant from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, one of only two awarded nationwide, to provide funding for the CIC.

Meeting monthly from January-September, 2012, CIC members advised agency staff, participated in sampling activities, and visited the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services lab to learn how samples are analyzed. Verde provided 2 honoraria for each volunteer CIC member in recognition of his/her service.

Full Site Phase II was completed in 2012, and the Human Health Risk Assessment’s Final Report, known as a “Health Consultation Report,” was released. The Report states that the site is safe for park development, “all contaminants tested for are too low to cause concern for human health. Please click here to read the Health Consultation Report, and click on the following links for summary sheets in EnglishSpanish or Somali.

Portland Oregon

Cully Park has created a new model for community development of a brownfield, a model that offers real community and environmental benefits. And, we have been sharing this model. Together with agency partners, Verde and CIC members have presented the model at the Oregon Annual Brownfields Conference (June, 2012, presentation available here) and at the Oregon Public Health Association Conference (October, 2012). Key components of this model include:

Outreach activities that build community awareness about site conditions and the process of environmental assessment. Working together with risk assessment professionals and health educators from Oregon DEQ and OHA, CIC members learned about landfills, brownfield site development, risk assessment, air and soil sampling, and lab analysis of samples.

Community participation in the design and implementation of the environmental assessment activities. CIC members shared their concerns about the site with DEQ and OHA, and agency staff ensured that those concerns were addressed in the sampling plan. For both the Community Garden assessment and the Full Site HHRA, community members participated in air and soil sampling activities.

Community‐lead information sharing. A friend or neighbor is a credible messenger. Through formal presentations and informal conversations in the neighborhood, community members shared the information they were learning in the assessment processes. They listened to the questions and concerns of their neighbors, sharing this feedback with DEQ and OHA. This built trust in the community for the project.