Preserving our Legacy: The Need for Parks Maintenance in Tigard

    Dead plants in the Sorg Rhodedendron Garden will not be replaced with mature transplants. Parks Maintenance lacks the resources to keep up with a donation program.

     “The Sorg Rhododendron Garden is arguably the best feature in all of Tigard Parks,” says Utility Worker Will Knab. 

    The garden includes rhododendrons and azaleas transplanted from Sorg properties to Summerlake Park. At the time they were planted, some of the rhododendrons were eight-feet across and required a loader to move. 

    Will spent several years maintaining the garden as part of a three-person team assigned to that side of the city. His affection for the garden was obvious as he explained the different maintenance activities required to keep it up. 

    The Rhododendron Garden, according to Will, needs several maintenance tasks:

    • There are dead plants which need to be removed. 
    • The trails should be graveled. 
    • The interpretative display has never been replaced. 
    The Sorg Rhododendron Garden in Summerlake Park, pictured in 2011.

    The display, in particular, was a thorn in Will’s side. “Even in the winter, I just didn’t have the time to sit down and do the research.” 

    “We haven’t pursued donations of mature rhododendrons in the last several years,” adds Interim Parks & Recreation Manager Martin McKnight. “The process is very labor intensive. Digging, transporting, planting and caring for the transplants takes a lot of time – time that we don’t have with our current staffing.” 

    “I think it has been three years since we’ve been able to replace plants with mature rhododendrons,” Will confirmed. “We just purchase the 5-gallon plants available at local nurseries.”  

    With limited maintenance funding, many parks features like the Rhododendron Garden have suffered. This year the city is spending about 2/3 the national average per acre on park maintenance. 

    Will Knab, pictured on the job, has worked as a utility worker in Parks for six years.

    The problem is worsening. The parks bond measure allowed the city to purchase additional park land to meet increasing needs, without adding funds for maintenance. City staff will continue to be spread thin as those areas are developed into community assets and must be maintained.

    As part of the Parks & Recreation Master Plan project, consultants completed a condition assessment of all Tigard Parks. The result: the City is generally maintaining the appearance of parks, such as regular trash collection and mowing, but the impacts of delayed maintenance are prompting a need for reinvestment. There are several problems that appear to have waited too long to be corrected. This is impacting the experience users have in our parks.

    The Parks & Recreation Master Plan will make many recommendations regarding improvements to the system – new park development and reinvestment in old parks. The aim of the plan is that everyone in Tigard is within a 10-minute walk of a quality park. The condition analysis is helping to define where reinvestment will be necessary to meet that goal. 

    Over the next few months, the Master Plan project will pose a series of questions to our community about where we should go in the future. The first question is: 

    1. If you could change something in Tigard’s parks, what would it be?

    For Will, he’d like to see more interpretive signage throughout our parks. 

    You can participate online: www.engage.tigard-or.gov/parksplan or by phone. Leave a message at: (503) 718-2428.