Former Portland, Oregon, City Commissioner and Parks Director Charles Jordan has died at the age of 77 following a lengthy illness. Jordan was Portland’s first African-American city commissioner and was lauded for his tireless work in growing the city’s parks department. Under Jordan’s tenure, 44 new parks and natural areas were created in Portland, and several now-popular landmarks were established, including Pioneer Courthouse Square, the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, Delta Park, Southwest Community Center and many others. Family members cite Jordan’s dedication to preservation and the environment as stemming from his upbringing at California’s Agua Caliente Indian Reservation, as well as his commitment to making the conservation movement more diverse and inclusive. Above all, son Dion says, Jordan will be remembered for his service to the people of his community and his many inspirational quotations, including, “Today you follow, but tomorrow you will be expected to lead.”
PlayCore has announced the recipient of its annual Hero award, which recognizes park and recreation professionals who go the extra mile in their agencies and communities. For 2014, Jane Adams, executive director of the California Park and Recreation Society (CPRS), was honored for her efforts at initiating several new programs, including the VIP Action Plan; Creating Community through People, Parks and Programs; the Parks Make Life Better! statewide branding campaign; and numerous statewide park bonds and educational programs. She also served as CPRS spokesperson to national, state and local government officials; nonprofit organizations; and federal and state agencies. Adams retired in March, following 25 years of service to her agency. “We are continually inspired by the people we encounter, people who have made a career of giving back selflessly, with complete dedication to improving the communities they serve,” says PlayCore CEO Bob Farnsworth. “These are the true heroes of any community — spending their time with no expectation of recognition, in order to make a difference. Their dedication mirrors PlayCore’s mission and values, so we wanted to find a way to recognize them and honor their commitment.”
Representatives of the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund (VCLF) have announced a famous landmark will soon become part of a new state park. The Natural Bridge rock formation, once owned by Thomas Jefferson, and approximately 1,500 acres of surrounding land, is planned to become state parkland by the end of 2015. The 20-story formation, located about 45 minutes northwest of Lynchburg, Virginia, draws some 200,000 visitors each year. It once ranked with Niagara Falls as one of the two natural wonders of the New World, and a young George Washington is said to have carved his initials into the bridge while surveying land on behalf of Lord Fairfax. Since 1988, the Natural Bridge, an adjacent hotel and other nearby buildings have been owned and operated by local real estate investor Angelo Puglisi. The 88-year-old recently agreed to give the bridge and 188 acres of the property — valued at $21 million — to VCLF, which will purchase the remaining 1,300 acres with funding from a loan via the Virginia Clean Water Resolving Loan Fund, overseen by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia Resources Authority. As soon as the loan is paid off, VCLF will deed the entire property to the state, which will convert it into public parkland.
Nevada’s Summerlin Park in Clark County has a new name. The 8.1-acre park will now be known as the Wilbur and Theresa Faiss Park, named for the couple who Worldwide Marriage Encounter dubbed as the world’s longest married, at 72 years. The Faisses moved to North Las Vegas in 1944, and over the years ran a number of businesses and served in several community organizations. Additionally, Wilbur Faiss served two terms in the Nevada State Senate, from 1976–1984, and in 1996, Theresa Faiss was honored as Clark County's Pioneer Mother of the Year. The Faisses earned the honor of world’s longest-married couple in 2012 — Theresa Faiss died that year at the age of 97, while her husband died in November 2013 at the age of 102. The name was selected by the student council of Faiss Middle School, located just next door to the property. Wilbur and Theresa Faiss Park features a playground, picnic facilities, a walking and jogging path, and an open grass area for play. An aquatics facility is also planned for the site.
San Francisco’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), the nation's largest urban national park, has received a number of upgrades to make it more accessible to disabled visitors. More wheelchair access to trails at Muir Woods, Lands End and Marin Headlands; Braille lettering on signs at Bay Area trailheads and at stairwells leading to San Francisco's Ocean Beach; and an audio guide to exhibits at Alcatraz are just a handful of improvements planned as the result of a long-running lawsuit over access for the disabled to the 75,000 acres of woodlands and shoreline that comprise GGNRA. Assuming all proposed improvements meet with the approval of a designated magistrate, the court settlement gives the National Park Service until September 2019 to complete all access projects.
The National Park Service has announced the publication of “Prepare to Launch! Guidelines for Assessing, Designing and Building Access Sites for Carry-in Watercraft,” a resource designed to help river managers, planners, boaters and water trail leaders plan for and build access to waterways. Developed in partnership with the River Management Society, the publication is intended to provide an easy-to-navigate, image-rich guide to launch designs and considerations. “Prepare to Launch!” includes information about how to determine the best launch for a particular site, as well as best practices for making design choices; 246 illustrated pages with access site images, recommendations and case studies that can be navigated via interactive links within the document; links to a variety of nonmotorized launch examples; descriptions of construction methods and materials; and guidance on regulatory requirements to consider during design and construction. “Prepare to Launch!” can be found on the River Management Society website.
Seattle, Washington, Mayor Ed Murray has come out in support of creating a parks district, which would enable permanent taxing authority to help fund the city’s parks and community centers. Murray said he would send the City Council legislation to ask voters to support a parks district that would raise $54 million a year, more than double the current tax levy that is set to expire in 2014, but $3 million less than a citizens’ committee recommended at the beginning of 2014. Seattle parks and recreation facilities are facing a $267 million maintenance backlog, which Murray says is the result of years of underfunding and budget cuts during the recession. He said new revenue was needed to undertake repairs, restore community center hours and expand recreational opportunities across the city. The ballot measure will also contain provisions that parks’ current level of general-fund support — about $85 million annually — would not be cut except in an emergency and with approval by two-thirds of the City Council. The measure is expected to appear on ballots in August for public vote.