I have lived in Portland for 10 years and am a lover of this city. I am also a live music lover, and have a professional background in events, concerts and sponsorships at large festivals. With that context, for many reasons, I love the idea of Portland having a music festival, but I feel strongly that on Monday, Nov. 21, the Portland City Council should not approve concert promoter C3 Presents’ application to host a two-day festival in Payson Park, drawing 20,000 people per day, starting July 2023. I feel it would be irresponsible and possibly even negligent for the City Council to approve this. Here’s why.

This is part of a bigger issue – whether and how public parks can be used by private entities. It’s come up with Deering Oaks, Congress Square Park, the Eastern Prom and now Payson Park. The city needs to intentionally consider and decide if, how or how much our parks can be used by for-profit interests.

Because there is little precedent for an event of this scale in Portland, the permit application used by C3 used has minor requirements compared to the applications it must submit to other cities. While Portland’s application requests detailed maps and plans, C3 opted not to include any. To me, that’s a red flag. The application lacks essential information such as how the park will be used, ticket prices, staffing plans, emergency plans, parking and transportation plans. C3 claims it will be “sorted out” once the permit is approved. That is dangerously inadequate.

Here are some of my many concerns and questions:

• July is the worst timing. Hotels, Airbnbs, restaurants, shops, parks, parking lots and streets are already bursting at the seams with tourists. This is not when the city needs an additional influx of people and cash. Related: Yarmouth Clam Festival takes place that weekend.

• Payson Park will be shut down for up to 13 days – and likely much longer (as any festival-goer knows, grass will be damaged and will need to be replaced/repaired; according to a local expert, this could take a few months). Such a closure would curtail much of Payson’s grass-based sports and recreation. Courts could require resurfacing as well (more closure time). Pollinator gardens, the arboretum and wildlife habitat will also be affected. Does Parks & Rec have adequate staffing for quick post-festival restoration?


• Does the city have adequate staffing for the necessary police, EMS and other emergency services?

• There is no parking or public transportation. C3 suggests people park downtown (where?) and walk or bike, and that they may engage Greater Portland METRO buses/shuttles. But 20,000 people per day? And road closures through Payson Park and Baxter Boulevard?

• Who benefits? C3 provides $1/ticket to the city and a $100,000 donation to Portland Parks Conservancy. Does this outweigh the cultural, environmental and recreational cost?

C3 opted to provide minimal information, leaving too many questions unanswered. Trust must be earned. C3 is asking Portlanders for blind faith, and way too much of it. The City Council does not need to rush this process and I urge them not to.

Moving forward, the council must determine whether, how and how much city parks can be used for profit. Then put out a requests for organizers (local and not) to submit proposals, intentionally finding the best partner and most beneficial solution, addressing size, timing, cultural, environmental, logistical and recreational impact, financial transparency and clarity about who profits.

I believe we need a transparent, collaborative partner working toward mutual benefit. If it wants to build a relationship and trust, perhaps C3 will be that partner.

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