Citizen committee drafts waterfront park plan concept


News staff writer

April 23

The citizen group tasked with scouting out funding for a waterfront park met officially for the first time last week.

However, the seven volunteer members of the Park Development Committee have already scrambled to meet a deadline last week for submittal of a state grant application. The new committee didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to score up to $500,000 in capital for improvements to about six acres on Lot 6.

Especially when developer Glen Haack has already stepped forward to offer $10,000 for a children’s play area. And local resident Andy von Flotow has promised 5,000 cubic yards of top soil.

“We wanted the port and city to know that if they stepped up to the plate and gave us this park then we would start a grassroots fundraising effort,” said co-chair Christine Knowles, who has a professional economic development planning background.

She was appointed by the city to serve on the PDC along with Susan Froehlich and Jim Greenleaf. The port interests are represented by Steve Alford, Paige Rouse, who is serving as PDC secretary, and Joanie Thomson. Also joining the group as co-chair is Mark Zanmiller, who represents the local Parks and Recreation District.

To apply for funding from the Oregon State Parks Local Government Community Grant Program, the PDC had to come up with a park design. So they selected key elements of conceptual renderings from years past and and formulated a preliminary park design.

However, Knowles said the latest draft will most likely be altered once it has been unveiled for citizen comment. She said community meetings for input will be held before the grant application comes up for a first review in mid-June.

“I think this project could unite the community. It is going to be a place at the waterfront that grandparents and children — whole families — can enjoy,” she said.

After years of divisiveness over waterfront planning, she envisions local residents and businesses getting onboard to donate labor and materials. The end result, as portrayed in the latest park design, could include a play area for children that is protected from wind by an earthen berm.

That hill at the west end of the property could also serve as a seating area for an amphitheater that is located near public restrooms and an interactive spray fountain — which could also be wired for a light show. Naturalized climbing boulders (that can also be used for seating) and covered picnic shelters lead into a large open area at the eastern end of the park that will accommodate recreational activities, such as flying kites. There will be a 20-space parking lot and plenty of landscaping throughout the grounds.

Knowles figures that the PDC will be able to meet the port’s requirement that the park have basic facilities — including restrooms, parking, a picnic shelter and play area — if it scores the full state grant. With another $200,000-$300,000 the park can be fitted with extra design elements, such as the spray fountain and amphitheater. And every dollar invested into development can be maximized, said Knowles, if the work is done primarily by volunteers with materials donated by area businesses and individuals.

Knowles has already started making the rounds to Hood River service organizations to see if they will contribute to the project. She said as the long-awaited park comes closer to becoming a reality it is drawing an increasing level of interest from local residents.

“By June we hope to have a pretty convincing narrative for the state that this is truly going to be a community park,” said Knowles.

She said the biggest challenge facing the PDC will be figuring out how to pay for ongoing maintenance costs. If the park is built with high quality infrastructure, she said the ongoing expenses are expected to be lower. She has also gained support from several organizations for community cleanups. However, the anticipated $30,000 annual maintenance budget is still seen by Knowles as a “huge charge that the PDC needs to be taken very seriously.”

Under a pending agreement between the city and port, if the park is not developed within seven years and kept maintained, it will revert back to port ownership. Knowles isn’t sure exactly how all of the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place — but she is optimistic that they will.

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