By LORI STIRN
Director, Hood River Parks and Recreation District
The Hood River County Board of Commissioners recently overturned the County Planning Commission’s decision to allow the Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District (the Park District) to begin development of Barrett Park. The Park District plans to appeal the decision to the state Land Use Board of Appeals and is seeking community support to help persuade the BOC to allow development of the park. The facts on Barrett Park are as follows:
n Hood River County has a critical shortage of public field space for baseball, soccer and lacrosse. The Park District has included addition of new public ball fields as a high priority item in its master plan for more than 15 years. A 2003 countywide public opinion survey reaffirmed this prioritization, identifying ball fields as one of the top recreational needs in the county.
n In 2006, after many unsuccessful years of searching for available land, the Park District identified a 31.4-acre parcel on Barrett Drive as optimum land for ball fields. The property is large enough to accommodate all of the needed ball fields and is bordered by Indian Creek, which allows extension of Park District’s Indian Creek trail to provide pedestrian and bicycle access from all schools and the downtown area.
n In addition, the sale price for the property was within the Park District’s capital expenditures budget, which is based on collection of System Development Charges on new home construction.
n Although Barrett Park is zoned as exclusive farm use, high-value land, parks are an allowed use. The board of commissioners has the power and the authority to approve development of ball fields on this property simply by adopting a site-specific master plan.
n The Park District received a $325,800 land acquisition grant from the State Parks Local Government Grant Program (state lottery funds) for purchase of the land for Barrett Park. The Park District’s grant application included a letter of support issued by the board of commissioners that specifically supported the acquisition of Barrett Park for future park expansion.
n An initial development proposal that included trails and two ball fields was submitted by the Park District in 2006 and was rejected. In 2009, the Park District applied for a received a conditional use permit with 32 conditions allowing the Park District to extend Indian Creek Trail onto the Barrett Park property.
n The Park District subsequently proposed a plan in 2012 that was developed through numerous public meetings, surveys and other forms of community input, and that incorporated allowed conditional uses identified in state land use law (ORS 215.283).
n The plan included some grading to allow development of two large, flat, open grass fields that could be used for informal scrimmages and ball play (much like the marina green). It also included a variety of other uses (including a dog park, bocce court, community gardens and pedestrian/biking trails) based on community input.
n The plan was approved by the planning commission, but the approval was overturned by the board of commissioners following an appeal by Fritz and JoAnn von Lubken.
The Park District was recently awarded a $494,000 grant from the State Parks Department Local Government Grant Program (lottery fund) for the initial development stage of Barrett Park. If Barrett Park is not developed for further recreational uses, the development grant will be rescinded.
n The board of commissioners has refused to discuss any alternative park development options at Barrett Park with the Park District. The District does not intend to sell Barrett Park unless it finds a suitable replacement that meets all of its criteria for ball fields, including economic feasibility.
n The board of commissioners has initiated its own search for properties that it would approve for ball fields, but has not yet located any other available properties that meet the Park District’s criteria.
n The Park District believes that the board of commissioners will eventually be more receptive to constituents within the county who support public ball fields on Barrett Park, but not until these voters make their voices heard.
We need your help. Call or write to your county commissioner today to voice your support for development of ball fields at Barrett Park. E-mail addresses and phone numbers are provided below. LET’S PLAY BALL!
Ron Rivers, chair: 541-308-6326 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Joplin, 1 (west Hood River/Cascade Locks): 541-308-5526 or email@example.com
Maui Meyer, 2 (Hood River): 541-490-3051 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Benton, 3 (Odell): 541-490-2989 or email@example.com
Les Perkins, 4 (Mt. Hood/Parkdale): 541-352-4273 or firstname.lastname@example.org