County seeks place to play

Hood River County is ready to look for new sports field locations.

At last week’s County Commission meeting the commission announced that it would be forming a working group to identify possible locations for sports fields and how to acquire them.

And while the appeal to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals by the Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District over the County Commission’s denial of Barrett Park winds it way through the system, both sides may have to find a way to work together again.

In the coming weeks the county will be convening a stakeholder meeting for groups and individuals looking to expand access to sports fields in the county.

Despite several members of the commission expressing displeasure over how the Barrett Park process had gone so far, particularly over a newspaper opinion piece by Parks and Recreation Director Lori Stern, the board stated that Parks and Recreation would be invited to the process.

“We want to keep working together,” said Chairman Ron Rivers after the county held a lengthy executive session getting a briefing from legal counsel on the Barrett Park issue.

Meriwether said Parks and Rec’s input is important in the process and that the county “certainly hopes” Parks and Rec will have a spot at the table.

The working group is likely to convene at some point in mid-November.

Parks and Recreation District Director Lori Stirn said Parks and Rec would gladly participate in the process of identifying new sports field locations.

“We’d love to work with those guys on trying to meet the community needs for ball fields,” Stirn said.

She added that Parks and Rec would like to help the county identify stakeholders for the meeting and share any information it could with them on the matter.

On the other side of the coin, Parks and Rec, the county and Fritz and Joann von Lubken have elected not to participate in mediation over the Barrett Park LUBA appeal filed by Parks and Recreation over the commission’s denial of Barrett Park, and will instead allow the appeal to play out.

Stirn said she understood the county’s position on that, and that Parks and Rec was focusing on preparing for the appeal.

Meriwether noted while the county would be filing a brief with LUBA to support its decision, most of the “heavy lifting” in defending the county’s decision would be done by the von Lubkens’ attorney.

While the Commission was still raw over Parks and Recreation decision to appeal to LUBA over Barrett Park, they were unanimous that Parks and Rec should have a spot at the table as the process moves forward for finding space for sports fields in the county.

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