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Ball fields issue creeps forward

Jeff Blackman proposes fields near Westside School

Stakeholders in the search for more places to play in Hood River County held their second meeting last week and movement to identify areas for new sports field is slowly gathering steam.

The meeting brought together representatives from several of the committee formed at the previous stakeholder meeting in November.

One of the top items of discussion was identifying properties which could potentially be used for a sports field complex.

County Planning Director Mike Benedict gave a report outlining the possibilities of several different locations. Among those listed, the Diamond Fruit property adjoining Hood River Valley High School was mentioned as a potential favorite.

The land already includes a large warehouse building which could be used for indoor sports, is on the Indian Creek Field and could be joined with Eagle Park, which the county leases to the school district for $1 per year.

The real estate committee said that it considered property in the upper valley but the fact that it was a significant distance from I-84, had tougher weather conditions and would have to contend with national scenic area designations made situating sports fields there difficult.

Another possibility raised was Walmart property near Country Club Road.

Parks and Recreation Director Lori Stirn said she had sent letters to Walmart inquiring about the availability of the land, but had received no response.

City Planning Director Cindy Walbridge said that Hood River City Manager Bob Francis had received a more favorable response, but that had been before a city hearing which rejected Walmart’s attempt to expand its Hood River store.

Port President Jon Davies said that he was glad to see the discussion proceeding, but acknowledged with the rest of the group that it would likely be several years before anything was constructed.

“What is something we can do immediately?” he asked.

Jeff Blackman may have an answer to that question.

The Hood River Valley High School teacher owns several acres of land across the street from Westside Elementary School and said he wants to set up a grassroots effort to put sports fields on that property.

He said after walking the property with Corey Roeseler of Hood River lacrosse, they estimated they could fit two and a half fields on the land.

Blackman would like to see fields ready to go for this coming summer, but acknowledged it would take lots of volunteer hours to make that happen and to get the fields “as good as we can get them.”

Representatives at the meeting last Thursday brought up Blackman’s plan, and said that while the county does need fields, the plan would face some hurdles.

Stirn said some of the reasons Parks and Recreation did not buy the land several years ago was that it included wetlands and a significant slope.

Other difficulties would include getting people from Westside School to the fields and finding an insurance carrier for any the organized sports activities taking place on the fields.

“It would be a fine line,” said County Planning Director Mike Benedict on whether or not any sort of permits would be needed to put in fields on the property.

The group will meet again Feb. 28 to continue its discussions.

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