Meet the candidates: Parks and Rec District

Ballots are due May 21 for the Hood River County Special Districts election.

In one race, four people are running for two open positions on the board of the Hood River County parks and Recreation District. The candidates are: Greg Davis, an Insitu project manager; John Everitt, a co-owner of a property management company; Rob Kovacich, a chemistry instructor with CGCC; and Renee Van der Griend, an environmental consultant. Editor's note: Davis's comments came too late for inclusion in the print edition of the Hood River News. Van der Griend is the only incumbent in the race. Here are bios and short statements from Kovacich, Everitt, Van der Griend, and Davis, including their answers to the question, “What do you foresee happening with the Barrett Park property?”

John Everitt has lived in the county for 14 years. He is co-owner of Current Commercial Properties.

He said he has a long-standing interest in park development and served as a member of the development committee for the Waterfront Park.

“Parks are an important piece of the quality of life picture in Hood River. As a commissioner you have input on how that goes and the how parks are maintained and managed within budget.

“The trials system has made great progress, and is almost all the way around the city. I’d like to assure continuity to make sure it gets finished.”

He said that this could be accomplished by breaking the larger task into smaller jobs. “Start with one piece, finish it, do the next one, and eventually you will complete the vision.”

Achieving that vision requires “closer ties of communication.

“You attend each other s meetings and get more knowledgeable about goals and strengths of each and find a place in the middle.”

Rob Kovacich has lived in Hood River for the past two years. He was a The Dalles City Council Member from 2006-2008.

“I’d like to connect all the green space in town, from The Spit to the high school, and all the way to Post Canyon,” Kovacich said. “My main goal is a safe green space, and one that the high school cross country team can use for its races.”

He advocates solutions such as subterranean culverts at some road crossings, as a way to ensure safe non-motorized access.

How to complete all those pieces?

“Relationships are what will be the key to that, with the railroad and a couple of private landowners to work with. I don’t see a problem other than money,” he said.

“I’ve been in this situation, as a city council member in The Dalles, on the committees I was on. I understand the relationships the different governmental bodies have with each other. That was a good learning experience,” he said.

Kovacich also said he has had inquiries from residents about using Barrett Park as a bicycle pump track site, remote-control park and other ideas.

“In the past I think (the board) got pushed around, and that won’t happen with me,” he said, referring to the County Commissioners’ denial of a request to place ball fields at Barrett Park.

“It’s not a law that says you can’t move some dirt around. They wouldn’t have been able to sue and win anything. Personally I think they just didn’t want people there and the type of people that come with bikes, which is ridiculous.”

Kovacich would also like to work with the county, Mt. Hood Railroad and Powerdale Lands Trust to create new trail access including a set of switchbacks connecting Powerdale to the neighboring section of Indian Creek trail.

Renee van de Griend was appointed to the board in 2006, and elected in 2009.

“I am running for re-election in order to continue to fulfill the district’s mission of providing recreational opportunities for the community.

“I have lived in Hood River for the last 10 years. I have been actively involved in community issues, having served as a Parks and Rec board member for the last two terms, and formerly as a member of the Westside School local committee.

“I am a firm believer that parks and recreation comprise an important component of the wonderful quality of life we enjoy here, which draws people to Hood River County and enhances the economic vitality of the community.

“My main priorities as a Parks and Rec board member are to ensure the ongoing successful operation of the Aquatic Center, to increase the amount of available ball field space for youth sports and to provide connectivity for the existing network of urban trails.

“During my initial board member term, I championed that idea that our community trail system, which was originally designed to provide opportunities for nature walks along Indian Creek, should be expanded to provide safe pedestrian and bicycle routes from neighborhoods to schools and park facilities. The current Westside Trail development is a fulfillment of that vision.”

On Barrett Park, she said, “We have a lot of people who are actively enjoying the trail, with the trail and remote control aircraft, as currently the only uses allowed outright.

“My hope is that eventually it will be used as a general community park and will include ball fields.

Greg Davis works as a program manager, in charge of developing the Integrator unmanned airplane. A Hood River resident since 2006, he and his wife, Katherine, a teacher at HRVHS, have two children, one enrolled at Westside, the other a preschooler.

“Generally I support a growth in our parks, and a bigger embrace of our recreational offerings because it increases local property values and increases appeal of the Hood River area to tourists, and strengths our position where people of the Northwest and region want to come and live. It’s also a great thing all around to embrace as much of this outdoor recreation as we can.

“I think Barrett Park is in line with that goal. I think the idea of connecting Indian Creek all the way to the west side is a great goal that becomes another feature we can advertise to the broader community.

As far as broader use beyond that, a number of ideas have been floated. I understand the need to balance the desire to not turn it (Barrett Park) into a parking lot and not put up lights, but at the same time I think people can use more places to play with their dogs and soccer and lacrosse. However, I need to educate myself further on the exact pro and cons.

“In general I believe we can further create recreational opportunities so we can embrace the idea in Hood River that this is the awesome place that it is to live, with the kind of outdoor opportunities plus the beauty of the area.

“I’m excited to continue the great use of the aquatic center and perhaps continue to add programs that strengthen our community’s water safety and use of water as a resource, perhaps adding programs and extending hours, and ensuring we’ve got the facility taken care of so it’s appealing for people to use.

“I think the big issue in the near term is Barrett Park, otherwise things are running pretty smoothly.

“Indian Creek Trail is an important part for me, to grow and strength the trail so we can link up as much of the county as we can.

“I am interested in increasing walk and bike commuting. We’re in a funny situation where many residents have nice road and mountain bikes, and they embrace the trails, but drive everywhere, and we have very low participation in local walk and bike commuting. By improving trails we can start to embrace the walk and bike to school and work lifestyle, and in doing so decrease traffic and improve the level of fitness.

He compared himself to the other candidates by saying, “I have a broad background and skill set, and I‘m familiar with negotiating. I’ve been a project manager at Insitu for the past 7-8 years, and in that role gained a lot of familiarity with how to handle complicated budgeting and working through regulatory issues.

And I’m just an avid user of our parks and rec offerings. I’m a runner, a bicyclist, and a swimmer in the pool. I am familiar with all the parks and trails and many of the folks who are using those, and that knowledge will carry over and let me represent the user’s perspective.

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