County looks at ball fields

Does the Hood River Valley need more ball fields? Or do local agencies need to be more efficient in how they manage their fields?

The Hood River County Board of Commissioners and other agencies are currently discussing funding a study they hope will answer those questions.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the county commission, County Administrator Dave Meriwether informed commissioners that the county and other local entities are considering hiring a consulting firm, Moore, Iacofano and Goltsman Inc. to conduct a ball field study, which would “analyze recreational facilities countywide and determine what we need and what’s the best way of filling that need” as well assess “any property viable to that purpose.”

The ball field access was a hot-button issue during the Barrett Park saga that concluded, in part, at the end of last year. Though land use regulations do not allow developed ball fields on the 31.4-acre parcel on the west side of Hood River, that did not stop people from lamenting the lack of field access in the county during the numerous public meetings held regarding Barrett Park over the last couple of years.

Meriwether told county commissioners that he attended a meeting at the end of January with representatives from the city of Hood River, the Port of Hood River, Columbia Gorge Community College, Hood River County School District, Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District, and the Hood River Valley Residents Committee, to discuss the issue and consider implementing the study.

Meriwether said the study would be implemented in phases, “that would include meetings — joint meetings with the various governing bodies — looking at all the assets, trying to figure out the best way to operate the assets and maintain the assets and see what it’s going to cost, what the scheduling’s going to look like and that sort of thing.”

All the representatives of the different governing bodies present at the meeting indicated they were, at the very least, mildly interested in the proposal.

“At the meeting, I think everyone there — no one said, ‘No we don’t think it’s a good idea and we don’t want to do this,’” Meriwether said.

“An analysis like this, it’s the sort of thing where if everybody’s not fully engaged in this, it’s not going to mean anything when you get to the end of it,” he added.

Heather Staten, vice president of HRVRC, was present during the county commission meeting and Meriwether asked for her opinion on how the meeting went.

“One of the things we were looking for is a sense that it was going to be an actionable study — that it wasn’t going to be a study that ended up on a shelf and that the entities are at the stage where they were going to take the recommendations from the study and then do something with it,” she said. “And I had a pretty good feeling about that. It seemed like the time was right and people were actually going to make some movements, whether that meant field management things or creating new fields.”

The cost of the entire study would run about $45,000, Meriwether said, which would be split amongst the agencies based upon their stake in the issue. He expected the county’s share would be approximately $7,000 to $10,000 and that Parks and Rec would be the lead agency on the study.

Meriwether asked for commissioners’ support in continuing to examine the feasibility of the study, to which they agreed.

One of the benefits of the study, Meriwether said, is that it would allow the county to look at the current field situation, see how it is being managed, and perhaps work out a solution that wouldn’t require the county or another agency to purchase more land for the development of ball fields.

“Frankly, we may be able to take what we have and manage it better and we’ll be fine,” he said.

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