A $494,000 state grant Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District received nearly two years ago to develop Barrett Park won’t be spent on the park site anymore.
HRVPRD Board of Directors voted unanimously during its regular meeting Wednesday night to take up Oregon Parks and Recreation Department’s offer to spend the grant on another property of HRVPRD’s choosing, which has yet to be determined and is subject to approval of OPRD.
Karen Ford, president of HRVPRD’s board of directors, told staff during the meeting they should inform OPRD that, “We’re happy to have that money and we’re happy to use it somewhere else,” other than Barrett Park.
HRVPRD received the grant in 2012 to develop the park far beyond its current scope, which includes a portion of the Westside Community Trail located at the northern edge of the 31.4-acre parcel and facilities for a radio control airplane field on the western edge. However, the Hood River County Board of Commissioners denied HRVPRD a conditional use permit to develop the park, which is located on land zoned exclusive farm use, leaving only outright allowed uses, like the RC flyer field, available for development.
Originally, HRVPRD planned to use $160,000 of the $494,000 OPRD grant to develop the RC flyer field, as well as perform improvements to the trail located on the property. However, Hood River Valley Residents Committee, a local land use watchdog group, sent a letter to OPRD, asking the grant agreement not be executed, arguing that HRVPRD’s most recent plans for Barrett Park did not match what was submitted in their previous grant application.
OPRD ultimately gave HRVPRD the option to use the grant for development of another park site — not for the acquisition of the land — but required HRVPRD to go through a due diligence process. According to an email from Steve Kay, division manager of OPRD’s recreation grants and community programs, HRVPRD must meet a number of requirements before the new site is approved, including submitting revised site plans and budgets, soliciting a state environmental review of the new property, as well as “provide a narrative which documents that a public planning process was undertaken to evaluate citizen input, select the alternate site, and determine what project elements are proposed.” The email also made multiple mentions of ball fields — a use that was an element of the original Barrett Park plan — noting that “ball field development continues to be identified as a high priority for the community.”
Kay’s email also stated that Barrett Park, which was purchased in 2007 with a $325,800 state acquisition grant from OPRD, “must continue to be used for park and recreation purposes for a minimum of 25 years,” or else it would “be subject to the conversion clause of the [grant] agreement.” He noted HRVPRD would also “need to provide a narrative describing existing and planned uses during the time period that the District is obligated to utilize the property for park and recreation purposes.”
Though HRVPRD is looking for other parcels to develop, its board of directors currently has no intent to part with the Barrett Park parcel. In December, the board voted unanimously to adopt a resolution that keeps the property for park and recreation purposes “in perpetuity.”
HRVPRD is also still moving forward with the RC flyer field facilities, although the board of directors also voted Wednesday night to take out elements of the development that they had allocated grant money toward, which Ford said were “essentially the bathrooms and a couple of other things.” Last month HRVPRD Director Lori Stirn said in a previous story the remaining RC flyer facilities would likely be developed via funds HRVPRD receives from system development charges.
The move has taken some wind out of the sails of an HRVRC appeal to the Hood River County Planning Commission. HRVRC appealed a decision by the Hood River County Planning Department that awarded a land use permit to HRVPRD for the RC field. In a previous story, Polly Wood, president of HRVRC, explained that her organization took umbrage with the bathrooms, due to a stipulation in a state statute that does not allow structures to be placed on permanent foundations at RC flyer fields on land that is zoned EFU.
However, HRVRC also is challenging whether county planning evaluated the proposal properly. HRVRC states in its appeal that the application should have been approved via a land use decision instead of a ministerial one, providing opportunity for public comment. A planning commission public hearing to consider the appeal is scheduled for Wednesday, June 11.
Wood reported during Wednesday’s meeting that HRVRC is “very pleased” that the grant will be used for another property besides Barrett, which HRVRC has been advocating that HRPRD sell. Representatives from HRVRC also read letters to the board from Jim Trammel and Keir Bryerton, who are both adjacent property owners to Barrett Park and who both complained about the noise they said is produced by the RC airplanes flown at the park.
While HRVPRD looks to make small improvements to Barrett Park, Ford indicated during the meeting they would be forming a committee to “look into all the viable properties that the 494 [thousand dollars] can be used at.” No timeline on when the committee would come back with all results, although OPRD officials have informed HRVPRD that a property should be selected within the next 18 months
“The idea is to get the nitty-gritty conversations, the pitfalls, the positives and the negatives in a matrix that you could bring back to the board,” Ford said of the committee’s task, “and then we can have a discussion on the values of each of those proposed routes.”