Parks and Rec expands focus on ball fields

HRVPRD examining idea of smaller parcels, more playing fields

The question of how Hood River County will solve its ball field shortage is still up in the air as the Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District continues to search for viable parcels that could be home to new public recreation facilities.

However, as parcels in the 20 to 30-acre range for a proposed ball field complex have proven exceedingly difficult for Parks and Rec staff to find, the agency is now considering acquiring smaller parcels that would each hold one or two fields instead of a unified complex.

“Our goal was originally a 30-acre complex,” explained HRVPRD Director Lori Stirn. “I think realistically the land that would be allowed to be built on for such a site would be so limited. We haven’t been able to identify any such site in the city or outside the UGB (Urban Growth Boundary).”

The dearth of ball fields and play areas is not a new problem for the county, but the issue is taking on an increasing sense of urgency as Parks and Rec has limited time to identify recreation sites per the stipulations of an Oregon Parks and Recreation Department grant received by Parks and Rec to develop, but not acquire, a site.

Originally, Parks and Rec received the $494,000 state grant to develop play fields at Barrett Park, but the county ultimately nixed that proposal late last year due to issues surrounding the park’s location on land zoned exclusive farm use. Parks and Rec then tried to use $160,000 of the grant to develop an RC flyer site, but that was challenged by the Hood River Valley Residents Committee, a local land use watchdog group.

OPRD gave Parks and Rec its blessing this spring for Parks and Rec to use the grant to develop recreational facilities — ball fields in particular — on a parcel that wasn’t Barrett Park. No hard date was given by OPRD for when the property had to be selected, but the agency suggested Parks and Rec should find a property within 18 months or run the risk of losing the $494,000.

Stirn said Parks and Rec has examined several properties around the outskirts of Hood River, including an 8-acre property owned by Diamond Fruit near Hood River Valley High School, a 12-acre parcel off Frankton Road, a 20-acre parcel off Country Club Road, and a 17-acre parcel owned by Walmart, also on Country Club Road, which the retailer had originally planned to use as the site for a Superstore back in the early 2000s. Each property had different drawbacks: too much of slope, poor drainage, poor access, neighbors too close, or in the case of the Walmart parcel, too high of an asking price — $3.1 million, according to Stirn.

While Stirn noted Parks and Rec is still open to larger parcels, she said her agency is now looking at acquiring two or three parcels 3-4 acres in size that would each support its own field. She reported Parks and Rec is searching for land that is flat, close to trails, not zoned EFU, and preferably inside the UGB.

Parks and Rec will be meeting with OPRD later this month to receive “a little more guidance” on how the grant could be used. Stirn said Parks and Rec is also planning to hold meetings during the early part of next year in order to receive public input on play field issues and how potential properties should be used.



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