The concept of rezoning Morrison Park for developing affordable housing merits support.
City Planning Commission takes up the issue Oct. 3, and it has already received some apparent opposition (article and photo, pages A1 and A11).
This blowback is understandable. As others have pointed out, it is sad to see a park go away, and we have seen Morrison Park receive plenty of use over the years, so it is clearly important to keep a disc golf course somewhere in the community.
But the greater need, affordable housing, is what would be addressed with this proposal. With rents below $1,000 a rarity, if you can find one, and the average house purchase price in Hood River surpassing $400,000 this summer for the first time, the need is clear.
Morrison Park was never intended to remain a park for all time, and as city-owned land that is well-suited for the purpose, we should recognize the need and give the proposal a chance. It will require close vetting by Planning Commission, but the parcel’s location and grade make it suitable for rezoning. It also achieves the community goal of placing housing within walking distance of commercial amenities, schools, parks, and public transportation.
As to the concern that the city is losing a park, this is not necessarily the case. For one thing, Rotary Skatepark is located across the street, and no one plans to rezone that.
Further, with a little creative thinking, local leaders can come up with a better disc golf location (i.e. less poison oak hazards). There are places, including some in the same part of town, that could accommodate this particular use. With new leadership coming on board at Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District, this would be a good time to assess potential new locations as part of a variety of parks discussions that are ongoing.
But disc golfers needs to look beyond the appeals of the sport and to the long-range benefit of affordable housing and how it can benefit many people. Could it be, too, that some folks who regularly enjoy disc golf are likely to directly benefit from new units of affordable housing?
Here is a disc golf analogy to round out the point: The goal of the sport is to put the disc into a series of targets that are essentially baskets made of chains, not hardened ones but malleable receptacles. And success depends upon the artful flip of the wrist and angle of release, to get around obstacles, adjust to wind, and achieve the proper direction and distance.
Though working with any new disc golf course location could bring the usual questions of joint or shared use, liability, and perhaps zoning, none of which are insurmountable should agencies and users team up and put their elbows to the task.