Schools, Parks look at property partnership

Cooperative agreement would allow district agencies to share infrastructure, costs of maintenance for projects

January 28, 2006

Board members and staff of Hood River County School District and the Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District met Wednesday night for a joint work session to explore the idea of forming a partnership for upcoming projects that may serve the needs of both.

Though both parties favored the idea of a partnership, no decision was made during the session and each has adopted a wait-and-see stance for now.

Parks and Recreation is hoping to build a sports complex that would offer both adult-sized and youth-sized baseball and soccer fields and adequate parking.

According to Mark Zanmiller, Parks and Recreation board member, the reasons new sports fields are needed are: to spread use around and take the strain off of existing fields; provide fields for youth baseball, which is currently dependent on land owned by St. Mary’s Church for its fields, and enable Little League and the high school to host tournaments, which require a level of facility that “we just don’t have.”

Zanmiller also said the parks district needs to address different space and size needs for different ages, and combine soccer and baseball fields onto one site for practicality and easier maintenance.

Partnering with the school district would make it possible to share infrastructure and maintenance costs, according to Zanmiller.

Parks and Recreation has located two possible sites, both in the Odell area. But finding the necessary funds will be a challenge, he added.

According to school superintendent Dr. Pat Evenson-Brady, the district’s priority right now is classroom space, though the situation at the more crowded schools — Westside, May Street and Hood River Valley High School — has been eased by purchasing and installing modular classrooms.

But according to a growth study done for the district last year by Portland State University’s Population Research Center, by the year 2015 the county’s total enrollment is expected to swell by 31 percent (based on a medium growth assumption), which would require 53 additional classrooms.

The school district has been looking for land, knowing that eventually new facilities are going to need to be built, and has found a 25-acre piece of land near Westside School, the Asai property, which is just outside the urban growth boundary. Because it is outside the boundary, nothing currently can be built on it.

According to Evenson-Brady, the rules regarding where schools can be built are so restrictive it makes it even more difficult to find appropriate and available land. Schools may not be built within a 3-mile radius of the urban growth boundary — which would put it in the Odell area.

But her hope is to seek inclusion of the Asai property into the urban growth boundary; and if that fails, build on the existing schools’ athletic fields and move athletic fields to the Asai property.

“That’s our last choice,” she said.

Neither of the properties being considered by Parks and Recreation are appropriate for school buildings, and the Asai land would not have room for both the hoped-for school buildings and a sports complex, so there was no way to initiate a partnership at this point. But if a parcel of land becomes available that would meet the needs of both parties, they will talk again.

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