Who will pay for waterfront park upkeep?

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

June 17, 2006

The design plans for a waterfront park have been drafted — but it is still unclear which agency will absorb the $30,000-$45,000 of annual maintenance costs.

On Monday, the Park Development Committee will ask the Hood River City Council and Hood River Port Commission to sign off on the final conceptual drawing. The special meeting will take place at 6 p.m. in the Expo Center off Portway Avenue.

The PDC presentation is expected to lead into a discussion about upkeep of the six acre parcel formerly known as Lot 6.

The port deeded the $1.7 million property along the Columbia River over to the city in February. Port officials believe that donation should fulfill the agency’s share of park expenses.

However, both the city and the Hood River County Parks and Recreation District are facing budget constraints. The two service providers have registered objections about taking on extra costs at this time.

Christine Knowles, PDC co-chair, is optimistic that, with a little creativity, a fiscal solution can be found. She said there is plenty of time to work on the challenge since it will likely be three to four years before construction of the park is completed.

“If we can find a couple thousand here and a couple thousand there we can get this done,” she said.

According to Knowles, without a maintenance plan in place, it will be more difficult for Hood River to stay in the loop for grant dollars.

Bob Francis, city manager, traveled to Salem this week to convince Oregon Parks and Recreation Department officials that the local project should quality for $500,000 of initial funding.

Knowles believes the park proposal, which didn’t make the final cut for state monies in 2005, stands a better chance this year. She said with the deed firmly in hand, the city is now in a good position to show community cooperation, meeting one of the key criteria.

Plus, she said the united effort is also demonstrated with the $22,000 donated by the county parks district to hire GreenWorks, Inc. The Portland-based consulting team created the proposed conceptual drawing after interviewing government leaders and interested citizens.

In addition, Knowles said the Waterfront Community Park Association and the city have netted about $232,200 in cash and in-kind contributions.

She said once all of the maintenance details have been nailed down, Hood River will have all the components in place to seek out additional revenue streams.

“We just need everyone to say ‘We can do this’ and then we’ll figure it out.” said Knowles.

Although the goal is to develop a $3-$4 million “world-class” park that includes an inset beach, she said the work can be done in phases as money permits.

The PDC also envisions that maintenance costs can be lowered by utilizing the services of the Community Justice Department work crew and volunteer groups. And possibly metering parking in the area and charging user fees for weddings and other events that take place at the site.

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