Indian Creek agreement would support greenbelt

Feb. 16, 2011

Hood River is often noted for cherishing and protecting open space, while still accommodating needed growth.

This value system underpins a new, jointly proposed land use concept now being considered by local public agencies.

The Columbia Gorge Community College Board of Directors voted to proceed on a proposed Hood River land acquisition agreement involving three Hood River government agencies, during an open session meeting Feb. 8.

Additional Hood River county, city and parks district approvals are still pending on the intergovernmental agreement (IGA) entitled: "Indian Creek Greenway Concept."

With the remaining approval actions due to be completed by the end of February, the potential to move forward on the concept seems likely.

"I'd be very surprised if approvals are not forthcoming from the remaining agencies," said David Meriwether, Hood River County administrator. "We have been crafting language on the IGA over a period of time together."

According to the IGA document, which has been developed over a period of several months by the involved entities, shared goals related to land use near CGCC's Hood River-Indian Creek Campus are the basis for the partnership.

As stated in the IGA, CGCC wishes to preserve potential expansion property. The city and county goals include developing affordable workforce housing and creating a public green space corridor. The parks district plans to increase public recreational opportunities and extend the Indian Creek Trail.

In preliminary negotiations, all parties agreed upon a desire to expand, protect, enhance and restore the natural environment of the Indian Creek watershed.

The parties also agree to establish a consortium to acquire properties for multiple public uses.

"With the availability of space decreasing - especially space that would be representative of our green signature - it makes sense to work with our partners to come up with agreements that facilitate future expansion of the college," said Dr. Frank Toda, CGCC president.

Potential use of any acquired properties might include: college classrooms, multi-use college buildings with conference space, affordable workforce housing development, an Indian Creek Trail corridor, recreational facilities, limited-use vehicular access in several areas and walking and bicycle trails to campus buildings via a pedestrian bridge.

"We have many properties of interest in the area," said Meriwether. "Obviously, as public entities, we are looking for affordability."

According to the IGA, if acquired lands are of interest to the college, they could be purchased through either city or county mechanisms and held until the college obtains their own funding towards campus expansion.

According to the IGA, the college would then purchase the lands from the city or county to ensure the investment is returned to the original purchasing entity.

One of the methods of acquisition would involve the identification and potential sale or trade of underutilized city or county properties.

Parks district participation in the IGA involves managing the easement process for the continuation of the Indian Creek Trail and taking the lead in construction and maintenance of any trail portions created.

"We are hoping for a win-win-win-win with this project," said Lori Stirn, Hood River Parks and Recreation District director.

The IGA will come before the Hood River Parks District Board on Feb. 16; Hood River County Commissioners on Feb. 22; and Hood River City Council on Feb. 28.

"Our four agencies have a very good working relationship," said Bob Francis, Hood River city manager. "Hopefully this will go through successfully. It is a very good project."

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