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Rodeo group appeals to port for land help

Representatives of the Fort Dalles Rodeo Association appealed to The Dalles Port Commission this week for help in securing long-term stability for the rodeo grounds.

The grounds stand on one of the land tracts formerly owned by Northwest Aluminum. The current owners lease the rodeo grounds land to the association on a year-to-year basis. As it stands, the association knows it will have the grounds for the 2014 rodeo, but doesn’t know whether it will still be theirs for its 50th anniversary in 2015.

“To be quite frank, when we [developed] the property in 1975, we had a lot of help from the communities and a lot of help from people who were not known at the time,” Grossmiller said. He listed Dr. John Skirving as an example. Skirving would purchase materials for the arena as needed. Martin Marietta, Northwest Aluminum’s predecessor, donated 500 surplus railroad ties to the effort.

“The labor of the people there did a lot of things,” Grossmiller said.

He and Damon Hulitt said they knew the port had been interested in purchasing the property a couple of years ago and asked if that was still a possibility to help secure the rodeo grounds for continued use.

Grossmiller said interest in purchase of the property appeared to be increasing.

“We don’t want to have to leave,” he said.

“The rodeo brings in $1 million to $1.5 million to the community during that weekend,” Hulitt added. “We don’t want to have to quit.”

He said the rodeo association might possibly be able to “patch something together” to keep the rodeo going somewhere else, but it was uncertain.

The port commission backed away from purchasing the property in 2012 due to unforeseen legal and environmental issues.

“We agonized over trying to get the owners of the property to move,” said Commissioner Greg Weast. When they were unable to resolve the outstanding issues, the port turned to development of the North Chenoweth industrial subdivision.

Commissioners said they would like to see the rodeo continue, but the port has committed much of their resources to developing North Chenoweth.

Andrea Klaas, port executive director, offered one potential alternative, noting that the port has been in discussion about the Lockheed Martin scrubber sludge pond, which takes up 25 acres adjacent to the rodeo ground parking lot. They have been discussing the idea of filling the land and turning it into a community use area.

“It can never really be developed because of what’s there, but could be filled with four to five feet of fill,” she said.

She noted that not only does the rodeo need a location, but visiting circuses and carnivals do to.

The commission plans to discuss the issue further in a future meeting.

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