Park survey seeks public input
by Neita Cecil
The parks district is asking the public to complete a 30-question survey as part of its efforts to create a master plan, something the district has never done before.
Northern Wasco County Parks & Recreation District Executive Director Scott Baker has ambitious hopes for the survey. The district has about 17,500 people living within its boundaries, and he’d like to hear from 2,000 of them.
So far, about 120 people have responded to the survey, and at least 400 to 500 people need to reply to make it acceptably representative of opinion within the district, Baker said.
“It’s really important for people to weigh in, because, for instance, you get one user group that’s motivated and coordinated and they can really skew a survey,” he said.
The survey, available in English and Spanish, can be found online at nwprd.org, or at the district’s Facebook page, “Northern Wasco Parks and Recreation” or in paper form at the district office, 602 W. 2nd St. It takes about 10 minutes to complete, he said.
The survey will be available through at least April 6, but will be left up for another week if not enough people have responded.
By the time the Northwest Cherry Festival arrives April 27-29, the parks district will have a booth with park plans available for the public to comment on, and part of it will be driven by the survey results.
The master plan will help the parks district prioritize the work it does.
A key question asks people to list one priority they would like the district to focus on in the next 10 years. Options include upgrading existing parks, doing better maintenance, building new parks, adding programming, providing better parking, or better security. People can also write in their own option.
“We love the comments, the comments are great,” Baker said. The survey was circulated at the parks district’s popular Daddy Daughter dance, and “one girl wanted us to make a slide from Sorosis Park to downtown and then have a hot air balloon that took you to the top so you could ride it again.”
The parks district has been going to focus groups, and roller skating rinks have topped the list in those groups, he said. Another popular idea is mini golf.
Behind the park office and pool, the district owns six acres of undeveloped land. “That’s a lot, and the location’s great,” he said.
The survey asks people to comment on existing parks in terms of how often they use them, whether there are barriers to using them such as cost or lack of transportation, and what they think about how parks are maintained, for example.
“That’s part of what we hope to get out of this: How can we create programs that people want to attend? And if cost is an issue, then we need to look at scholarships,” he said.
One of the questions asks about a community/youth center. Joe Martin of ACTS (Acclaiming Christ Through Sports) has, in recent years, made headway in his years-long plans to open the Gorge Youth Center.
Baker said of those plans, “It only helps them if we find out from our survey that there is indeed a lot of support for that idea.”
It asks people how important they considered various kinds of indoor and outdoor recreation options and outdoor sports.
Indoor options listed included the youth center, a gym, track, performance venue, art studio, basketball court, volleyball court, tennis court, a large indoor field, futsal and a roller skating rink.
Outdoor recreation options listed included more playground equipment, paved and natural walking paths, mountain bike trails and skateparks, a kayak launch, outdoor fitness equipment, green space and bird watching, murals, barbecue areas, a dog park, and a community garden.
Outdoor sports options include basketball courts, soccer fields, baseball fields, football fields, disc golf, mini golf, and tennis courts.
It also asks for people to weigh in on how important they would view a slate of possible additions to the Riverfront Park and trail, such as a boardwalk, lights, river access, shade, fishing dock, tent campground, RV park, larger campground, larger swim dock and summer concerts.
It also asks if the parks district should ask for additional money from taxpayers to help pay for improvements to parks and to recreation programming.
The parks district has a permanent tax rates and it also collects fees, called system development charges, from new construction within the district.
It could increase those fees, potentially. Now, the fee is around $1,700 charged for each new home. By comparison, Hood River’s parks district has a $3,600 fee, said Baker.
Baker said the parks board is hoping specifically for direction on what types of facilities the public would like to see built over the next 20 years, “And we don’t want to spend all of our money building outdoor basketball courts if everybody wants indoor soccer.”
Baker said master plans are expensive to do. It is also hard to prioritize what people want to happen when there are immediate needs to tend to.
The parks board hired a Eugene consultant with experience in parks plans in crafting the survey questions. The survey also asks people to put a dot on a map for where they would like to see a new park.
“That just guides our efforts because we are a very small district with a very small staff. We can only focus on so many things at a time,” he said.
The district has five full-time employees.
As an interim solution, a temporary fence will be installed in Firehouse Park in Columbia View Heights to create a small off-leash dog park area that will be available dawn to dusk...