Spiesschaert: Fairgrounds deserve better than county's leadership
When it comes to governing our fairgrounds, some of the current Washington County commissioners continue to prove that they cannot be trusted and apparently are not capable of even maintaining simple structures and relationships.
The current Washington County Fairgrounds was established in the early 1950s, and for the next 50 years was a beacon of pride and served as a year-round gathering place for all. From the annual fair, to community celebrations to family and organization events, the fairgrounds was always welcoming and buzzed with a variety of events. This was made possible through the efforts of thousands of citizens. With Oregon horse racing revenue, generous donations of time and resources, and recently through almost a million dollars annually of lodging funds, the fairgrounds had thrived. Virtually no county general funds have been used to establish this public asset.
In the recent 20 years, the county leadership has methodically and purposefully destroyed buildings, relationships, and either sold or traded land to assure an event center for the fairgrounds. If you did not agree, you were silenced. This is in spite of the fact that the citizens have voted on numerous occasions to not support this effort. A multi-million-dollar event center will not support the core mission of a fairgrounds, but rather will provide more assets for the economic engines of our county. An event center on the fairgrounds in itself would be fine, but to take and destroy all of the current structures and uses to build it is outrageous.
Now it is announced that most of the remaining community use buildings will be coming down due to alleged unsafe conditions. If this is the case, where is the evidence, and if there is evidence, why were relatively sound buildings allowed to decay to this point? How will their uses be replaced?
The fairgrounds property and facilities were fiduciary-entrusted to Washington County. It is clear, through the past 160 years of Washington County Fairgrounds, that these public facilities always remained affordable, available and inviting to all citizens of the county. Why is this public treasure being repurposed for only business benefit, and where will the community be able to gather in the future for fun, education, celebration and pride? What about our youth, our families, and our neighbors?
I wonder how we can maintain this county as a great place to live and work when it appears the only thing that matters is economic development. Where will future generations gather, or will they be relegated to the streets? The destruction of this incredible gem entrusted to the county is a breach of trust beyond all comprehension. Don't simply take my word for it — follow the truth and decide for yourself.
Lyle Spiesschaert is a fourth-generation farmer, former Washington County Fair Board member and current treasurer for the Fair Boosters. He lives in Forest Grove.
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