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Oregon Recreation and Park Association honors the CPRD chief for 32 years of service

After serving for decades as the superintendent for the Chehalem Park and Recreation District, it's not surprising that the Oregon Recreation and Park Association (ORPA) would honor Don Clements with a lifetime achievement award. GARY ALLEN - award from the Oregon Recreation and Park Association last month. Clements was hired as superintendent in 1985, but has spent over 50 years in the industry overall.

Thanks to the diligence of CPRD staff, it seems Clements was the only one caught off guard when the ORPA presented him with its David E. Clark Honor Award at its annual convention last month in Bend.

"I was kind of in shock, to be honest with you," he said. "They kept it a great secret, because I had no idea. None whatsoever."

The list of Clements' accomplishments over the years is quite long, as CPRD staff found out in compiling them for the award nomination form.

They include expanding district property from just 60 acres when he arrived in 1985 to more than 1,000 acres today, as the district not only boasts 24 parks now, but has facilities that serve residents during every stage of life.

"He's taken this small amount of money that we have with the board and created this empire," board member Bart Rierson said.

Clements spearheaded the restructuring of the district's finances by transitioning it away from serial levies to a permanent tax base in 1985.

During his tenure, CPRD built its two sports complexes at Jaquith and Crater parks, joined together with the city of Newberg and the Newberg School District to create the Chehalem Senior Center, built Chehalem Glenn Golf Course and founded the Chehalem Cultural Center. The district is currently renovating its aquatic and fitness center and has taken the lead on developing a county-wide trails system, beginning with the implementation of numerous trails within its own parks.

"He is very determined," current board member Lisa Rogers said. "If he has something that he really believes in strongly, that he wants to get done for the community, he's going to do it. The pool, the cultural center, the golf course, the trails, the paddle launch, it's kind of a combination of everything."

All together, it was a pretty easy sell to the ORPA award committee, according to association director Michael Klein, who called the massive expansion of CPRD's property an "amazing accomplishment."

"Just trying to find those available properties that, one, are for sale or, two, where you can convince someone to sell or donate, goes to Don's leadership of getting that done," Klein said. "He's just highly respected by everybody. All of the other agency or district directors, whenever there is a sticky situation, everyone looks to Don because he's either seen it, done it or saw it done wrong and knows how to do it right."

The fact that so much of the staff, like parks and facilities manager Jim McMaster and recreation supervisor Mark Martin, have stayed with the district for decades also speaks to Clement's leadership. They credited his approach for allowing them to oversee the successful programs they have spearheaded.

In the case of McMaster, that includes the town's powerhouse water polo program, while Martin overses a department that serves approximately 2,000 area youth with 30 activities in addition to administering the community's middle school sports programs.

"Don's very thorough about the way the district runs," longtime board member Mike Ragsdale added. "He does a good job of making sure the district is on top of everything and he pinches pennies. Talk about frugal! There's not an administrator that's more frugal than Don Clements."

"When they interviewed Don, some of the things that stood out were just his enthusiasm for park and recreation, he had the experience working with public districts, and they were looking for somebody outside the box, different," Loving said. "It's been a good marriage."

For his part, Clements said the district could not have grown without tremendous efforts on the part of the staff and the community and that working together with other stakeholders and agencies in the area for the betterment of all is what he takes the most pride in.

"I think the most important thing is trying to ask the community what they would like to see and trying to keep that foremost," Clements said. "Not only what they say, but also, as a professional, trying to decide what the community needs. What the community wants does not always equal what the community needs, so trying to find that happy medium and keeping that going forward is the real challenge."

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