Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District delivers the lifestyle that well-paid workers expect.

PAMELA TREECE, WESTSIDE ECONOMIC ALLIANCEAs the sun starts to peek out and the clouds stop dripping, most of us want to break our cabin fever. Where better to release some of this pent up energy than at the facilities of Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District?

Recently, THPRD General Manager Doug Menke provided the Westside Economic Board of Directors with an update. I had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion between the candidates for THPRD's Board of Directors.

In my remarks at the candidates' panel, I spoke about the partnership between Westside Economic Alliance (WEA) and THPRD.

The mission of WEA is to advocate for a healthy economic climate on the Westside of the Portland metropolitan area. To have a healthy economy, we need a quality of life that draws businesses and people to live, work and play here. THPRD plays a big role in creating that quality of life.

Some would ask what economic benefit do parks and recreation have? Well, they provide residents with a place to exercise and connect with others. I'm sure you probably know having some time outdoors can help a person's stress level, creativity, and overall physical and mental health, which in turn can reduce healthcare costs. Recently, during a public involvement activity, Beaverton's staff discovered employers in the Western Avenue Employment Area value open spaces like THPRD's Fanno Creek Trail. This is where employers often host staff meetings, also known as walking meetings.

The THPRD trail system is also important for active transportation. Hundreds of people use the Westside Trail, which runs from the Tigard city limits up to the THPRD Nature Park and connects with the Waterhouse Trail. Eventually, this will be a 10-mile backbone trail that will allow pedestrians and cyclists to travel as far north as the Portland Community College Rock Creek campus.

Having a healthy park and recreation district like THPRD helps improve home values too, making it a more desirable location to live.

It also brings job opportunities for many young workers in the form of on-the-job training as lifeguards, instructors, camp counselors and more. At the other end of the spectrum, it is highly valuable to working parents, especially as we go into the summer months, when hundreds of kids will attend camps and classes while their parents are at work.

Another economic benefit comes from attracting sports participants and spectators to tournaments and events. Some travel the country, and sometimes the world, to attend events at THPRD, generating sales at local stores, restaurants, and hotels. THPRD was in the international spotlight last year, as the U.S. Tennis Association hosted the Davis Cup Quarterfinals (the U.S. versus Croatia) at the THPRD Tennis Center. Thousands of fans attended the popular event.

THPRD is Oregon's largest special park district. It was founded in 1955, and it has a separate taxing authority, which is not part of any city or county. There are 95 parks, 70 miles of trails, 1,500 acres of natural area, six recreation centers, eight swim centers and a catalogue of more than 3,000 unique classes each year. Its annual operating budget is $51 million. The voters have supported THPRD and the wonderful amenities and services it provides.

When I was moderating the recent panel, it was clear how passionate the candidates feel about THPRD. They all seemed to value the important role THPRD plays. There were many themes discussed among the panel, including fiscal management; the development of new programs, accommodating growth, affordability of programs, usage of the facilities, inclusion of the diverse community it serves, and equity in access to THPRD's programs and amenities.

THPRD is challenged in serving a growing and diverse population. It is rising to the task by building new synthetic sports fields and connecting trails.

Soon THPRD will be the first in the state to provide a Challengers field, making activities accessible to all people.

With its partnerships and community support, I am confident THPRD will continue to meet the need and continue to be an economic benefit to our region. Special thanks those wanting to serve and lead the district's Board of Directors.

Pamela Treece is the executive director of the Westside Economic Alliance. Her column appears monthly, addressing issues that are critical to the economic health of the Westside. Learn more about the WEA at:

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