We are in a better place than other districts
Here we are in a season where typically outdoor activities are ramping up and the usage in the parks increases at an exponential rate and yet currently our parks are like a ghost town. Very few people are out and about, the playgrounds are empty, the brand new Skate Park is closed, the baseball fields are quiet, and there are only a few brave souls out getting some exercise. No trouble driving from one end of town to the other right now. In some respects, it feels like the clock was turned back 50 years.
Recently I have been in contact with many Parks and Recreation folks from around the state to compare notes and see how others are handling the restrictions of COVID-19. I have to admit, we have it easy compared to many others. Yes, our recreation programs are shut down and yes, our playgrounds and campgrounds are shut down, but the way we are structured and the conservative way our Board of Directors have handled the finances over the years, leaves us in a good position to weather the storm. We run lean all the time and have kept enough reserve funds in place so that when hard times come, we can still provide a good service to the community. We certainly won't hit our revenue projections this year, but we will survive and be ok.
We have three primary sources of revenue that you should take note of. Our lifeblood comes from property taxes. If you own a home within the CCPRD boundary, a small portion of your property taxes gets distributed to CCPRD. The second source comes from campground revenue. It's not a lot of money, but the campgrounds are the only facilities we operate that actually bring in more than they cost. This helps the local tax dollar go a little further. As you could guess, with the campgrounds being closed right now, it's not great for us financially. The last source of funding worth noting is System Development Charges (SDC's). These funds are a one time fee that gets paid as new homes are built within the CCPRD boundary. They are restricted funds and can only be used to buy land or build new parks and facilities due to growth. The idea behind SDC fees is that new growth pays for new growth. If we didn't have SDC fees, anytime the community wanted to buy land or build a new park, we would have to come back to the same folks who already paid for the existing parks and ask for more money. In summary, taxes and campgrounds pay for basic operations, SDC's give us a little savings account for new growth. In order to utilize SDC fees, we are required to have a methodology which is the rationale behind why we need to charge the fee, and we need a vetted project list. This requires forethought and planning. We are currently working on a new master plan and a new SDC methodology, but back in 2008 the District created their first comprehensive 20 year master plan. It laid out standards for types of parks such as community parks, neighborhood parks, and sports fields, and it listed out how close together various types of parks should be, based on population. We created a parks vision map and a trail vision map and identified "park gaps". These are areas where there was already a significant population without a park close by. Some significant accomplishments that came from this plan and uses of SDC fees have included construction of Yellowpine Park and expansion of Rimrock park (which included the fishing pond and trail system), the trail connection between Crooked River Park and Rimrock Park, acquisition of 2 acres that is yet to be developed into a neighborhood park off of Main St and Peters Rd. acquisition of the old Ochoco Grade School gym and neighborhood park, the expansion of the Skatepark, and finally the purchase of 18 acres off of Sehale Ave that we just purchased last week. Yes, you heard me right, we are going to have a new park in Prineville! This area is mostly in the floodplain and quite a bit the property has natural wetlands on it. There is also a short stretch of Ochoco Creek frontage. This new park will connect the Western Sky and Teal Loop neighborhoods that are accessed from Gardner Rd. and the neighborhoods off of Harwood St. We will start working on a specific plan for this property this coming year, but I imagine that it will remain natural with trails throughout and feature wildlife viewing areas. The few times I have been out there I have seen deer and many different birds, geese, ducks, and quail. This new public park will be another wonderful place for the citizens of Prineville to walk and enjoy nature right here in the city limits of Prineville.
Thank you for being understanding and responsible during this period of social distancing and following the rules. We will get through this and back to enjoying life as normal soon!
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