Opinion: How we got a voice in North Clackamas Parks' future
To better represent historically underserved unincorporated areas of the North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District, a community-led, volunteer Sub-Area Implementation Team has worked together for many months.
The goal is for district residents to select their own District Advisory Committee representatives and access a forum for sub-area parks residents and representatives to communicate as needed regarding parks issues and opportunities.
So how did we get here?
In 1970, most of North Clackamas County was unincorporated. The County Comprehensive Plan had a whole chapter spotlighting the urgency for saving land in unincorporated North Clackamas for nature and parks before it would be gone. Similar farsightedness of the time also resulted in the Oregon bottle bill (1971), and the law to save Oregon beaches for all to access (1967).
Additionally, recognizing the importance of including public involvement in planning, Clackamas County adopted the Oregon Planning - Goal No. 1 "To provide widespread Citizen Involvement of a cross-section of affected citizens in all phases of the planning process; to assure effective two-way communication with citizens." (1974).
"Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky. They are people who say: This is my community and it's my responsibility to make it better," Gov. Tom McCall said.
Through the 1980s, community members continued the future-focused initiative and organized for additional parks to be established in unincorporated North Clackamas. Then in 1990, residents passed Ballot Measure 3-1:
"North Clackamas has few parks and is growing rapidly. This measure will preserve open space for the future."
This district was created to serve unincorporated areas east of the Willamette River, north of the Clackamas River, west of the urban growth boundary, and south of the Multnomah County limit. It includes the city of Milwaukie.
The 1990 vote created the North Clackamas Parks & Recreation Special District, or our NCPRD. This community governance model launched local parks Neighborhood Parks Advisory Boards or committees in each of the five neighborhood sub-areas. Each sub-area would share two-way communications between neighborhoods and their regional advisory board sub-area members, like our new DAC.
In 1990, possibilities seemed flush — each sub-area was asked to plan for their parks — each with $500,000-$800,000, about $1.3-$1.6 million in today's dollars. For various reasons, this model was unsuccessful except in Milwaukie.
Drift 30 years forward and much of North Clackamas had been impacted by urban growth. Open-space land and tree canopies have been lost to new development. And unincorporated representation had become limited.
Coming into the 2020s, our community asked for the return of more voice in parks and recreation decisions, and the Board of County Commissioners heard the request to return to a proportional model of parks representation.
With the majority of North Clackamas County still being unincorporated, the five sub-areas model has been recreated, with equal populations based on census tracts. The revised model restores direct representation as previously chosen by the residents of our original special parks district.
The success of implementing sub-area governance structure will thrive with the ongoing commitment and participation of the residents and the county.
There is no simple map that guides us from where we are now to where we want to be with active unincorporated proportional participation and representation guiding our NCPRD.
With a new level of representation immediately ahead, it's time for the residents of unincorporated NCPRD to get informed, to get involved, to speak up for your future and to shape the next 30 years, with more livability or ... not.
As we move into our roles as "represented" constituents in the revised NCPRD design, we will be more effective if local park enthusiasts and residents from each sub-area work together. By joining with your neighbors, sharing ideas and concerns for our Parks District, and communicating with our sub-area representatives, our voices can be heard.
To stay informed about unincorporated NCPRD community matters, sign up at tinyurl.com/ncprddac.
Going forward, the locations of parks and the nature of our recreation programs depend on your involvement now. Our local parks are priceless.
Your participation will make the difference.
If you live in Clackamas, Oak Grove, Jennings Lodge, Sunnyside-West Mt. Scott, Southgate or other areas outside the city of Milwaukie borders, come vote and share your views. At 7 p.m. Thursday, April 29, meet the volunteers and candidates from your-sub-area at this NCPRD Zoom meeting and vote for your representatives to the North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District Advisory Committee.
Preregister and get details at ncprd.com/district-advisory-committee.
Tell your friends it is time to vote for our parks and rec.
Grover Jeffrey Bornefeld is a member of the North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District Advisory Committee Sub-Area Implementation Team.
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