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Desi Nicodemus: City is better suited to complete Milwaukie Bay Park, rather than waiting for county funding.

I love walking and biking with my wife and son. It's a terrific way to spend quality time together while relaxing and getting some exercise. Naturally, city parks are one of our favorite destinations. My son plays on the playground, and my partner and I get time away to chill in the sunshine.

I'm proud of the role city parks take in our lives and in my small part to helping bring as much open space as possible to Milwaukie.Desi Nicodemus

Milwaukie owns its parks, along with the Milwaukie Community Center. Since 1990, we have been a part of a special district — North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District (NCPRD) — that manages our parks and provides recreational programming. In addition to serving Milwaukie, NCPRD provides parks services to a portion of unincorporated Clackamas County and operates both the aquatic center and Milwaukie Community Center, even though the latter is owned by the city, and runs community sports leagues. (Happy Valley was in the district but successfully left in 2019.) NCPRD is governed by the Board of County Commissioners, who make all funding and planning decisions with the 54 cents per $1,000 of assessed value collected from property owners for NCPRD services.

While NCPRD staff has done a terrific job of developing plans and lining up funding for Milwaukie Bay Park, the Board of County Commissioners has been unwilling to finalize the contracts necessary to build the park, resulting in costly delays.

As the delay in Milwaukie Bay Park has indicated, we are struggling to get the NCPRD to follow through on this particular responsibility and build new parks in Milwaukie. This while, thanks to Senator Taylor and Representative Power, the city is currently planning and building three parks without NCPRD's involvement. With the city's proven track record, we think that the city of Milwaukie is better suited to complete Milwaukie Bay Park, rather than waiting around hoping county funding comes through.

Recently, City Council asked staff to look into what it would take for the city to leave NCPRD, so we can fulfill our commitment to the community to continue to provide top-notch outdoor facilities and recreation without the burden of answering to, seeking input from, or begging for funding from our county commissioners.

We haven't decided to leave yet, but we do want to know what our options are.

Leaving the district would mean the money collected from development for Milwaukie's parks would be placed back in Milwaukie's hands. This would allow City Council and staff to be more responsive to the community's growing needs and ensure improvements are made, new amenities are development and recreational opportunities increase.

If we proceed in taking back maintenance of our parks, I will not support asking for an increase this year in what you currently pay, and I don't expect my City Council peers will either. Any change to that stance in the future would be at the request of our community and only after a significant public process.

But, don't let me be the final word. Come join the conversation and make your opinions heard at our next information session at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 10, at the Ledding Library, 10660 S.E. 21st Ave., Milwaukie.

Desi Nicodemus is a Milwaukie city councilor.

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