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Hoodland Women's Club works to keep ballot measure project going through pandemic

COURTESY PHOTO - The proposed Hoodland Parks District would exist within the boundaries of the Hoodland Fire District, spreading from Government Camp to Summertime Road at Alder Creek.Like many community projects, the Hoodland Parks District effort has been put on hold by the pandemic.

The Hoodland Women's club, which has been working to take a vote on establishing a parks district on Mount Hood to the people in 2020, will now aim for the November 2021 ballot.

This effort was initiated after Clackamas County made a deal with the Hoodland Women's Club. The club had until November 2020, according to a memorandum of understanding, to find a use for the site of the old Dorman Center — or else the county would sell the property.

The proposed use is to revive the old community hub as a park and also establish a parks district to help pay for maintenance and creation of future public park lands. The land designated for the park consists of three parcels, all on Salmon River Road. That includes the former Dorman Center of 3.97 acres, 5 acres on the other side of the Oregon Department of Transportation road gravel storage and an 11-acre strip beyond Birdie Lane. The district would exist within the boundaries of the Hoodland Fire District, spreading from Government Camp to Summertime Road at Alder Creek.

The estimated cost to start up the district is about $480,000, or a tax rate of 49 cents per $1,000 of assessed value of property within the district. People within the park district would not have to pay to use its facilities.

While many offices and processes have seen extensions of deadlines because of COVID-related precautions, the county elections office is not among them — hence the decision to postpone the ballot measure push to 2021.

"Everything has been set back, like everything else in the world," said Hoodland Women's Club member and parks district committeeperson Marci Slater. "We gave up on the November 2020 ballot a while ago. Our goal and focus now is November 2021 ballot."

This past spring, the women's club members were set to gather signatures for the petition to be on the November ballot. The effort was cut short by the pandemic, as was the summer of campaigning they had planned. Fortunately, the memorandum of understanding the club had with Clackamas County has received an extension.

Unchanged by the extension is the mill rate of the proposed tax. Once set, mill rates cannot be changed, Slater said. Slater also wished to clarify that the effort is not "just about one park."

"It's more than just a park," Slater added. "It's a parks district. We're not just doing this for one park. A parks district would give us more of a sense of community and autonomy. The other beautiful thinking about having a district is it's a government district (and) open to more funding available like grants. That's something a district can do that even a CPO can't do."

There has been a misperception in the past that the women's club will run the park, but that is inaccurate. Besides the measure to create the district, there will also be measures to create a tax base and form a board for the district from qualified candidates who will manage the park.

The next steps will be to complete the feasibility study, then the club will need to gather 750 to 800 petition signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

Next year, hopeful that signature-gathering and campaigning will be possible in some capacity, Slater says she'll be looking for volunteers. These folks will help inform the community about the proposed district and gather signatures.

"We will need volunteers to get signatures," Slater said. "We plan to train people to gather signatures, even if they just got signatures from their neighbors that would be helpful."

The club will continue to put forth information about the proposed parks district until the election and update the community if there are any other needs or extensions to the measure.

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